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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Do you have a blog? Why Facebook may not be enough

Every Tuesday I'm at the studio at WBRE in Wilkes-Barre at 3:30 to be ready for my 4:30 appearance on PA Live! There are always other people on the set - chefs, bands, people presenting information about upcoming events, people from other organizations - and we usually strike up conversations before the show starts at 4:00.

One of the questions I always ask, after identifying myself as the representative of NEPA Blogs, is "Do you have a blog?"

In some cases the answer is "Yes," and I get the information to list them on NEPA Blogs. Sometimes the answer is "No, we have a website," which is also fine. But many times the answer is "No, but we have a Facebook page." And these people don't realize the opportunities for publicity that they're missing.

It's important to draw a distinction between a website, a blog, and a Facebook page. A "website," in the traditional sense, is a mostly-static (from the point of view of content) page that is set up to provide information to the world via the Internet. Sometimes it will have regularly updated content, or a calendar, or some other feature that provides information that changes over time. But for the most part, a website viewed tomorrow will look very similar to that same website viewed next week. This sense of familiarity actually provides a lot of the usefulness of the website.

"Blogs" are generally more dynamic than websites. By design they feature frequently-updated content. While the uses of blogs are many and varied, most of them strive to provide a more direct interaction between the blogger and the blog readers. For someone involved with an event or organization, this is a superb way of reaching out to the public and drawing them in, much more friendly and engaging than a simple website.

A "Facebook page" can be more intimate yet - and that's the problem. Facebook follows a "closed cocktail party" format: anybody can join, but only members can interact or (in many cases) even view content. And while it seems that everybody in the world is on Facebook, this is not in fact the case. So if you've put your event or organization on a Facebook page, you've actually just limited the people who can see the information about your event to other Facebook users. Worse, if your Facebook page is a group restricted to "members only," or if you're a performer with a "friends only" Facebook profile, you've limited your exposure even further.

I've seen this happen in several cases. Several benefit events that have had only a Facebook  page, a page that was not something you would come across by accident. A young singer who said "I'm on Facebook and YouTube," but whose name was common enough to make it nearly impossible to find on either - and when I did find her on Facebook, her page was "friends only."

If you're looking to publicize yourself, your group, or your event, Facebook is a great way to share the information with people on your "Friends" list. It's a good way of building a "street team" of people who will spread the word for you. But it's a lousy way to communicate with the general public or the world at large. Not everybody who has access to the Internet is on Facebook, and not every search engine is going to index Facebook results the way they index everything else. Not everybody who is on Facebook is going to pick their way through the ever-changing complexities of its structure to find you.

(And keep in mind: what you've put on Facebook isn't yours. It's Mark Zuckerberg's playground, and he's just letting you play there. And when he rearranges it for the umpteenth time next week or next month or (or more likely and) next year, there's a very good chance your page or group or event won't function or be accessible in the same way anymore - if it's even available at all.)

Facebook is nice, it has its uses. It's a good way of communicating with a restricted group of people. But for getting your message out to the public at large about yourself, your group, or your event, get yourself a website. Or, better yet, get yourself a blog. They're free, they're easy to do, and they're a great way of connecting with the world.

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