For many of us, understanding how to use a blog to drive business on the web is clear. Using Twitter, well, unless you’re an über-genius it probably took a while to understand how to incorporate that into your practice, but you prolly got it eventually.

But Facebook? How can your business benefit from Overlord Zuckerberg’s monstrous creation?

Twitter and Blogging are pretty much one-trick ponies. But Facebook has a whole slew of features, not to mention the trickiness of blending personal information with work information. In this series, we’ll explore how Facebook can be used as a tool in your marketing belt – without a trip to the disciplinary board.

We ourselves at Rocket Matter are working through a Facebook marketing strategy for our own web-based legal practice management software and our goal is to share what we’ve learned and what’s worked for us so far. And let’s get one thing straight: nobody pays us for social media expertise. It’s not a service we provide. So what you’re reading here is the straight dope about what works for us and what doesn’t.

1. Understand the Difference Between Facebook Pages and Groups

When representing your law firm on Facebook, you can choose to create a “Page” or a “Group”. They are different in a couple of minor but key ways.

Groups allow you to directly send messages to your members’ inboxes. Pages allow you to send something called “Updates”, which aren’t immediately accessible from your notifications widget. They don’t pop up at you – you have to do a little digging. This is what receiving an Update looks like. Note the navigation on the left which shows you how I got to the screen.

Facebook Update Example

Members of a group can also easily invite their friends, allowing the group to grow quickly.

Groups, however, don’t allow you to have a purty little URL like http://www.facebook.com/Rocket.Matter. You get a big, long, ugly URL with a randomly generated number. Pages also allow some additional flexibility with functionality – additional apps can be used. On our page, for example, we include the JD Supra app to list our shared documents. Both Pages and Groups allow for discussions on the Wall or by starting discussion threads.

For more information on this topic, take a look at Facebook Group vs Facebook Fan Page: What’s Better?, and take a look at the comments, which include some key corrections and great information.

My personal opinion? Unless you’re trying for a big viral play, which is probably unlikely for a small law firm, stick with a Fan Page and start from there. But I would love to hear differing opinions if you have one.

2. Create Exclusive Content for your Facebook Page

You have a wall, events, and other ways to engage folks who’ve been nice enough to like your page. Use these tools! Engage your fans and treat them well. Offer them things they can’t get in any other way. The Harvard Business Review profiled this strategy of “participatory promotion” employed by Lowes:

Lowes ran a Black Friday campaign on Facebook in which it offered a limited number of items at ridiculously low prices for fans only. Most discounts were in the range of 90% and were limited to the first 100 people to check out with the item at lowes.com. Not only did this engage existing customers, but it drove new customers to “like” Lowes’ Facebook page, allowing Lowes to post future deals on their newsfeeds.

3. Use Your Wall and Engage Your Fans

Personally, I’m not a big believer of linking tweets to Facebook status updates. I tend to unfriend or de-like entities that engage in this practice, which come off as spammy IMOSHO (in my oh-so humble opinion). When I see hashtags on Facebook, I run screaming. Rather, craft a couple of unique things for your Facebook page.

Example: post your latest blog post, which you also do on Twitter, but perhaps give it a different sentence or two introduction when it goes on your wall. That slight differentiation goes a long way. Respond to comments, always, just like you would on your blog.

Share cool content. The nice thing about sharing videos or content you enjoy on your Facebook page as opposed to Twitter is its staying power. Content is presented in little bite-size overviews, making it easily consumable, and by virtue more valuable.

One last thought for now: people are consuming Facebook content in different ways. A new breed of iPad apps, led by Flipboard, present social media content in a slick, magazine-like format. People are on Facebook, and if you want to get in front of them, you need to be there too.

Done with Part One? Take a look at Part Two: The Empire Strikes Back. And we’d like your thoughts: what do you find works well on Facebook?