I’ve been an admin of a moderately busy Facebook Group for 18 months (hobbyist topic: learning mountain biking skills). I’ve been happy with my decision to launch my community there, as it’s grown to nearly 3,000 members with about 2K ‘engaged’ each month.
All those new features are indeed helpful and well-implemented. I’ve been paying for a monthly membership to Grytics for analytics on my Group but FB’s implementation of Group Insights is pretty good and might be enough for most admins.
One of the MOST helpful things that FB did in the first year of my Group was to automatically refer new people – mountain bikers – to my Closed Group for me to consider admitting. They did this via their right sidebar automated display of five “Suggested Groups” to users based on their analysis of those users’ interests. Many days I would get a dozen or more requests to be added, allowing me to give priority admission to women mountain bikers (part of my initial ‘culture’ strategy).
They stopped the practice a few months ago. I have no idea why. But I was happy for the help in growing the group.
I think if FB would implement a feature for organizing Group posts into Categories, something that was evidently tested with some Groups a while back, I’d consider keeping my community there for another year. But so far they haven’t and I’m tired of waiting, as it’s a major detriment to the type of community I’ve got – many categories of mountain biking skills with a growing body of knowledge on each and newcomers constantly seeking to tap into that knowledge but unable to navigate to it. The Search feature is better than it was a year ago but that’s not enough, IMHO, as it doesn’t show the breadth and depth of what our members have contributed since we started.
From a big picture perspective, I’m inclined to move my community away from FB in part because of its many problems:
For something more readable, see this story in Wired, published earlier this week:
And of course, Big Tech in general is increasingly being perceived as doing more harm than good:
At the same time, affordable online community platforms have continued to improve – the addition of good smartphone apps, in particular – and so many of the miscellaneous features of FB’s platform that people love and that can help to build a community are available to me.
I’ll shut up now to see if anyone else is interested in this topic!
First, I really appreciate you doing this. It is insight in to a form of Community that I have little experience with for the reasons outlined below.
I am an advocate for having as much control over your platform as possible with as much access to the underlying data as possible. To that end, I almost never suggest starting or attempting to maintain a community on a social media platforms. It is far to easy for the Platform to change things up (e.g. dropping suggested groups) and cause harm to your community or community growth with little recourse for you to fix things. And It seems that every 6 to 12 months Facebook does something that impacts organic reach, unless you start paying for that reach.
Still, I look forward to your progress with this as it might be a good guide for others to follow.
But this excellent 2015-16 Feverbee discussion thread (30 comments) was also influential in my decision, in part because Richard wrote:
Like I said, Facebook group can be terrific for getting something started or a cheap option because it spreads organically quite well once you’re over a small critical mass boundary…it’s just what you do after that is the challenge.
Great info. At my company when we perform User Testing against our Communities, we often hear testers respond to questions with the answer, “Oh, I’d just go to Facebook and search there”. This is usually an older demographic. The interesting part is “search!”… who searches Facebook!
Very keen on hearing CM’s experiences moving from FB to a dedicated forum and specifically the areas where FB Groups fall short.
Hey Chris! I think the search feature inside a FB Group has gotten better. (See attached screengrab.) As an admin, I use it quite a bit. They’ve added lots of options to the Filter Results sidebar, and words in comments can be found, not just the initial post.
But it doesn’t meet the need for people to be able to browse older topics. I tell people it’s like walking into a library, wanting to browse the Travel section’s books on Hawaii vs using their computer to search for specific books on Hawaii’s volcanoes.
The other thing I’m wondering about is whether the limitations of finding/browsing information in a FB Group also affects the depth of the relationships that can develop. In other words, does the fleeting/info ‘snacking’ nature of the FB Group experience tend to inhibit stronger social/emotional bonding? I’m not sure.
Nice insights and article. It was very enjoyable to read the conversation, thanks to everyone who participated!
I created a dozen of Facebook groups and must have joined over 100+ over the past 5 years. I am currently active in 30 Facebook groups. 5 that I am leading, 10 that bring me great value and the rest I just check it from time to time or reply to comments if needed.
I would like to share my insights as well, as a millennial addicted to Facebook:
One platform: I don’t need to login every time to a new platform to receive a notification or see what’s going on in a community. I can manage my communities, be active in the communities I care about and have a quick look at the communities I am slighly interested in… All in the same platform which is a massive gain of time, knowledge and connections.
Public profile: I don’t need to build 15 profiles. I work seriously on my online brand and my Facebook public profile reflects authentically the parts of my life or beliefs I want to share. Everyone stalk each other and that gives me an edge to make new connections or build a trusted relationship with potential and current customers. That’s mostly not possible in other platforms like discourse. Even if it is, the amount of time required to have a Facebook-like profile in each platform makes it impossible if you are active in 15 communities.
Friendships: You can become friend with the people from your Facebook groups. See what they are up to, like their posts etc. You might think it’s superficial but I think it’s a very good way to create, build and sustain online friendships. In Tramigos, the travel community I created, many of these online friendships are ending up in real life meetings and that’s great!
Yes that’s useful when you are a bootstrapping entrepreneur
Dependant on Facebook
Lack of data to measure
Lack of freedom. I mostly cannot implement anything, like let’s say some gamification tools
Can’t filter members based on where they are from etc
That’s why for Tramigos I decided to create both a Facebook group and a website. The website is mainly used to search members based on the city or country they live or used to live. Then in one click they are connected to Facebook.
Happy to continue the discussion and exchange ideas!