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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?