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Facebook Page vs. Group for Nonprofits

This post updated April 27th, 2012

At Aspiration, we often talk to organizations with questions about whether to set up a Profile, Group, or Page on Facebook for their organization. I wanted to walk through some of the differences between these to help guide your Facebook set up.

Define Your Goals

First, if you haven’t already, take a step back and figure out why your organization wants to use Facebook. How is this tool going to help with your communications goals? Make sure that you’re choosing Facebook as a tool that will support your work in some way rather than feeling like you have to be on Facebook (“because everyone’s on it!”) but are unclear why.

The truth is that Facebook can be a major tool to take on. Daily posting, community engagement, responsiveness and relationship cultivation are what you’re committing to. For larger organizations and companies, throwing money at any new tool to explore is fine. But for the rest of us with limited time and resources, before you choose which tools to use, make sure their use maps to something that will support your organization’s work. Remember that these tools are supposed to help not hinder your work to make the world a better place. Focusing on goals helps you see how your efforts in a tool like Facebook connect to the real change you are affecting in the world.

If Facebook still seems like a fit, examine how you want to use it to reach your goals.

  • Are you using it purely to promote events?
  • To drive traffic to your website?
  • To cultivate conversations with your supporters?

By defining your intentions first, it will make it a lot easier to determine which kind of Facebook property to set up. Let’s take a look at the types.

Why You Should Not Use a Facebook Profile for Your Organization

A Facebook “Profile” is designed to represent only by an individual person. It allows you to “Friend” other people to indicate that you have a connection, but the other person must approve your “Friend Request” to complete the connection.

Many times, organizations will set up a Profile on Facebook to represent themselves. Most of us have our own Facebook Profile, so we feel comfortable setting up a Profile for our organization when we are presented with the task. However, Facebook wants only individuals to maintain Profiles. They search for organizations representing themselves in Profiles and aggressively delete them because they want all Profiles to represent individuals. In any case, the features for a Facebook Profile don’t match how most organizations would want to use Facebook anyway. The Profile has a limit of 5,000 friends (which you must approve), no metrics and low search engine optimization. As an organization, therefore, do not set up a Facebook Profile. The features are not designed for organizations and if Facebook finds you, they will delete you.

Do you currently have a Profile for your organization and want to switch to a Page?

Facebook has released a tool to make the migration easy: Convert Your Facebook Profile to a Facebook Page

What’s up with the Facebook Page?

A Facebook “Page” (not to be confused with Profile) is designed for business or official representations of organizations or people. Facebook users are able to “Like” a Page and that Page is then indicated on their Profile as an organization that they Like. There is no limit on Likes and no approval required.

Facebook created the Page option after they saw the increased use of Profiles by brands and organizations. A Page allows your organization to have a public Facebook presence, find-able on search engines like Google, that acts like a mini website for your community.

Only a current Facebook user with a Profile can create a Page. When they create the Page, that person becomes the first “Admin” which allows them to edit, post and administer the Page. That first Admin can then specify other people to be Admins on the Page however they must be Friends on Facebook. When Admins post content to the Page’s Wall, by default they show up as the Page and not their personal Profile. You can customize the URL of your Page as facebook.com/yourorganization. Because you show up as the organization and have a more public presence, Pages give you a much more organizational presence on Facebook.

Another advantage of using a Page is that Pages have a feature called Facebook Insights. Facebook Insights gives you analytics on who is interacting with what content on your Page. Facebook Insights are not available on Facebook Profiles or Groups. Insights are a key reason to use a Facebook Page. Using Insights allows you to track your progress using Facebook toward your measurable communications goals.

One limitation of using a Page is that you cannot send “Message”s to your organization’s Like-ers as you can when you’re using a Profile or Group. You used to be able to send an “Update” to your Page’s Like-ers but Facebook took away this feature so that now the main way a Page sends information out to Like-ers is to post a status update.

When Should I Use a Facebook Group?

A Facebook Group is for people or an organization and allows you to “Join”. Groups can be invite-only or open.

Groups are Facebook real estate designed for (shockingly) groups of people. Before organizations could make official “Pages” in 2007, they could create a Group. Groups cannot have their own Facebook URL which can make it more difficult to find in search engines. Also, you must be logged in to see all the functions of a Group or to join the Group. Another notable issue is that when owners of the Group post, they show up as their personal Profile rather than showing up as the Group. In addition, you can only invite your personal Facebook “Friends” to join a Group. These issues can blur the lines of your personal and professional use of Facebook.

Groups can be advantageous as they can be set up as invite-only or to allow people to freely join. You are also able to send Messages to members in the Group which Pages aren’t able to do. In addition, Groups allow individuals to share documents with other members of the Group which, depending on what you’re using Facebook for, may be a useful feature.

One way that organizations take advantage of both sets of features (Page and Group) is to create a Page to start for their organization, then set up a Group for a specific target audience like Alumni or an event planning committee. Unfortunately, Groups cannot be created under a Page (in other words a Page cannot create a Group), so inside of the Group you gain Group functionalities but loses its organizational representation to a large extent.

Which Should Your Organization Use?

Profile Page Group
Example Susan Garcia The Red Cross School Alumni
Designed For Individuals Organizations Small Group of Individuals
Viewable Depends on Privacy Settings Public Private or Public
Connection Friend Like Join
Approval to Connect Friend or Subscribe Unlimited likes Invite only or unlimited
Post Representation Person Organization Person
Can send “Message” Yes No Yes
Where to Create facebook.com facebook.com/pages/create facebook.com/groups
Insights No Yes No
Custom URL Yes Yes No

Ultimately, Facebook will change and features will be added or removed. Remember, you always want to define the goals so you can easily move those goals to the latest platform whenever it eventually pops up and leaves Facebook in the dust.

Is your organization using a Group, Page, or Profile? How is it working or not working for you?

 



  • Debkl

    I created a Facebook Page for our nonprofit last week and it still is not coming up in a public search, which was the whole point. There are no settings that I can find to change this. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you.

  • Misty

    Hi Debkl,

    Thanks for reaching out! You are right, you SHOULD be searchable online now that you have a page. I have not come across this problem yet, but there are a couple things to check to make sure you are search engine find-able.

    In the privacy settings of Facebook, check to make sure you have the box checked that enables your public search listening.

    Here’s the instructions from Facebook:

    - Click “Edit your settings” for the “Applications and Websites” section at the bottom of your main Privacy Settings page.- Scroll down to the Public search option and click “Edit Settings.”- Check the box next to “Enable public search”.

    - Please keep in mind that once you’ve changed your settings on Facebook.

    Sometimes there can be a delay from creating the page and to actually get you on the search engines.

    Otherwise, if you want to send your page URL along I can try to help troubleshoot.

    Thanks and let me know how it’s going.

    Anyone else been able to overcome this problem?

    -Misty

  • http://twitter.com/StevenLJohnson Steven L. Johnson

    Thank you for this helpful post. FYI) Facebook recently eliminated the 25 like requirement for a custom URL for pages.

  • http://blog.socialsourcecommons.org/ Matt Garcia

    Thanks for the update on the custom URL, Steven! We need to go back and update this post. Facebook changes a lot of these settings on almost a weekly basis at this point :P

  • http://twitter.com/joshaer joshaer

    The most important difference between Groups and Pages is that Pages can be indexed by Google so have a major SEO priority.

  • Katherine

    I set up a Page for my organization and am now trying to set up a group under that Page but can’t figure out how to do it.  It looks like that feature may no longer exist?  I can see how to do it on my personal page but not on the organization…..  Can you help??

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