Facebook Groups for 2018, pros and cons


(Griff Wigley) #1

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.

But I’m now preparing to move the community to an independent platform (eg. open source Discourse). I posted this as one of my Community Goals for 2018. And then @richard_millington wrote:

I’ve been interested to see if facebook’s work on groups might mean less people move across. What are your main reasons to move?

It seemed like a good idea to devote a new topic to the issue, as I’m eager to get input from others on this. He agreed and so here we go!

(Griff Wigley) #2

First off, you might be wondering what features Facebook has added to its Groups platform recently. Here’s their summary from Oct, 2017:

And here’s another person’s summary of those changes:

(Griff Wigley) #3

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.

(Griff Wigley) #4

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.

(Griff Wigley) #5

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!

(David DeWald) #6

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.

(Colleen Young) #7

Thanks @griffinjay. I am very interested in this topic and plan to read the articles you posted. I need to do a deep dive on this, but have deadlines to be met today.

In the meantime, I wonder if you saw this yesterday?
Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants

(Griff Wigley) #8

Hi David. I was of the same opinion until I read this 2016 LinkedIn post by some guy named @richard_millington!

If You Run A Small Business Today, Start A Facebook Group

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.

So that’s the point I’m now at with my FB group.

(Griff Wigley) #9

I had not seen that announcement, @colleenyoung. Thx. Here’s the link to FB’s own announcement:

I saw your Mayo Clinic-related FB Group story in a comment last year to this helpful discussion thread here on Feverbee, started by @martin_cash:

(Chris B) #10

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! :wink:
Very keen on hearing CM’s experiences moving from FB to a dedicated forum and specifically the areas where FB Groups fall short.

(Griff Wigley) #11

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.