Facebook is a social networking website intended to connect friends, families and business associates. It is privately owned and operated by a US company, Facebook, Inc. It began life as a college networking website in the USA but now its membership is open to anyone and everyone; Facebook currently has more than 400 million active users worldwide. It is free to join Facebook; most of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising on the website.
Facebook was founded in 2004 by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and was originally called “thefacebook”. It was quickly successful on campus and expanded beyond Harvard into other colleges in the Boston area. With the phenomenon growing in popularity, Zuckerberg enlisted two other students, Duston Moskovitz and Chris Hughes to assist. Within months, thefacebook became a nationwide college networking website.
Zuckerberg and Moskovitz left Harvard to run thefacebook full time shortly after taking the website national. In August 2005 thefacebook was renamed Facebook, and the domain name was purchased for a reported $200,000 US Dollars. At that time Facebook was only available to schools, universities, organisations and companies within English speaking countries, but has since expanded to include anyone. The only requirements to join Facebook are that you are over the age of 13 and have a valid email address.
The name for Facebook came from the books of photos or “facebooks” many colleges distribute, so that each year's freshman class can get to know each other better.
There are many different reasons why people join Facebook. For some it is a way to network for business purposes or promote events. For others it is a way to reconnect with old friends and school mates. For many it's a way to stay connected with family and friends.
Facebook allows users to create a profile with information about themselves. Within each member's personal profile there are several key networking components. The most popular is arguably the “Wall”, which is essentially a virtual bulletin board. Messages left on a member's Wall can be text, video or photos.
Another popular component is the virtual Photo Album. Photos can be uploaded from a computer or directly from a camera phone. There is no limitation on quantity but Facebook staff will remove inappropriate or copyrighted images. An interactive album feature allows the member's contacts (who are called “friends”) to comment on each other's photos and identify (tag) people in the photos.
Another popular profile component is “Status Updates”, a micro blogging feature that allows members to broadcast short Twitter-like announcements to their friends. All interactions are published in a news feed which is distributed in real-time to the member's friends.
Facebook offers a range of privacy options to its members. A member can make their communications visible to everyone, block specific users or keep all their communications private. Members can choose whether or not to be searchable, which parts of their profile are public and decide who can see their posts. For those members who wish to use Facebook to communicate privately, there is a message feature, which closely resembles email.
Why should you use Facebook as a marketing tool for your business? The answer is easy. You can use Facebook to gain new clients, stay in touch with existing clients, and promote new products and sales offers. You can also use it to create buzz and PR that is specific about your business.
To create a business presence on Facebook, you don't use a standard Facebook profile as these are for individuals only, instead you use Facebook “Pages”. A Facebook Page is often referred to as a Facebook Fan Page. Creating a Facebook Page gives your business an identity on Facebook which strengthens your brand.
Existing or potential customers can become “fans” of your page and by doing so allows them to follow you and receive any updates that you post to your page. You can use your Facebook Page to highlight specific products and services, post updates to keep customers and prospects informed, and get fans excited about upcoming events, product launches or enhancements.
The great thing about Facebook Pages is that every time someone becomes a fan of your page, all of their friends see that they have become a fan. This often attracts other followers, as well as creating a buzz about your business and of course your Facebook Page.
Gathering fans publicises your business and allows you to gather a base of people who endorse you. All fans will have your business name displayed on their profile. Fans can also post comments on your page which is a way for them to communicate with you or give feedback about your services.
For example, if you have an ice cream shop, it would be beneficial to have people in your community become a fan of your shop. They may also post comments about how much they love your ice cream. Excellent advertising that doesn't require you do to a thing! This will create a “buzz” that only a social media can achieve.
Some of your business's most valuable assets are its fans. The fans who sing the praises of your products and services, with or without you knowing about it. On Facebook you have access to more than 400 million potential fans. Enlist just a tiny percentage of these numbers to be your loyal Facebook fans and you can quickly spark a word of mouth wildfire, the potential is tremendous.