By now you may have heard about Facebook’s recent redesign of Groups. The goal it seems is to provide small groups of friends a way to collaborate online, similar to Facebook networks and friends lists, both of which have met with mixed results. However, for schools now marketing with Facebook Groups, the redesign in my mind is not good news.
This new iteration of Groups differs from the current Groups with the addition of a group chat feature (all group members can chat at once), the new Docs feature (simple text-only collaborative spaces), and email notifications. All of these are marked improvements, especially the email notifications where group members are emailed when members post on the Group’s news feed. This is in contrast to current group functionality where a member is not notified when a new post has been posted to his/her group.
What does that mean for schools marketing with social media? While many schools now use Pages as their primary means of marketing on Facebook, Groups have been a viable option for certain situations. Closed groups, for example, give you the ability to choose who is a member of your community, great for finite entities like “Class of ’71″ or “First grade parents.” There is a little less risk and a little more control to Groups over Pages.
New Groups, however, are a problem for schools. Most importantly, any member of a group can add any of his or her friends to that group without those friends’ knowledge or willingness. There is no opt-in permission feature. The potential of ill-feelings (“I’m an alumni but I’m mad at the school and didn’t want to join the alumni group, Bob.”) would offset any benefit of using New Groups.
Also, Facebook itself is frowning more heavily on organizations using Groups. As Facebook writes, “New Groups are optimized for small groups of people; broader movements around public affiliations and causes are better suited for Facebook Pages.” Facebook has been known to shut down errant Profiles, Pages, and Groups not playing by its rules, so heeding its caution may be wise.
Those with current Groups bigger than a handful of users may want to begin exploring Pages as an alternative in the near future. Facebook says that it is continuing to support Old Groups but is not migrating these over to New Groups; in the digital world, any time you have two versions of a product running, you can be sure that eventually the older version will face its demise. That’s not good news for schools with successful Groups for alumni or general school spirit unfortunately.
What to do? I suggest that if your Facebook Group is not particularly active, go on and create a Facebook Page then post on your Facebook Group that you’ve created the Page and encourage users to like the new Page. If your Group is very active and successful, stay the course for now but keep a close watch on Facebook and be aware that at some point you may have to bite the bullet and create a Page. It’s a shame to have to risk moving an active community from one location to another but it’s the reality with Facebook changing the rules.
What are your thoughts?
icon from http://www.facebook.com/groups/