What The New Facebook Groups Mean For Community
Yesterday Facebook released a new version of Groups. So what?
Well firstly, phew!, finally Groups and Pages are different again and groups appear to have functionality that would make you want to use them! I don’t know about you but as a marketer and community builder, I struggled between knowing which to use for what, based on the benefits of both.
However now these new Groups have been built from the ground up with a new resolution to facilitate real world groups and communities that already exist, something that gets back to the core of Facebook’s early mission of ‘helping you connect with the people you know.’ And within this, I think there is not only opportuniy, but also it acts as a confirmation about what we’re now thinking about communities in general.
Communities are made of micro-communities
Let me take church as an example, seeing as I used it recently already to illustrate community. A church meets every Sunday for their service, which is the macro community, where all the people come together, no matter what age, demographic, class, gender, ethnicity, etc. But it isn’t the virtue of Sunday in itself that brings this community together nor holds it together. In actual fact, we find subsets of communities within this community, micro community if you will, where people exchange life on a more frequent and deeper level.
Therefore, macro community is the product of micro communities. The strength of this macro community is the strength of these micro communities – the strength of the bonds between the people in them, and the strength of the bonds that link these micro communities together.
This isn’t just a church thing. Take #LikeMinds and you’ll find we have micro communities within our macro community. Take your school, your family, your friendship groups, and so on.
What this reminds me of is this slide below from “The Real Social Network“, an exquisite and mind-shifting, a-ha moment presentation from Paul Adams at Google. It basically says that we can’t approach social networks from the point of view that we have one community, because we don’t. We have different sets of friends who we might say totally different things to. In other words, micro communities that make up our own personal macro community.
Facebook isn’t a single community
Whilst Facebook isn’t a single community, we currently have to treat it like it is. I have to send my Church updates to everyone, and my work updates to everyone. It’s just one community. And when I do share any of this content, it is quite clearly owned by me, not by anyone else.
What Facebook now appear to be doing is giving us a way to groupalise content. Remove my made up word and you’d have ‘co-owned content’ or something similar. The groups allow you to have group photos, group tags, group emails, group documents – a space where no one is really the owner but where everything is shared.
This means, it I use the image above, I could now form a group for each of those 4 communities above, and govern or guide it accordingly.
Groups in the status feed
From my early testing, these new Groups insert the updates into the news feed for those who are following them, meaning I have a new way to keep track of information that relates to an area of my life. Previously, it was this ability that gave Facebook Pages a competitive advantage over Facebook groups. Facebook Social Plugins, however are currently still only with Pages or customised content, so Groups don’t have a weigh in there yet.
Groups are like contact groups in your email client
When I use Mail to send an email to certain teams, I can type the name of that group. Now, I can do the same with the new Facebook Groups, as well as see it in the news feed. This is a powerful move towards what The Real Social Network was talking about when it said that we don’t have one single community.
The way that I plan to use them is like I’d use this email contact group, a place to foster micro community through curation of people (not so much content.) The difference over the old format of groups is that I get notifications on all the activity. This is really lacking when it comes to Pages, but now means I can track everything in that group. Considering that for many Facebook has replaced email, and is their top communication method other than talking, it makes sense for me now to conduct work through a Facebook group that will automatically keep me up-to-date on all the activity.
The bigger changes
Facebook making this change tells me a lot about how we are changing in our knowledge economy. Facebook has become strikingly powerful at both reflecting and shaping how we think and interact. I’m interested to see how this changes us. ‘Friend’ was their first big thing, then ‘wall’, and then most powerfully with ‘like’. Whats the new verb or noun going to be now?
Your Leading Thoughts
- Do you see a use for Facebook groups? Or is it effort that you just don’t have time or interest for?
- Do you observe my same observations about macro and micro community? What has Facebook taught us about how we really approach community?