It seems that hardly a day goes by without seeing a news item about another company banning its staff from using Facebook on their office PCs. As a regular Facebooker who uses the site both for business and pleasure, I find this attitude rather bizarre and very narrowminded, because Facebook is actually a fantastic business tool.
Sure, at first sight, the various pics, graffiti walls, music/film apps and other ephemera that make up the average Facebook profile (my own included) might make the site look somewhat frivolous, but dive deeper and you see there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Facebook makes it easy for anyone to start their own group on whatever topic they like, meaning business can use the function to create customer committees, company events boards, staff intranets, recruitment forums, customer service/feedback areas, and much more.
For a small fee, users can post surveys on any topic and make them available to the Facebook network of their choice – a great market research tool for companies targeting the Facebook demographic of 25-40 year olds.
Users can post events free of charge, invite all their friends, and publicise them within their network and groups. I recently posted one of my company’s events on the site (a seminar on hotel web design & online booking). Not only did we get a couple of registrations as a result, but the event was also spotted by a local journalist from one of Vietnam’s biggest newspapers, who will attend the seminar and hopefully write a nice article about us!
This tool is particularly useful in a city like HCMC where events are usually badly publicised (if they are publicised at all), and where there are no decent listings/what’s on magazines.
As well as creating a company group with recruitment functionality, companies can also use Facebook to headhunt. Looking for a Java programmer in Vietnam? Go into the Vietnam network and dos search with ‘java’ in the ‘job’ field, and see what you can find!
One of the biggest drawbacks of business social networking site Linkedin is that it’s, well, boring. Facebook isn’t. Facebook makes it easy to find people in your area who you can do business with, helps you get to know existing contacts a lot better (I can look up people I know and find out their favourite films/music, what sports they like to play, how many children they have etc., which makes conversation a lot easier next time I meet them!), and facilitates the creation of social/business networks. Using Facebook as an internal tool also helps your staff get to know each other better, and as mentioned above, Facebook could even be used as a corporate intranet.
Facebook’s open development platform allows anyone to create an application and make it available to the site’s users. Some apps, such as Top Friends and Funwall, have over a million active users. Whilst there isn’t any direct money to be made out of most Facebook apps as they are free to use, they’re a great way to get your brand name known and to attract people to use your paid services.
With Myspace only really appealing to teenagers, and Linkedin being as dull as ditchwater, more and more people are moving to Facebook and the site will shortly overtake Myspace as the web’s biggest social network – as of July 2007, it had 34,000,000 users with over 100,000 joining every day. With figures like that, and with functionality which provides communication, networking, marketing/market research and other business tools mostly free of charge, businesses can no longer ignore Facebook and should be looking at encouraging their staff to embrace it, rather than banning it!