One of the areas of Facebook that confuses both seasoned and new users is the difference between Groups and Pages to promote a company or run a campaign – at first glance they seem to do the same thing.
In terms of basic functionality, they’re very similar with walls, discussion forums and photos. But there are some subtle differences which are worth understanding before setting one up.
Pages are designed more for a business in mind. Critically you can set up advertisements and get a free bit of built-in analytics software which tell you how many visitors you’ve had, how old they are, their sex and location – dream metrics for the average marketing manager. Unlike Groups, you can also create a personalised url for a Page (for example, www.facebook.com/Microsoft – full details in the Facebook Pages FAQ.
Pages also get indexed so they can be found via a search outside of Facebook’s domain (if you’re a company that has customer service issues, think about whether you even want to set a page up as once you set it up, you’ll have to moderate it).
Groups are arguably more suited to campaigning groups, clubs or charities, where the metrics are less important and a ‘grassroots’ feel is required. Unlike Pages, you don’t have to be acting in an official capacity to create a Group. So, while only Microsoft can set up and own the Microsoft Group, you’re free to set up your own Microsoft fan (or hate) page, if you want to.
A nice feature, from a campaigning point of view, is that you can send out mass invites to spread your membership (Facebook presumably thought that PRs and marketers couldn’t be trusted with this) and notifications go into a users’ inbox like an email rather than in the Updates tab, like they do for Pages updates.
Whatever subtle differences that exist, I think having both Groups and Pages is quite confusing to users and marketers. Some social media experts reckon that you should have both a Group and a Page, but I this only adds to the confusion. IMHO, I think it’s best to consider what you want to get out of having a presence on Facebook first and then focus on one and put plenty of effort into making that work for you.