When Mark Zuckerberg sat in his Harvard dorm developing the origins of Facebook, his intent was to provide a platform limited to the student body of the college. Six years and half a billion members later, Facebook has matured into a grander vision, extending beyond socially connecting users around the world to providing a tool for businesses to engage customers.
Social networking seems at first glance like a frivolous time sink--and for individual users, that may be true. For that reason, though, the site is also a gold mine for businesses looking to market products and services. Facebook recently surpassed Google as the destination where users spend the majority of their time online, and that means businesses should also establish a presence there.
Build a Facebook Page
The first thing you need to do is to set up a Facebook Page for your business. A Facebook Page provides a forum for sharing information and engaging customers without forcing you to add each of those users' Facebook accounts to your social network. It lets you establish a community, but with a certain degree of anonymity.
Begin by visiting the 'Create a Page' page. Select the radio button to set up a page either for the business as a whole or for a specific brand or product. Next, you can assign the page to a category from a drop-down list of choices. Give the page a custom name and URL, and make sure to check the box at the bottom declaring that you are authorized to create a page on behalf of the business, brand, or product.
As you work with Facebook, you'll find that it clearly wasn't designed as a business platform, and that it has yet to fully embrace such a function. It's sort of like putting a nail in the wall using the butt of a screwdriver: It will work, but it isn't the most efficient way.
If you are already logged in to Facebook, the page you create will be associated automatically with your Facebook profile. If you're not logged in, you will see a screen that will let you either log in to your account or create the page under a limited business account by supplying an e-mail address and password. Navigating Facebook and managing the page is significantly harder using the limited business access, though, so I highly recommend using a Facebook profile to set it up.
Customize the Page
By default, your business's Facebook Page has a set of standard--and limited--tabs at the top. First is the Wall, where status updates, links, photos, and videos appear. The Info tab has pertinent business information, such as the address, phone number, and hours of operation. Then you have a couple other rarely used tabs. What you need, though, is a way to break free from these restricted, cookie-cutter tabs and customize your Facebook Page.
Thankfully, the service has its own Facebook Markup Language (FBML), and you can also find a Facebook app that will allow you to add FBML tabs to your Page, which you can customize as you wish. You can create a tab for coupons or photos of a recent event, for instance, and direct fans to land there first. To start, visit the Static FBML page and click Add to my Page at the upper left of the screen.
On your Facebook Page, click Edit Page on the left under a photo you've chosen to represent your business. You will find Static FBML listed under Applications. Give your FBML page a title, and insert your text and FBML code to create a custom page. You can add more FBML tabs by clicking the Add another FBML box at the bottom of the FBML edit screen.