I've long wondered why social marketers are so focused on Facebook fan pages. In much the same way that the AOL Keyword was the flavor of the week years ago; it strikes me as the medium of choice for companies that want to appear "social" with as little effort as possible. What I'm curious about though, is the impact.
Twitter, makes sense; I can communicate directly with user and draw them back to a website. YouTube, makes sense; share rich communication with potential or existing customers. Develop something viral and you can reach millions.
Why would one create and foster a Facebook fan page when they could instead promote their own site? Has anyone measured meaningful new business FROM a Facebook fan page or it is simply a badge of honor? A way of saying, look how many people like our business. What benefits have you derived from managing this micro-environment for your business, a community in which users are largely retained ON Facebook and not your website?
As I see it, Facebook is a way to cultivate a community around your product/service, so that people can show their support for it and let it spread virally. When someone becomes your company's "Fan," they also let all of their friends know, which can be a great way to spread the word.
As I'm sure you know, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and all the other sites are simply marketing tools. It makes sense to use the ones that can get you the most traction, and Facebook is pretty high up on that list because of the sheer magnitude of users it has. Using it exclusively - or using any of those tools exclusively - is folly, since it limits your exposure when you want to be maximizing the number of people who learn about you.
You raise an excellent question, one we have asked ourselves.
One of the biggest problems with Facebook pages is that they are not easy to find. Also, I've facilitated a number of seminars on social media and always ask participants how they use Facebook - inevitably it is for personal reasons, occasionally people have 2 personalities, one for business, one for their personal use. This really is a personal network right now.
One of the best reasons I can think of to create a Facebook fan page for your business is to secure your business name on their site and establish a presence in case anyone does look for you there. Still, it takes work to build up fans and you're right, this effort seems to have little value for many companies (esp. B2B) considering the time that is needed.
Another prominent reason to connect on Facebook is the sheer scope of audience numbers. A recent Canadian study showed that 56% of Canadians are social media users and 80% of those are on Facebook. It helps to cast your line where the fish are swimming.
Parting thought: we've run a Canadian business directory for over 11 years. An interesting trend we noted recently is that we now get some businesses submitting their Facebook fan page as their business website - while rare these new businesses are forgoing the traditional websites altogether. It's early days still … the correct answer tomorrow could be completely different than the one today.
here's some of the advantages:
Hope that helps.