Facebook just gave its Groups feature a major overhaul. It has the potential to deeply affect user behavior. Facebook is claiming that this is a new cornerstone in their strategy and that new features built around this premise will going to follow.
This 2-minute video by Facebook covers what is new.
Here are some initial thoughts on what could change for you:
1. You might be conscious as to what and how many Groups you join. Being member of a Group has a much deeper impact than just saying that you like something or someone. The Groups you belong to will be prominently displayed in the left bar of your profile. Facebook says that the Groups you belong to can define who you are.
2. With the old Groups, only the admin could send out a notification to all members. Now you become notified about any new wall posts on a Group page. You can of course turn this off in settings but it somehow defeats the purpose of the new Groups meant to be more personal and interactive.
I would suggest that each Group should have a policy or common understanding about how much members should post and what they should post about.
A larger Group will inherently create more noise and you might think twice before joining it.
3. Groups might become a meaningful way for people clean up their main newsfeed. I could easily form a Group with my Colorado friends and keep discussion about the weather or traffic to the local folks who would care more than a friend in Europe that doesn’t need to be bothered.
Facebook offers the option to Group friends into lists and post specifically to them. This, however, seems too cumbersome for most people. Groups are much easier and I can see people challenging each other to keep relevant conversation within Groups.
5. Facebook Groups now allow live Group chats for up to 250 people. It sounds a bit crazy to have 250 people chat with each other but in Twitter’s wake, it’s actually a pretty small number.
6. Facebook hasn’t been clear about what the introduction of new Groups means to the old Groups. They say that they will continue to support them. Old Group owners might revise their strategy. Will a smaller Group with more interaction be more appealing to them? Is it worth cutting established cords to start a new Group? And what if Facebook automatically moves you into the new Group format? Will members be given to option to stay or leave?
7. With this new format, it doesn’t make sense to recruit a ton of members just to have them tune out and turn of their notifications. We have definitely arrived at a point where the quality of a conversation rules over the size of a Group, the number of followers, or however else you want to put it.
8. A thought for brands: some brands desire a more personal interaction with some of their VIP fans. In order to do so they’ve created personal accounts on top of their brand pages. They’ve essentially created fake profiles and violated Facebook’s terms. Starting a closed Group for your brand evangelists appears to be a good alternative to that shady approach. It will be interesting to see how many brands end up taking this route.
9. Groups will also let you share documents so that members can edit them collectively. Sound familiar? Google Docs anyone? Facebook just greatly enhanced its image viewing options. What is next? One big missing piece in their puzzle is a functional email platform.
There is a lot of rumors floating around about google.me. Facebook appears to be taking a very proactive approach to the speculation.
Conclusion: I welcome the introduction of the new Groups, but I see the potential for a lot of additional noise in my inbox if people don’t use them wisely. I see the opportunity for a less cluttered newsfeed if users begin to change their present habit of posting everything to everyone all the time.
One day we might look back and say that Facebook’s new Groups were a smart way to introduce the concept of relevance to a mainstream audience.
- What do I need to know about the new Facebook groups? (guardian.co.uk)
- The Benefits of Using Facebook Groups (labnol.org)
- The Ugly Side Of The New Facebook Groups (allfacebook.com)