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The Future of Facebook is Groups

Facebook recently announced major changes to its news feed algorithm, which will prioritize posts from friends over posts from Pages you like. For brands that rely on Facebook Pages for traffic and engagement, this caused concern and, for some, panic. But we believe this will set into motion a shift in the way businesses, organizations and other brands communicate on Facebook: a shift toward communications through Groups.

In 2017, Facebook revealed its new mission statement, saying it wants “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” This came on the heels of Mark Zuckerberg releasing a manifesto that described his vision for the future of the company. In it, he used the word “community” 80 times, paving the way for a focus on community building and a heavier concentration on Groups – an ideal platform for building those communities.

Facebook explains the difference between Pages and Groups: “While Pages were designed to be the official profiles for entities, such as celebrities, brands or businesses, Facebook Groups are the place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion.”

As they were designed, Pages are a place for a brand to post information, and people can like, comment on or share that information. Alternatively, Groups are a space for conversations about things people have in common.

For example, a newspaper will have a Facebook Page on which they share news, and they may have a Facebook Group where they share specific stories so people can discuss the news that mutually interests them – a “health and wellness” news group, for instance; or a “Washington politics” news group.

Vox was the subject of a recent case study released by The Lenfest Institute. Vox, a media company, set out to explore Facebook Groups. They created two: a closed group for people enrolled in a healthcare plan through the Obamacare marketplace, and a closed group for fans of one their “Weeds” podcasts. According to the report, “while the Obamacare group was focused on facilitating intimate and in-depth conversations around individuals’ experiences with the Affordable Care Act, the Weeds group is structured more as a way to follow the podcast, connect with fellow fans, and follow the news.” The report states that Vox has been able to tap into these growing communities, seeking and receiving content and information from members.

As this one example and countless others show, Groups are a place to build communities and take your engagement to the next level.

  • Members receive a notification every time you or someone else posts in the Group and must opt out of such notifications in their settings.

  • The posts with the most recent engagement will appear at the top of the feed.

  • It’s easy to control the privacy settings of your Group.

  • Event invitations can be sent to the Group members as a whole with one click.

  • It’s easy to find and connect with fellow Group members.

Facebook news feed algorithm changes aside, the most effective form of audience retention lies in community building. Community building is relationship building taken one step further through two-way communication and mutually beneficial, valuable, trusting relationships.

What kinds of Groups could you create? For school districts, it’d be great to see Groups for parents at certain schools, or in certain grade levels. Teacher Groups could also be beneficial. For nonprofits, look at creating Groups for your donors and volunteers. For businesses, consider launching Groups for your biggest ambassadors, or for people who are brand new to your company.

The biggest “catch” is that Groups require an investment of time and energy. You have to be present to cultivate a community.

But every Group starts somewhere.

  • Open up lines of communication.

  • Ask questions.

  • Share information.

  • Seek feedback.

  • Be honest.

  • Find the needs your audience has and see where you can fill them.

  • Focus less on broadcasting and more on having a dialogue.

In doing so, you’re on your way to building, growing and nurturing a deeply connected community that truly cares about what you have to say.

Kristy Gillentine is the Vice President of Public Engagement for Drive West Communications.

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