Community Building, Yes - But Why Facebook?

The BrainYard - Where collaborative minds congregate.
As a conference organizer, I made the decision to use Facebook as the social networking platform for our Enterprise 2.0 Conference community. Why? I'm actually looking at this as somewhat of an experiment. I'm using a consumer platform for a business purpose, a big topic these days. Here are some of the pros and cons of my experience so far.Pros:

1. Persistence. Part of "community building" is keeping your community engaged. If I have to fire up another web site to accomplish this I feel like I'm already losing a percentage of my community. Most of us are visiting our Facebook profiles daily or perhaps more often so hosting a community group inside this platform gives me an strong advantage.

2. No extra steps for community members. I've found that many people interested in Enterprise 2.0 are already Facebook users. Joining our E2 Community group requires no sign up and no account to manage.3. No cost. Free is good.4. Minimal set-up. We had our Facebook group up in no time. Select a name, post your logo, set some basic preferences and you're off and running.5. It's viral. Every time someone signs up for a group, his or her network of friends is notified. Chances are many of those friends share a common interest in the group and are also likely to join.Yes there are cons too:1. Minimal functionality. Let's face it, the Facebook group discussion boards are pretty basic. They get the job done but I'll leave it at that.2. Minimal customization. There's very little a group administrator can change about the layout of the group site. Take the E2 group for example. I'd like the discussion boards to feature more prominently on the site, maybe show some of the threading too. That doesn't happen in Facebook. The posted items tend to dominate the page.3. No RSS. This one surprised me. Why is Facebook not allowing an RSS feed from the groups? For better or worse, many of us use RSS to manage our multiple sources of information. RSS is a great way to inform group members of a new discussion or important update.4. No search. Facebook groups do not show up in search engines. So if you're hoping to attract new members to your group through search, it ain't happening. That goes for searching within the group site as well. No dice.
There are some great social networking platforms out there for business. Some are built specifically for the conference business. In my perfect world, I'd have all the functionality those tools offer, built around or interfacing with Facebook. I'm sure someone will do just that.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing