Earlier this month, Facebook announced the worldwide roll out of “Groups for Pages,” a new feature that allows Facebook brand and media pages to create official groups where their fans can have more in depth conversations with – and around – their favourite brands. While many brands utilize the traditional Facebook Groups feature to either create groups for fans of their brands or to join groups created by their fans, this new feature will be a huge game changer for brands on Facebook. Here’s why:
1) Privacy for Facebook Page Admins
Currently, if a social media manager wants to create a group for their community or to join an existing community group, they have to create it or join it using their personal Facebook page. However, if most social media managers had their choice, anonymity as a page admin would be preferred so they can maintain privacy as well as some separation between work and play. This is especially relevant for those who manage larger brands with huge communities around them.
2) “Official” Group Status
It can often be challenging for users to find the largest and most legitimate Facebook groups out there relating to a particular brand or product. Groups for Pages will allow pages to easily identify their official groups for their fans to join.
3) More Conversation
As a manager of several pages I have joined groups relating to those pages as myself to listen to the conversations on these groups. Let me tell you, Facebook groups (especially private ones) are some of the most lively places on the internet. Fans and customers are much more happy to speak candidly and while there is little to be gathered in terms of quantitative data from engaging in groups like this, the qualitative insights you can gather about your brand from groups like these are incredibly valuable.
4) Increased Awareness
If you are a member of a group, you will often receive notifications of posts in the group or they will appear prominently in your news feed. If you can leverage groups for your brand you can more easily make your way around Facebook’s tricky algorithms and better connect with your fans.
While on the whole Groups for Pages will be a huge boon for brands going forward in terms of generating meaningful and lasting relationships with their customers and making it easier for community managers to tend to their groups, there are a number of challenges I can foresee as this feature rolls out:
1) Onboarding Obstacles
While this new feature makes it easier for brands to “own” groups, having users migrate from an existing, established group to a new one explicitly owned by a brand will inevitably be challenging. I can see this feature really only working for brands who have yet to dabble with the groups and want to try building a community from the ground up, but it might be harder for more established communities.
If you’re an established brand and want to bring your community to your “official” group, try to build out a solid strategy before you take the plunge and perhaps think of something different and attractive you can offer your community to draw them in. For instance, the Washington Post has started using Groups for Pages by allowing readers to have exclusive access to their journalists through the group.
2) Maintaining Authenticity
The wonderful thing about Facebook groups is that there are often more intimate and real conversations happening among fans in groups than there are on Pages. This is happening for a couple reasons:
- Fans are more candid when the presence of the “brand” isn’t known.
- Comments in groups are often private and only seen in the news feeds of those who are in the group. Even public groups have more privacy than Facebook pages.
Groups for Pages will be a challenging shift as these two qualities will no longer be inherent. The brand itself (rather than a representative or employee of the brand) owns the group, so there may be a level of authenticity that is lost due to this fact. Also, these groups will very much be public to anyone who would like to join them, so there may be some hesitation from fans to participate in the conversation.
One way to combat these challenges will be to maintain an authentic and transparent voice within these groups, avoid promotion of goods and services, and feature some of the real people (Facebook users) behind the brand to maintain some of that authenticity.
3) Ad Free Zone No More?
In general, groups are one of the only places on Facebook that are “ad free” and aside from promoting organically in groups, you cannot pay to have your content reach further in the group. With ads and viral content dominating our news feeds these days, this respite from paid content is appreciated by those who frequent Facebook Groups. One concern I have is that Groups for Pages will not be the ad free zone we have come to love from Facebook groups.
Only time will tell with this concern, but it’s something worth keeping in mind when you think about your approach to managing your Page-run group. Even if Facebook ultimately invades this sacred space with sponsored posts, to avoid leaving a bad taste in the mouths of your fans, be sure to keep your content relatively promo-lite and use these spaces to generate real conversation, real feedback and real connections. Like always, think about providing value and entertainment with your group content and think about the fans before your brand.
Despite these challenges, the verdict on this new feature is definitely LOVE IT. While we think there will be some growing pains as these Page-run groups become normalized, we ultimately think this will be a beneficial feature for both brands and fans alike.
Want to make Groups for Pages part of your Facebook Strategy? Drop us a line.