Facebook for Freelancers: Groups, Pages or Profiles?
Once you've decided Facebook is right for you as a freelancer, you're ready to put together an action plan on how you'll use it to promote your business and market your services.
Your next step is to decide whether to promote your business with a Profile, a Group or a Page. These are the three set-ups Facebook offers, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Anyone who has used Facebook will be familiar with Profiles. Whenever a person joins Facebook, they're given a Profile. Without a Profile, the ways in which you can use Facebook are severely limited.
Your Profile shares personal information, such as your name, birthday, relationship status, where you live and your current job.
Some freelancers choose to have two profiles – one for personal connections, and one to promote their business.
It also displays the things you like, your Facebook friends, and a timeline of all your Facebook activity, such as updates and photos you've shared.
Profiles can be public, available for anyone with internet access to look at, only available to your Facebook friends, or available to friends of friends. You decide in your Facebook privacy settings.
As profiles are personal, most people use them to connect with friends and family, and sometimes with their professional network.
Some freelancers choose to have two profiles - one for personal connections, and one to promote their business. If you decide to promote your business using a profile, this is a good way of keeping your personal life separate from your freelance business.
Alternatively, you can segment your friends into lists. This allows you to share personal updates only with personal friends, while professional updates go out to your broader network.
Advantages of Profiles for Freelancers
- You're given a Profile as default on Facebook. Sign up to Facebook, and you're ready to go.
- Profiles allow you to send messages to your friends, so they're ideal for one-to-one contact.
- When a contact accepts you as a friend, that shows a high level of trust.
- If your Profile is public, then anyone can subscribe to your latest updates. This is similar to them liking your Facebook Page, though less intuitive.
- You can pay to promote posts that you share from your Profile.
Disadvantages of Profiles for Freelancers
- Profiles are not designed for business use, which makes them less accessible to your potential clients than a Facebook Page.
- If someone wants to send a message to your inbox, they have to add you as a friend. This is more intimate and personal than simply Liking your Page. You can send messages to non-friends, but these messages get hidden away in a folder called "other". In my experience, few people know about or check their "other" folder.
- If you only use a Profile, Facebook restricts access to tools you can use to promote your services, such as Facebook Ads.
- Compared to Pages, Profiles provide limited metrics to show engagement levels.
Groups were Facebook's first way of enabling like-minded people to get together around a common cause, idea or experience.
Some Groups were tiny, while others amassed thousands of members.
Now, with the launch of Pages to manage large communities, Facebook has redesigned Groups to allow small groups of friends and peers to connect and share ideas and knowledge.
Groups can be open (anyone can join), closed (only those invited can join), or secret (closed groups that only members know about).
While creating your own Group isn't the best way to promote your freelance business, you can use Groups to stay in touch with clients, brainstorm and share ideas with other freelancers, and network with other businesses and potential clients.
You could also use a Group for market research, by getting together loyal clients or potential prospects to give you honest feedback on your freelance services.
A word of warning for those who create a Facebook Group. Group membership is opt-out rather than opt-in. When you add a new member to your group, they will receive all group updates, whether they want to or not. Chances are, these updates will go to their inbox, which can be annoying. Because of this, only add people who you're certain want to be part of your group.
Advantages of Groups for Freelancers
- Mass messaging. With Groups, you can send out messages to every member.
- Groups encourage members to participate.
- Group chat. Live chats with group members are useful for discussion, debate and sharing ideas.
- Restricted membership. You choose exactly who you engage with.
Disadvantages of Groups for Freelancers
- Updates go to everyone. You can't target them to specific Group members.
- Groups are less prominent in search results, so fewer people will find your Group compared to a Page.
- Groups are often very active, or completely dormant. You either fully engage with a Group, or ignore it. It's not easy to engage with a Group in a limited way, as it is with Pages.
- Like Profiles, Groups offer limited metrics to show the engagement level of members.
Whenever you choose to like a business, cause, or even a TV show on Facebook, you're engaging with a Facebook Page.
Pages are the mainstay of Facebook marketing. They're a way of building a community around your business. Pretty much every business on Facebook has a Page.
A Facebook Page is your professional face on the Internet. People can visit your Page to find out information on your business such as the services you offer, your business history, testimonials, and links to your website.
Your Page also displays any updates you post about your business, and any links, photos or videos you share that your fans might find useful. Optionally, you can allow your fans to post updates to your Page.
When someone clicks Like on your Facebook Page, they become your fan. From then on, updates you post to your Page can appear in their news feed. How often your updates appear in that person's news feed depends on how engaged they are with your brand. For example, a fan who frequently comments on your posts will see more of your updates in their news feed than a fan who never leaves comments.
Advantages of Pages for Freelancers
- Pages are public, so anyone can find them, and anyone can like them. This makes them ideal if you're looking to spread your marketing net as wide as possible.
- You can pay to promote your Page using Facebook Ads, and you can target those ads to a specific demographic. You can also pay to target your updates from your Page to your network.
- You're a business, and people on Facebook expect businesses to have a Page.
- You can choose a vanity URL for your page (facebook.com/youchoose). That's good for your SEO.
- Pages provide in-depth metrics on audience engagement. You can work out what your audience wants, and do more of it.
Disadvantages of Pages for Freelancers
- You can send messages to your fans using Pages, but these messages are hidden away outside their inbox in the "other" folder. As I mentioned early, not many people know how to find their "other" folder.
- Pages can take more time to manage than a simple Profile, especially if you have an engaged audience of fans.
Profiles, Groups or Pages: Which Should You Choose?
In an ideal world, where you'd have endless time for marketing, then setting up a Profile, a Group and Page for your freelance business would be the best option.
Pages are the best option for almost all freelancers. The only reason you wouldn’t choose a page is that you have a specialist reason to do otherwise.
But seeing as you have neither endless time, nor a blank check marketing budget, you need to make choices.
Here's what I'd recommend. Pages are the best option for almost all freelancers. The only reason you wouldn't choose a page is that you have a specialist reason to do otherwise.
For example, a freelance life coach might want to set up a secret group to share resources with their clients. Or if you always get new business through referrals, a Profile would make sense, as it's easier to send messages and build connections through your current network.
However, for most freelancers who want to use Facebook to pull more prospects into their sales funnel, to raise awareness of their brand, and to build trust, Pages are the way to go.
I'm interested to know if you already use Facebook to market your freelance business, do you use a Profile, a Group or a Page?