A Facebook Group, that is. Long, long ago (in terms of social media lifespan), Facebook recognized the need for brands to have a connection with customers and prospects. The first version of Facebook Groups allowed brands to invite folks to the community and collect in a format similar to bulletin boards. As brands wanted more control and advanced features, Fan Pages rolled out, and groups sort of took a back seat. I think most people, myself included, hoped groups would just go away, because the fan pages were so much more robust. It was pretty confusing to explain the difference, and customers didn’t really get fan pages at first. Well, everyone is entitled to change their opinion…. And thus I did many moons later.
So why are Facebook Groups so valuable?
Well, there are many different ways groups can compliment an existing fan page, but let’s start off with how groups are different from fan pages.
Groups can be closed, private, or open to the public.
One of the most significant advantages of groups is the ability to control who has access to the group, its members, and the content shared within the group. The image below describes the different Facebook Group controls.
In addition to the group’s visibility, group admins have the ability to control who can add members to group. One option allows members to add or approve other members. The other option allows members to invite others, but an admin has to approve all members before being able to join the group. The first function is great if you want a large group with lots of ideas. Of course, that means an increased risk of off-topic conversations and spam. The later helps admins vet the members, so only qualified or approved members are allowed in the group.
Groups allow document sharing.
This is a relatively new feature to Facebook groups, one that I am super excited about! Google implemented a similar capability with the combination of Google Docs and Google+, so it was only a matter of time before Facebook answered back. We used to be able to create simple format documents to share with the group. Now, we can create a new doc or upload just about any file format, up to 25 MB. Woot!!! One of the reasons I love this feature so much, is that it allows a company to share content while maintaining brand consistency with protected or branded documents. When creating a new document, users have the ability to incorporate an image, bold and italicize the text, and add bullets or numbers. The document can be edited by the author or others (which is why you want to be careful about creating a document vs. uploading a file), or deleted.
There is a group chat feature.
Hello world. This was one of the first things I learned to communicate when I learned how to code. (I won’t tell you the language, because I will seriously date myself…) So it seems appropriate that it is my go-to for starting up a Facebook group chat.
Anyways, like the chat feature for personal profiles, the group chat allows anyone in the group to strike up a chat. Word of caution – this chat is visible to all members, and is stored in memory forever. Or at least for as long as Facebook groups are around. The good part about this is that all members can log on at any time and check out what’s happening in the group, or in the chat.
Groups have members.
Members… fans… they are still people. Which is why I like members over fans. I feel like I belong to a part of something as a member, as opposed to a fan. I’m a fan of Bret Michaels, but that doesn’t mean I have a connection with other fans of Bret. As a member, like your AMA Baltimore membership, you have a connection with other like-minded people and probably have developed some relationships with those members along the way. It’s more personal.
Unlike Facebook Fan Pages, Group members can be viewed by all. You can quickly connect with other members of the group, even the lurkers. Muah hah ha ha ha. The “Add Friends” button allows you to invite friends to the group, which is super cool, too. Hello, it’s social media. It should be social!
From an admin perspective, you can sort members by the date that they joined, by name, and even those that have been blocked.
There are Facebook events… and then there are Facebook Group Events. I know, it’s confusing. Stay with me… The Facebook events are open to the world to see, RSVP, share, etc. Facebook Group Events on the other hand are only visible to those in the group. That’s that handy “Privacy” option when creating an event. The good part of this is that you can create event reminders using the Events tab in groups for your members. Think exclusivity.
You can choose alert notifications.
Ahh. If you’ve ever tried to figure out how to manage different types of Facebook alerts between your phone (or other mobile device), email, groups, fan pages, etc., you’ve probably thought you were crazy. Don’t worry, you are not alone!
One thing I’m no fan of about groups is that you either get notifications or you don’t. But the good news is that you can control the types of posts you receive notifications for, and how you receive those notifications. You can receive notifications on all posts (including new members), just posts by your friends, or none. There’s also an option to receive alerts via email, in addition to the standard Facebook alert (the red square with number of notifications in the upper left corner). You can also have group-by-group push notifications sent to mobile devices- amazing if you are an admin on the go all of the time!
