Facebook is rolling out some changes to its popular social networking site. One, in particular, will impact the way social networking-friendly organizations engage customers using Facebook. Now, your customers can just "Like" your company rather than having to "Become a Fan" of it.
Let's back up a step for those organizations that perhaps don't yet have a presence on Facebook. Facebook accounts are for people, not companies. However, you can set up a page for a product or service, so many businesses have set up a Facebook page to connect with customers and promote the company.
Granted, representatives of the company could just use their individual Facebook profile to post links and updates related to news, products, and services about the company. Those posts can be configured to be shared with "Everyone", making them public similar to Twitter tweets. However, most Facebook users focus primarily on monitoring the posts and status updates from their own network of friends, so they might never see such posts.
An alternative would be to simply encourage customers to connect with the individual company representatives' Facebook accounts so that those status updates and posts would reflect in the Facebook streams the users follow.
There are two problems with this approach. First, it means that individuals are forced to extend their Facebook social network to people they don't even know. That might be fine when posting information and updates about the company, but those users will also see when the individual updates Facebook with photos of their dog, or news that they've purchased a new car--personal details that are not meant for public consumption.
That brings us to the second problem, and the first example of Facebook using a poor naming convention: defining the term "friends". The Facebook accounts you add to your social network are called your "friends". That is a little odd when you're adding family members, co-workers, or high school acquaintances you haven't seen in over a decade, but it really stretches it when you start adding perfect strangers.
The beauty of the Facebook page--or "fan page"--is that it lets Facebook users join and follow the status updates without any requirement for degrading the concept of social networking and connecting with total strangers.
The "fan page" comes with its own issue, though--the word "fan". While being a "fan" is less personal than being a "friend", it still implies a deeper connection than users may be comfortable with. I might be interested in news and status updates from a company, but that doesn't necessarily make me a "fan".
This is a welcome change. I have a "Fan page" on Facebook. It has always seemed rather ostentatious-- and more than a little arrogant--to ask readers to "Become a Fan". I mean, I'd like to think that at least some of them are fans, but at the same time I don't want to intimidate more casual followers by implying some level of loyalty they may not be ready to commit to.
Users are already comfortable with the idea of "liking" Facebook posts and status updates by clicking on the thumbs up icon. It will be much more natural for users to adapt to "liking" a product or service as well, rather than becoming a "fan".
It could get a little confusing still. When users "like" a status update or post, Facebook simply makes a note that they like it, and a little blurb on their profile to let others know they like it. When users "like" a company page for a product or service, they will then be subscribed to that page and will see subsequent posts and updates from that page reflected on their Facebook feed.
Confusing? Maybe. But, the confusion is an acceptable change from the more pompous approach of expecting Facebook users to "become a fan".