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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

Facebook Groups Redesign: What It Means For You

07 Oct 2010

written by Mike Petroff

Facebook Groups Redesign: What It Means For You

Facebook announced platform changes to Groups at their offices in Palo Alto on October 6. Mashable has extensive coverage and reactions to the event here, here and here. If you’re currently using Facebook Groups or Pages to communicate with targeted communities, here’s a helpful guide to how the new Groups option will affect you.

Why did Facebook update Groups?

From Facebook: “The new Groups product enables members to selectively share information with a small group. Old Groups were built around the same goal of helping people share with a group, but users told us it was harder to use that as a means of sharing personal information with a small group of their friends. The new design offers you a shared space where you can share personal information with a smaller subset of people with whom you interact on a more regular basis, like family, classmates or co-workers.”

New Features

  • Group Chat: You can chat with multiple other members of a group in real-time on Facebook Chat.
  • Docs: The new design has a shared notepad, which allows you to collectively write and edit notes with a group.
  • Mailing list-style notifications: Keep up-to-date with other group members through a variety of notification options.

I got a chance to play around with several of the new features and here are my initial reactions to the redesign. My specific focus is on Admissions and incoming student communities, but these can be translated to other communities as well.

Pros

  • Notifications are a huge deal. Groups now have advanced options on how they receive notifications. This option will drive more return visits to the group as they receive notifications on post comments and ‘likes’.
  • Group chat is an option students have been waiting for. It’s dead simple to use and will be another reason group members keep engaged and return to the Group page. All members of a group can use group chat, regardless of whether they are ‘friends’. Only ‘friends’ can contact each other through individual chat messages.
  • Docs allow administrators an easy way to post deadlines, FAQ’s, and general updates to the group. Docs can be viewed and edited by any member of the group, allowing for a wiki-like experience.
  • Events can now easily be created and promoted within a Group. I spent hours last year creating events in the Old Groups (since I was the admin) but now this task is handled by any group member.
  • Feature Boxes on the right column of a Groups page give easy access to Group events and docs.

Cons

  • No more discussion threads. Some Old Groups used them heavily, but they are absent in the new style. New Groups are more focused on a constant stream of information and updates.
  • Pictures are only available through the activity stream, but surprisingly not through an archive or feature box. Unless you go back through the activity stream, there’s no easy way to find pictures posted to the Group.
  • Friends can add YOU to any group, without your permission. You can remove yourself after the fact, but you can’t (as of now) restrict friends from adding you to any number of random Groups.

Administration of Groups

Admins still have most of the same options for setting up and maintaining Groups, but it may be a little confusing with the redesign. To edit group options, select the Edit Group option in the top-right. You can edit:

  • Privacy settings
  • Group name (yes, you can change a group name after it’s created)
  • Group email address for notifications
  • Group description

To edit group members and set other administrators, look to the left-side column while on the Edit Group page. Using the Members option, you can add more friends to the group, remove group members and set new admins.

Summary

I see a lot of potential with this redesign of Groups, especially with the inclusion of advanced notifications and group chat. I’m excited to set up a new Group for our incoming class and compare the activity with previous Groups and Pages.

Detailed information about new Groups is available from Facebook.

Are you excited about the Groups redesign? Do you plan on creating new Groups for your school communities?

The content of this post is licensed: ©2010 All Rights Reserved


About the author

Mike Petroff

Mike is the Web Manager for Enrollment at Emerson College in Boston, MA.  He leads web marketing and online recruitment efforts for undergraduate and graduate admission.  Mike also chairs the social media group at Emerson as they work on coming up with ways to use the social web to recruit the next generation of students. You can find him on Twitter at @mikepetroff.

This post was written by - who has written 29 posts on .eduGuru


  • http://tonyzanders.com Tony Zanders

    Hey Mike – thanks for this recap. While Facebook hasn’t announced this, I wanted to add that the email addresses that group admins create also serve as public URLs for that group. For instance, if you enjoy a good burger, I can invite you to my “Burgers” group by sending you this link: http://facebook.com/group/burgers.

  • http://www.mikepetroff.com Mike Petroff

    Great – thanks for the tip! Makes promoting groups a bit easier now, similar to locking down Page URLs.

  • http://patrickpowers.net Patrick Powers

    Thanks for the great post. I agree that the biggest con is that users can be put into a group without permission and that it’s up to the user to opt out if they aren’t interesting in joining. Big mistake.

    Wrote about the same issue here, and thought of a few ways others in higher ed may want to use the new group feature: http://patrickpowers.net/2010/10/what-new-facebook-groups-mean-for-higher-ed

  • http://krywosa.com Jess

    Not sure of a use of this over pages for incoming students. But def will consider and learn from what you do! If anything, it may be more useful for retention/class efforts and enrollment in my mind.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mikepetroff Mike Petroff

    @Patrick – thanks for the link to your post! I love the idea of “Augment student learning” giving courses the option to have a mini-Facebook, with options for docs, links, notifications, etc. But, I have a slight fear that there won’t be enough separation of academic learning and online privacy. Most people use Facebook to connect socially (as LinkedIn is used professionally) but there needs to be a healthy middle-ground.

