Facebook is a great tool for keeping in touch with your customers and marketing your business, but there's a lot of talk around the Internet that every Facebook user should consider carefully. Is my personal information safe? How much should I rely on Facebook for my business?
Since I started using the Internet ages ago my number one rule has always been that anything I put on the web is at that point out of my control. Websites like Facebook are secure, but it's just not in your hands anymore. The key is to think twice before you upload a picture or post your vacation plans and to make sure you understand whats public and private. Facebook recently changed their privacy settings making information available publicly that wasn't before. I was surprised when I googled myself and saw that my Interests, Movies and Music were viewable by anyone.
Try this yourself. Make sure you log out of Facebook and then google your name.
The alternative is to use the same trusted technology that's worked on the Internet for decades, the Personal Website. Making a Personal Website with a Website Builder like Doodlekit gives you more control over what people can see. You can secure your photo albums and give a secured login to only the people you trust. You're also less likely to be the target of a privacy attack since your website is not a part of a larger network. Use Facebook to keep in touch but keep the things you want to protect on your own website.
As a business we use Facebook to keep in touch with our customers as I believe every business should. However, relying on Facebook solely to do your business might be giving up too much control. For example, game developer Zynga (Farmville, Mafia Wars) is considering breaking away after Facebook started forcing developers to use their own currency which could result in a 30% drop in revenue for Zynga. On one hand Zynga has Facebook to thank for it's success, but it's these types of drastic changes that are making people wary of putting too much trust in Facebook.
Most importantly however is the fact that websites like Facebook come and go. Prodigy, AOL, CompuServe, Excite, Chat Rooms, Forums, MySpace, all of these services were "The Big Thing" in their time, but not so hot anymore. They can be useful but it's always critical to have something that you know isn't going to go out of style.
These days every company should have their own website and domain name that's completely branded for their business. A Business Website shows that you are a legitimate company that can be trusted (we would suggest using Doodlekit as your business website builder of course). Having an entire website branded with your logo and color scheme establishes your brand in your customers' minds. Features like Blogs and Forums allow you to publish your own content and Forms let you have control over how your customers get back to you.
I encourage everyone to use tools like Facebook and Twitter and to keep up with whatever the next big thing is going to be. Social marketing is a great way of doing business. Keeping in touch with your customers on a personal basis is not only great marketing, it's just how business should be done.