One more totally cool feature about Facebook group notifications is the “follow” and “unfollow” post feature. If you have notifications on, you will receive a notification every time someone posts in the group, and all the comments and likes that may soon follow. Eventually this could get annoying, especially if the conversation goes off topic and you are no longer interested.
On a post-by-post basis, you can follow a post, so you can stay in the know as others post comments. Or, you can immediately stop receiving notifications by clicking on “Unfollow post” just below the post content. Thank you, Facebook.
By now you may be asking, “Then why do I have a fan page and not a group?” or “Why do I need a group? I don’t really care about bells and whistles.” Those are great questions. The answer really depends on what you are trying to achieve. I think there’s a role for both fan pages and groups in most organizations. There are tremendous advantages of fan pages from a marketing perspective, which I’ll cover in a future blog post. For now, let’s focus on why you may want to supplement a fan page with a group.
Ways to Utilize Facebook Groups
Building out groups for targeted user populations allows a more succinct conversation to happen, especially if your customer base is quite diverse. You may have separate fan pages for the different types of groups, but in general (and this can be discussed on a case-by-case basis) I tend to prefer larger fan pages as opposed to smaller fan pages because of all the magic tricks that you can do on the back end of fan pages.
Thinking a little bit different, you may choose to build user groups for various nurturing initiatives – whether it’s a prospect nurturing program or customer retention initiative. A group allows a company to segment people and share specific content to drive a decision or increase intent. Think of the group as a targeted communications hub, sharing information and communications where people congregate with a heightened engagement level. (That’s Facebook, in case you may not have guessed.)
Focus Groups & Crowdsourcing
I love the private feature of groups for just this. Market Research. Utilizing Facebook groups for ideation, crowdsourcing of resources, and/or conducting focus groups, brands have the opportunity to collect valuable information from a highly engaged audience easier than traditional market research formats.
Learning is a community sport. Studies show that those that help others have a higher retention rate than when people tend to be individual learners. We’ve also been learning in groups since forever, and helping each other out a la study groups. If you’ve ever been in a class where you had to do group work, you’ve probably already praised Facebook groups for the functionality… but if you haven’t, well, you probably aren’t missing much. But, back to why Facebook groups for classroom support is important. Professors can set up groups for their students, even set up “faculty hours” where students can chat with the professor about something from the course. Students can chat with each other, asking questions about what was covered in class. And the new Facebook Groups for Universities is going to revolutionize the way groups are used in classroom support. Most schools have a technology allowing group support behind a firewall, so this isn’t a new concept. But the idea of having the group in Facebook – again, where we are all highly engaged, changes the level of participation and engagement. And hopefully student retention. It’s still in beta, but I suspect this will be released soon enough.
Having a Facebook group for an organization, whether it’s for your child’s sports group, professional organization, or community group, Facebook groups allow a quick and easy way for organizations to stay in touch with members. Email is a great method for communication, but with group notifications right inside Facebook, it’s a fast way to share information, upcoming events, schedule changes, and more, with people where they will most likely read. Let’s face it, most of our email goes unread or lost for days on end. Spruce up your communications with a Facebook group!
Internal communications is always a big challenge for companies. Many companies are trying to balance the HR end of social media with ensuring company information is shared with employees in a timely fashion. While this may still be a grey area for more organizations, there are some using private Facebook groups to get the word out.
Conferences, trade shows, flagship events all play nicely within Facebook groups. Event organizers can drop ticklers pre-event, offer unique content (white papers, files, images, etc.) to group members, raffle off a signed book by one of the event speakers, get the group jazzed about attending the event, and share post-event information. It’s a great place for event attendees to connect with each other and get to know each other before the event, so they don’t feel left out knowing no one at the event.
I’m sure there are many other uses for Facebook groups that I haven’t yet thought of. I’d love to hear from you!
Do you participate in Facebook groups? How do you use Facebook groups? What do you like about groups? Share your ideas!