    @Jess – the discussion will continue to be there in Pages vs. Groups for sure. I’ll probably post about my experience with our first group of Early Action students for Fall 2015 (wow, 2015) in December.

  • http://www.paulprewitt.com Paul Prewitt

    My greatest issue will be converting current groups. I really don’t see why they didn’t create a “switch/convert” button to take your current groups over to the new style.

    I do see a lot of potential for the new groups especially in the alumni relations area (or student groups) but I don’t see recreating 50+ groups from scratch – not to mention the amount of work to move the members over. However, I guess a student worker or volunteers could do it.

    Anyone seen how the new groups interact with the mobile applications yet? Old groups sent notifications out via push notification for the iPhones. Will we be getting the push notes for everyone in the activity stream now?

  • http://robinteractive.wordpress.com robinteractive

    I was excited about the possiblity of group chat being integrated into Facebook Groups. A killer feature integrated right in without the need for hacking and workarounds sounded great.

    But it turns out that “new” groups have very little in common with “old” groups besides name. I set up a “new” group and pulled in high school classmates to test things out.

    I’m still biased toward using the “old” Facebook Groups over Facebook Pages for admitted student groups. That said, I won’t be moving to the “new” Groups anytime soon. Granular control over members, the discussion tab, photos, “closed” group with ability to approve join requests, and more… The “old” groups still have so much to offer for an admitted student group for Admissions recruiters willing to put thought, time, and effort into the project. The limitations of “old” groups can be worked around and improved upon to make them highly effective, interactive and engaging. “New” groups are very limiting so far, even to the point that certain workarounds are tough or even impossible.

    For the Class of 2015 I’ll be sticking with the “old” groups, and perhaps into future years, as well.

    By the way, you can still create an “old” group on Facebook (at least for now), complete with all of the “old” group features. Here’s to hoping they add group chat as an option that can be enabled: http://www.facebook.com/groups/create.php

  • http://www.varsityoutreach.com/ Mark Rothbaum (Varsity Outreach)

    @robinteractive Thanks for the link to create Old groups. I agree with you about the New groups. I did a more in-depth post about it here:
    http://blog.varsityoutreach.com/2010/10/facebooks-new-groups-is-it-end-of-class.html

    The biggest concern for me about the New groups is the noise factor. If you get 1,000 alumni in a “new” group and it’s sending out e-mails and notifications every time someone posts, is that going to be overwhelming and ultimately lead to group fatigue? Sure, a user can change their settings, but the default setting sends these e-mails and notifications.

  • sunnyside

    I was trying to set up a GROUP but I quickly found out that the group feature has been COMPLETELY changed. Does anyone have an OLD Facebook group that is not really being used (of which they are the admin) that I could “have”? You could make me the admin and then I can change it around to the way I want it. PLEASE help me out! Thanks!

  • http://robinteractive.wordpress.com robinteractive

    @sunnyside Looks like in the last couple days Facebook killed the ability to create “old” groups at http://www.facebook.com/groups/create.php (I already created my “old” groups for quite a few years out, but we’ll see if Facebook ends up modifying or deleting them.)

    Even if someone could pass an “old” group on to you, you can’t change the name of an “old” group to suit your needs.

    For me personally, if Facebook provided an option with Facebook Pages to make them closed or private, I would abandon old groups altogether. Pages offer most of what I want except for the (for me) gotta have piece: the option to make the page closed with admin approval required for joining and viewing content.

  • http://www.paulprewitt.com Paul Prewitt

    You can change or could change the name of an old group under the group’s information section. We renamed a few of our’s to have a better brand correlation & SEO results and FB search results.

    Sorry, I don’t have any spare old groups at this time.

  • http://robinteractive.wordpress.com robinteractive

    Thanks, Paul. I guess changing the name of a group is pretty simple :) That provides more wiggle room to keep “old” groups alive.

  • http://www.frankingmachinesuppliers.com Savana

    Its good to know that facebook will be launching this new “add group” feature. Maybe I can use this to create our batch 96″ group site and invite others to join. Well, i’m just worried about the email notifications that keep coming in to my mailbox. I don’t want these mails to notify me each time somebody leaves comment or subscribe.

  • http://www.non-stop-pop.com Pagz

    There are a number if items listed under “pros” that to me are very decidedly “cons”.

    “Docs allow administrators an easy way to post deadlines, FAQ’s, and general updates to the group. Docs can be viewed and edited by any member of the group, allowing for a wiki-like experience.”

    If I have a group and I’m posting documents for the group members, the last thing I want is for this to be a “wiki-like” experience for them. The ability for anyone to modify any document that I, as the administrator, post to the group defeats the purpose of these documents entirely. There is a reason groups had Administrators. By making so many of the group options editable directly by any member of the group, Facebook has taken away any control the creator or administrators of the group had. Sure I could go in and fix any changes someone in the group might make, but I shouldn’t have to. If group members want to add to or discuss documents, that’s what wall posts and comments are for. The potential for abuse of this new feature greatly outweighs the gains, and to be perfectly honest I can’t even identify what those gains are.

