Facebook For Business Debuts, Watch Out Google?

Not a new service; rather, it's a portal to help businesses understand social marketing.
Top 15 Facebook Apps For Business
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Slideshow: Top 15 Facebook Apps For Business
As if to highlight Google's failure to anticipate business interest in its Google+ social network, Facebook on Tuesday quietly launched a website to underscore its commitment to serving corporate marketing needs.

Facebook for Business offers companies information about how to create a Facebook Page, build relationships with members of the Facebook community, and present Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories--ads shown to Facebook users that detail their friends' online interactions, such as use of the Like button.

"Business owners can learn best practices for creating a Page and engaging customers in a two-way conversation to answer questions, get valuable feedback, and to reach their friends," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. "Businesses can learn how to find new customers before they search for them using Facebook's targeted Ads, and bring customers from the Web into their stores. And we want to inspire small businesses by seeing how other businesses have found success on Facebook by sharing their stories."

Facebook isn't offering anything new here; it's showcasing the solutions it provides at a time when Google's corporate social offering has yet to debut. Facebook for Business is simply a help portal that assembles resources for social marketers in one place.

Yet if Facebook is inviting comparison between itself and Google+, it's too early to draw any meaningful conclusions. Facebook, with some 750 million users, remains a valuable resource for corporate marketers. Google+, with more than 20 million, isn't in the same league: It's still trying figure out how companies can participate in conversations between individuals. And chances are Google+ will offer different modes of interaction, at least until Facebook and Google finish remaking themselves in each other's image.

Facebook, as far as companies are concerned, is still mostly a marketing service; Google sells ads too--traditional rather than social ones--but also has a growing enterprise business in the form of Google Apps. Whereas Facebook has only just begun going after the business collaboration and productivity market through its integration with Skype--in the process of being acquired by Microsoft--Google has been in the enterprise business for several years and has already built a base of some three million corporate Google Apps customers.

Google+ Hangouts offers perhaps the best example of where Google and Facebook diverge: It may be a social product but it is also well suited for collaboration and productivity. The multi-party video conferencing service has sparked users' imaginations about potential business use cases. And social blogger and marketer Steve Rubel has begun experimenting with Hangouts for a live interview show.

Facebook, through Skype, may someday have comparable multi-party conferencing features--Skype sells multi-party video conferencing as a premium service--but its interest in collaboration and productivity is likely to be limited by the interests of its partner, Microsoft, which already has collaboration and productivity products to offer to businesses.

Facebook's future among businesses looks more like a Microsoft add-on than a stand-alone empire.

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