Five reasons to use Facebook for business

Facebook takes a lot of heat these days–often deservedly. But sometimes that criticism echoes much of the criticism leveled at Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Once a company reaches the top of the heap they become an easy target for everyone who thinks they could do it better.

None of this makes Facebook any less a viable option for businesses seeking to engage through Social Media. If anything, Facebook has been bending over backward to make itself more accessible for business. Here are five reasons I believe Facebook is good for business.

  1. Facebook does “local” better than most. While some people treat Facebook like “Twitter-with-longer-posts” and try to rack up as many friends as they can, for most people their Facebook networks mirror fairly closely their real-life networks. People friend people they know, which gives Facebook the ability to focus more locally. A car wash may push for followers on Twitter, but unless they live close enough to bring their cars in, it won’t do much good. The same car wash on Facebook has a much higher chance of its network living within their business area.
  2. Facebook is highly customizable. Between the myriad of plug-ins and the ability to use FBML to create pages and apps, Facebook is flexible enough to replace a company’s website. It is even possible to install an entire e-commerce suite on your Facebook page now.
  3. Facebook has reach and depth. Facebook has more users than most countries have population. Odds are at least one person in every connected household has a Facebook account. That provides a pretty wide reach for companies doing business inter-state or international. Businesses limiting themselves geographically can still access saturation better than most newpapers or television stations.
  4. Facebook is designed for interaction. Facebook posts can be three times longer than Tweets, and there is no limit on length for private messages. This is a lot of breathing room for businesses whose message doesn’t always fit in 140 characters. This allows for more branding and personality to come through, as well as more in-depth exchange of information. You can have full, rich conversations on Facebook as opposed to the truncated, abbreviated spurts that result from Twitter’s self-imposed limitations.
  5. Facebook, for now at least, is not seeking to milk (or bilk) business users. Certainly there are features Facebook would like you to pay for, but you can accomplish most of what you need to do on Facebook without paying them a dime. For now, too, they seem content to leave it that way. While many of their changes and new features are obviously aimed at attracting businesses, they’re being careful not to chase them away again by hitting them up for money.

There are several other reasons I could think of, but I believe these to be some of the most important. By accident or by design, Facebook has become the go-to platform for business social media. They hit the sweet-spot between ubiquity, brevity and substance in a way that Twitter has been unable to do, while providing the integration that almost ensures other platforms will need to “make nice” with them for years to come.

Certainly they have their weaknesses and foibles. Privacy issues have been the bane of their existence for some time, though most of these are more of concern to individuals, not businesses. And as time goes on and more exotic social media platforms appear they may have a difficult time being all things to all people.

But for all that, so far Facebook has played an amazingly canny game in positioning themselves, not just to become one of the top players in the field, but to potentially becomes the default infrastructure that supports most mainstream social media services and could potentially replace websites.

The next few years will be key for Facebook as they decide how to handle their success. It’s a question Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and many other companies have had to face through the years. How they choose to answer it will largely determine whether Facebook stays on top or gets knocked off by the next one to do it better. It’s their game to lose.