    “Events can now easily be created and promoted within a Group. I spent hours last year creating events in the Old Groups (since I was the admin) but now this task is handled by any group member.”

    Once again, this really defeats the purpose of having an administrated group. Events still take just as long to make, but now anyone can make them. I do not want members of the groups I administrate to be able to make events. That’s why I do not give all of my members administrative abilities. When I create a group, I expect to have control over that group. I expect discussions to take place either on the wall or in the topics section. That’s what they’re for. If Facebook wanted to add those new notification options to those sections I’d have no complaints.

    To put an example: I have a movie night at my place every Wednesday. I created a group and invited all of my friends that come to movie night. I made several of those friends administrators because they come to every movie night without fail. Now, I would not want any member of that group to be able to create an event because the movie nights are held at my place. It’s important for only myself or one of my administrators to be able to make these events. I can not be in the position wherein I might have people showing up at my home because someone made an event without my permission. Further, if I post house rules or directions or whatnot in my documents section, I do not want anyone editing those. Nor do I want someone who thinks they’re funny going in and messing with that information.

    That’s just one simple example. What facebook has created are no longer “groups”. They’re more like chatrooms. And that’s fine, but that’s not what I want from my groups. If Facebook wants this kind of functionality then there’s no reason they couldn’t have added this as a separate feature and left the groups alone. They weren’t broken and didn’t need fixing. Alas, that is no longer the case. I tried to make a group today for an organization, and the new setup is entirely useless to me know for my purposes. I have no way of controlling what happens on the group page, I can’t invite people to join anymore I can just add them without their permission which is entirely unacceptable, and I’ll be damned if I can find where the informational blurb it asked me to write when creating the group is.

  • Steve

    My biggest lament about the way the “old” Groups now works is the removal of news feed notifications if someone posts a new discussion topic, or if they upload a new pic etc. It’s as if fb has totally de-emphasized the old Groups. You won’t hear a peep about any recent activity unless you actually go there and look. Nothing on your news feed anymore. This certainly doesn’t foster ongoing discussion and communication. I set one up a couple of years ago for my high school class (81), and it was a great way to reconnect and reminisce through posts, pics etc. I fear that with the recent changes, nobody from my class will bother with our Group page because it’ll be out of sight/out of mind.

  • http://paulgailey.com Paul Gailey

    How or can you upgrade an old group to have the new group functions ?

  • Heidenberg Dwight Fiel

    how can i upgrade my old group to the new designed group were u can chat with the meembers…?

  • http://www.varsityoutreach.com/ Mark Rothbaum

    Does anyone know of a school actually using the new Facebook Groups for their incoming Class of 2015? Whenever I’ve done a search, I only see schools using the old Groups. I’m curious to hear more about any experiences with new Groups in admissions.

  • http://www.mikepetroff.com Mike Petroff

    Hi Mark! I’ve believe that Lougan Bishop at Belmont University is using the new group style for their Class of 2015 Facebook group. Check it out here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_133416046719759. Lougan’s on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/lougan

  • RealMcCoy

    Unable to change email address on my group – is this part of the “new groups”??

  • Alex

    they have cut off larger groups from telling there members whats going on, they know we dont want this. if you want to help stop it join the cause
    http://www.causes.com/causes/587653-let-us-use-the-old-group-style-and-message-all-members?m=0fde7c20&recruiter_id=40985518

  • Samantha Atkins

    I want to feel good about something as ubiquitous as FB. I do feel good about some parts of it. But taking a part of peoples lives and making ad hoc changes without more discussion, beta testing, and or ways to migrate without losing functionality totally sucks. This is a big Fail on the part of Facebook. It comes off as arrogant, ignorant of users and utterly uncaring what their needs or expectations are. Not at all a good message.

  • http://nearmalls.com/ Near Malls

    in my country many peoples using Facebook group for business

  • Chad

    Wow, I just tried to create a couple of groups for my school’s graduates, and I was competely dumbfounded with the new layout/functionality (or lack thereof). A few google searches later and here I am… only to find out this has been a continuing problem and complaint with many folks since October of last year. It seems all of the attention is on fan pages right now, which would work great if they could be made private. Sure, I could recycle an old, stagnant group I’m an admin for, but that’s not ideal at all and certainly isn’t an option for everyone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rsutter Russell Sutter

    we have a local area buy and sell group. It’s actually pretty popular but the features available limit the functionality of the whole process. It would be nice to see facebook expand in the group area in respect to a buy/sell or trade online environment. 

  • Sami Qureshi

    My biggest lament about the way the “old” Groups now works is the removal of news feed notifications if someone posts a new discussion topic, or if they upload a new pic etc. It’s as if fb has totally de-emphasized the old Groups. You won’t hear a peep about any recent activity unless you actually go there and look. Nothing on your news feed anymore. This certainly doesn’t foster ongoing discussion and communication. I set one up a couple of years ago for my high school class (81), and it was a great way to reconnect and reminisce through posts, pics etc. I fear that with the recent changes, nobody from my class will bother with our Group page because it’ll be out of sight/out of mind.

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