Facebook Fan Pages vs. Networked Blogs

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Love it or hate it, Facebook is here to stay. Despite challenges around user privacy and an ever-changing interface, Facebook is rapidly becoming THE gateway to content for many users. As a blogger, Facebook can be a great tool to promote and share your content to potential readers. But the real question is…what’s the best way to do that?

Facebook Fan Pages

Facebook allows organizations and business to create what they call “Fan” pages. In reality, these are Facebook accounts that are not tied to one individual, but represent a larger group or business. Of course, as any Facebook user knows, Fan pages can be used for more than just music groups, companies, or clubs – as the ever-popular “When I was your age we had to blow on video games to make them work” Fan page proves.

It’s quite simple to create a Fan page for your blog. But what value does it provide? One feature of Fan pages is the ability to import content to the page via an RSS feed. This allows you to easily populate the page with your blog posts just by pointing it to your blog’s feed. These posts are imported to the page as Facebook Notes.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure of the value of this. It takes the content from your blog and re-publishes it to Facebook. If all you care about is getting your words in front of more eyes, and don’t really mind the mechanism for doing so, this is a pretty good solution. What it WON’T do is provide more traffic to your blog. Users will interact with your content on the Fan page alone (sure, there’s a tiny little link at the bottom of each post that goes back to the original, but it’s unlikely that most users will click on that).

If you are trying to build community in your comments, this creates a divergence between the conversation on the Fan page and the conversation occurring in the comments on your blog. The value of this re-publishing will, therefore, vary wildly depending on what you are trying to accomplish. In a way, this is similar to users who read your content via their feed reader (they don’t add traffic to your blog when they read the posts), but the devil is in the commenting details – someone who reads a post in their RSS reader but want to comment has to come to your site to do so. A Fan page user can comment right inside Facebook and never hit your site at all. Again, to some people this will be considered a major weakness, and other bloggers won’t see it as a problem at all.

NetworkedBlogs

Before Facebook opened up the Fan pages to everyone (there was a time that only “celebrities” or “actual companies” could create them), NetworkedBlogs was THE way to push your blog content to your Facebook friends. It requires your readers to “install” a separate app in their Facebook page, but this app allows them to “follow” blogs inside Facebook. Frankly, I haven’t found a great advantage to using this app as a Facebook user – unless I actually go INTO the app, the information from it doesn’t show up in my News Feed.

However, as a blog publisher, you can configure NetworkedBlogs to automatically publish new posts from your blog to YOUR Wall, which will end up in all of your friends News Feeds…not just the ones who have subscribed to you via the Networked Blogs app. This removes the need to manually “share” your posts on your Wall, which can certainly make your promotion easier, but the net result is no different.

So which is best?

From the perspective of the blog publisher

Since both tools are free, there’s no real good reason to not do both. There’s a risk in using a Fan page that you might be taking traffic away from your actual site if you publish your posts via the Notes feed (although those don’t end up in the News Feed stream anyway, so the only way people will see them is if they go to your Fan page directly), but other than that, it’s not a negative thing to participate in both methods.

Fan pages have the benefit of being able to promote your blog to Facebook users without actually haven’t to friend them on Facebook – if people Fan your page, and then you share the post link via the Fan page, all the people who have Fanned you will see it in their feed. So that’s a real advantage over simply sharing the link via your personal Facebook account.

For example, one blogger who I talked to for this post said to me “I don’t broadcast to the world that I’m a blogger.  My husband knows, a small group of close friends know… but for the most part, I keep it to myself.  I don’t want to feel like I have to censor what I write because a family member, random friend or someone I don’t like very much reads my blog.” In that case, a Fan page makes great sense. That blogger could create her Fan page, promote that out to her non-“real life” friends, and then could push her blog content via the Wall of the Fan page. That’s what Fan pages excel at – abstracting your blog away from your personal Facebook identity.

From the perspective of the Facebook user

Jenn of You’ll Grow To Love Me points out that while she has NetworkedBlogs installed on her Facebook page, and follows some blogs there, she doesn’t actually use it for reading the blogs. “I follow my friends with my Google Reader and since that’s pretty ubiquitous, I don’t feel like I should pay attention elsewhere,” she says. ” I don’t see the purpose of [Fan pages], other than for them to be more legitimate if they have a visible following.”

Another major issue with Fan pages revolves around recent Facebook privacy changes. “I’ve had some people say that they would like to ‘be a fan’ of my blog on Facebook,” says Ari of Curious Illusion. “but due to Facebook changing the privacy stuff around, they don’t feel comfortable being fans of pages, since everyone can see what they are fans of now. Stupid Facebook.”

Finally, Free and Flawed‘s Jenn brings up the over-saturation point. “fan pages just seem over-done at this point. There’s a fan page for everything and I hate being that person fanning a ridiculous amount of stuff,” she says. “However, I will follow a blog on NetworkedBlogs because it seems less spammy than fan pages.”

To sum up

By no means is this comparison comprehensive. Clearly there are benefits for promoting your blog via Facebook, and Fan pages and NetworkedBlogs are two easy ways to do this. Like almost everything else, the devil is in the details – just creating Fan pages, or configuring NetworkedBlogs, is not going to be enough in itself. The manner in which you use these tools will be the recipe for your success. My suggestion is to evaluate the capabilities of both options, and take into account your targeted audience and their perceptions, before jumping in with both feet.

What do you think? If you promote your blog on Facebook, how do you do it? As a Facebook user, which of these methods seems most useful for you for blogs you find interesting?

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Copyright © Matt Stratton

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