It can be daunting setting up social networking. Getting everything set up can be a bear, but knowing where to start can be one of the hardest questions. Facebook has Profiles, Groups, Pages and Applications (and more, actually). What are each of these and, most importantly, how can you use each of these on your website best?
At first glance, Profiles, Pages and Groups are very similar. They all have a similar layout with the standard feed and a cover photo. Pages and Profiles both also have an avatar/profile picture. Beyond that though, there are some small, but very important differences about each that you should know about and be aware of.
Let's start at the basics: Personal Profiles. These are unique, real people on Facebook. Everyone on Facebook is supposed to have only one Profile and it's where a person describes themselves, uploads their family photos and shares their favorite cat videos.
Most importantly, people that visit a Profile can make a 2-way friends-connection with the user/profile in which both users have to agree to the connection. It is not possible to Like a Facebook Profile, which is a question we get often. Only Facebook Pages can be Like'd.
If you want to use any other features within Facebook or if you want to do any integration between your site and Facebook, you need a standard profile account. So it's a no-brainer to create it if you don't already have one.
Some common ways to use a standard profile with your site are:
A Facebook Page is for companies, organizations, places, brands or other entities to have a place on Facebook to engage with their audience. Everything posted to a Facebook Page is public for any visitors to see. All users can Like your Page without your approval; it's not like a friending, which requires you to friend them back.
Bottom line: Pages are not meant for individual users. If you are looking to reach a large audience of users who you don't necessarily know, a Facebook Page is probably right for you. As the admin, you're able to fully curate the experience that visitors to the Page see.
Facebook Pages are a great way to augment your website. Since it resides within Facebook, it's familiar to users and they will immediately be able to understand how to engage with you. Users will be able to see your feed with (presumably) links to your website and other content you find interesting.
There are many tools to integrate a Page within your website as well:
Groups are a more restricted area of Facebook. To be a part of a group, you must request access. The feed is private unless you are a member of the group and you won't be able to interact with other members of the group until you are allowed in.
Unlike Pages, groups should only be created if you have a specific topic that you want specific users to be able discuss. The group can grow to huge sizes, but many groups have less than 50 members. They (generally) shouldn't be your primary vehicle for advertising due to the limited audience.
Groups generally have an equality to all users where they can share their thoughts and opinions freely, unlike a curated Page.
Since a group is generally restricted, the various discussions within groups an expectation of privacy. Because of that privacy, it's not wise to publicly show a group feed on your website.
Your site can be configured to automatically post new content from a specific area directly to the group feed which is a great way to stoke further conversations within the group.
Profiles, Pages and Groups are all visible right on Facebook.com. While Applications can include Farmville, that hot-date finder that won't leave your sidebar or various other tools that people create, for most website administrators, an application works behind the scenes and isn't directly visible. By creating an Application, you're opening your site up to the following possibilities:
I wouldn't be surprised, this stuff is complex! What would you like to hear more about? Still unsure what a Facebook Page Tab is? Curious how Facebook Events fit into the picture? Let us know in the comments and we'll explain as best we can.
Also, don't forget to check out JFBConnect, our social network extension for Joomla, was created to simplifiy integration with Facebook and 9 other social networks.