Harnessing Facebook's Potential

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

Up until now, we've been saying, "If you don't have a website, your business or practice doesn't really exist." The new mantra is going to be, "If you don't have a Facebook Page, your business or practice doesn't really exist."

I am in the middle of a virtual Facebook Summit, with thousands of attendees from all over the world.

Now I am going to confess my bias -- I am fast becoming a Facebook junkie! As an entrepreneurial physician who has to keep feeding and nurturing a business, I sense Facebook's huge potential and I'm eager to learn how to participate effectively in this brave new world.

Both Twitter (an instantaneous but fleeting stream of chatter mixed in with pointers to valuable resources) and LinkedIn (a searchable Rolodex on steroids) have their uses, but for sheer sociability and ease of sharing, and scanning messages to catch up on friends and news items, I don't believe that Facebook has an equal.

The stats for 2010 are staggering:

• More than 500 million active users

• 50% of Facebook's active users log on in any given day

• Average user has 130 friends

• People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

• There are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices

What does this mean for you if you have a practice or a business and want to develop a following, and perhaps even relationships, with people who have actively chosen to be your friends or to "like" your Page?

Oh, and by the way -- do you know the difference between what most people call Facebook, and a Facebook Page?

In case you don't, here's the low-down:

The first, usually termed "Facebook," actually refers to your personal Facebook Profile. A Profile can only be owned by an individual, not a business. You have all kinds of privacy settings with your Profile, and depending on how you set the privacy, the content on your profile is not searchable by Google and other search engines.

A Facebook Page, on the other hand, is considered public and is searchable via the search engines. These are the things that people "like" (they used to be called Fan Pages). Depending on how you set up your Page, it can function almost like a mini website, with a “Welcome” landing page, newsfeed, a tab for your blog if you choose to have your blog posts delivered directly to Facebook, and any other tabs that you choose to set up. A Facebook Page is a great place to "create your Brand" and to demonstrate your business's or practice's personality! Most of the information that is being discussed on the Facebook Summit refers to Facebook Pages.

Here are some of my key takeaways from the Facebook Summit so far, taken from the Twitter stream that is occurring during the conference. I hope you'll find them useful, or something to chew on and digest:

• RT @Mike_Stelzner: The goal is not to be good at Facebook, but to be good at business because of Facebook.

• What makes an “Influencer”? Someone who provides interesting relevant content to his or her audience to stimulate interaction.

• The 5 Ps of marketing by @Briansolis: Product, Price, Place, Promotion and People w/ People at the center of it all.

• "Like" is an explicit form of endorsement (a stamp of approval) of a brand that you are communicating to your social network.

• RT @Marismith: When visitors click the Like/Recommend button on your site/content, you'll be discoverable through Facebook search.

• To increase "sharing," K.I.S.S. (keep it short and simple). Tasteful humor is okay!

• RT @MariSmith: On Facebook: Saturday is biggest sharing day. Include more verbs than nouns.

• RT @Mike_Stelzner: 5 FB status updates in 8 months is not enough, don't treat Facebook like the Yellow Pages.

The feeling that I'm walking away with from this conference, which is being conducted virtually over several weeks, is that Facebook is the future -- much like the Internet has been the future for businesses. Up until now, we've been saying, "If you don't have a website, your business or practice doesn't really exist." The new mantra is going to be, "If you don't have a Facebook Page, your business or practice doesn't really exist." Time will tell…

What do you think?

This is a really important topic, and may present physicians interested in writing and the media with an important argument as why they should be hired by healthcare organizations: "One Physician’s Journey on Social Media, by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD (@SeattleMamaDoc). Thanks for the headsup from KevinMD.

I highly encourage that you set aside the hour or so to watch and truly understand the impact of what she is saying.