As you may or may not have noticed, Facebook has been steadily developing its Pages platform. Facebook Pages, formerly known as Facebook Fan Pages, allow you to create a branded presence on Facebook for your business, organization or cause. Recently, Facebook made an important change to the Facebook Page administration functionality: you can now log in as a Facebook Page as if it were a user in and of itself. That means your Facebook Page can comment on wall posts, communicate with individual users and interact with other Facebook Pages on the social network.

To those who aren’t as enthusiastic about social media as we are, this subtle upgrade may seem to fall a bit short of earthshaking. But the trend towards Facebook Pages—i.e. your business—being able to more effectively build personal relationships via social media says a lot about how we use social media and where online marketing is headed.

1. Social Media is the Destination

We have a long held theory around the Firm Media offices that “all roads lead to Facebook.” This theory is proving itself truer every day.  According to Socialnomics, social media is the #1 activity on the web, with Facebook regularly surpassing Google in weekly traffic in the U.S.  Today, Facebook has over 500 million users, 50% of which log on every day (and many of which are logged in practically every minute). That’s because, for most users, you never have to leave Facebook.

And that’s what’s really exciting about Facebook.  Facebook is quickly evolving into a sort of social intranet, almost like a gated community on the web. Facebook has over 900 million pieces of content that users can visit without leaving Facebook.com. This includes news stories, company pages, fan pages, photo albums, user groups, product reviews and practically everything else you might normally find by conducting a web search. But what’s truly revolutionary about this content is that each item carries an implicit endorsement from the friend, family member or trusted social authority who shared the content. That’s important because, according to studies, 78% of people trust peer recommendations more than they trust advertisements.

It’s not infeasible that search engine marketing may one day be replaced by social media marketing. For now, we’re in a bridge period where both are extremely important.

2. People Expect Businesses to Talk Back

Imagine the online space as if it were a public square lined with businesses, including yours. Now, when you open for business, you can do two things:

(1)  You can stick a sandwich board out on the sidewalk with your specials and store hours…

or…

(2)  You can stand outside your door, greeting people, inviting them in, or just chatting with them about the weather.

Who do you think will give more satisfying answers about your products, service or industry: you or the sign?

What’s a better way to turn a neutral or negative customer experience into a positive one: listening to someone or firing off a canned response?

Which do you think will make your business feel more personable, more trustworthy and more like part of the community?

Your new and improved Facebook Fan Page, your Twitter Feed and your YouTube Channel do the same thing for your online presence. They transform you into a living, breathing human presence in a world of inanimate storefronts. And to a society that prefers to work with people rather than cold, unresponsive corporate names, this matters a lot.

3. Everything Matters

The blogosphere loves to declare certain online marketing strategies as dead, dying or on their way out. Every year, they claim that “SEO is dead” or “web design is dead” or “email marketing is dead.” But as we’ve seen from past developments in social media, the exact opposite is almost always true. Facebook Pages are a prime example of that. Page administrators now have a vast amount of control over the look, feel, flow and functionality of their Facebook Pages. They even have analytics and user activity reporting built-in.

This means that everything that’s important about branding, conversion-friendly web design and usability now also applies to social media marketing.

Even SEO matters. When you Google “Firm Media,” our website, Twitter feed and Facebook Page all show up on the first page of results. And that’s no mistake. Many search users are actually more inclined to turn to your Facebook Page to learn about your business. That’s because your Facebook Page tells them more about you. It shows your activity, it shows comments from your customers and associates, it shows photos and events and promotions.

At Firm Media, we’ve always placed a strong emphasis on seamlessly integrating your brand and web presence across all of your web presences. We feel, and have always felt, that it’s important that visitors form an equally strong association with your brand when they view your website, Twitter feed, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook Page or your YouTube channel. We’re glad that social media is once again proving us right.

We could go on and on about the exciting changes in store for social media users. But we think you’ll get a more meaningful experience by attending our upcoming free webinar on Creating Your Social Media Plan on Thursday March 10, 2011 at Noon PST. During this event, you’ll learn more about some of the ways small businesses can take advantage of the newly-levelled playing field thanks to social media. You’ll also have a chance to ask us questions about your online marketing or social media marketing campaign.

Reserve your slot now.