I don’t tend to blog about tech news as there’s already a whole pile of useful new sites that do that job well.
However, the exception is news from Mashable that could really change how people can connect with Facebook groups.
Facebook is trialing the ability for a page to join a group.
This is potentially huge as it gets over an obstacle where comms people have to use their own Facebook profile on behalf of the organisation to reach groups.
A quick recap: #1 Why Facebook groups are important
I’ve been banging a drum for Facebook groups for some time now.
Research in the district of Braintree shows people there are turning to groups and pages over public sector pages. There are more than 1,000 groups and pages in a population of just over 53,000.
That’s an incredible highly networked number.
A quick recap: #2 Yes, but there are barriers
The barriers that have stopped public sector people getting involved with pages are clear. Maybe comms people don’t want their personal profile to be exposed to criticism or abuse.
A quick recap #3: Current ways around the barrier
There’s two current ways to connect with Facebook groups.
Use your own profile to join a group and contribute directly.
Use your own profile to send a private message to the group admin to introduce yourself and inquire if they’d share content for you.
There is a third. Create a work profile to connect with groups or admin directly. I’m strongly suggesting you don’t do that. It’s against Facebook’s terms and conditions. There’s a slightly messy undertone of fake news and spying, too.
What the changes mean
Firstly, it’s important to stress that these are a trial.
- No, this won’t open the whole of Facebook’s wide ecosystem of groups to you. Group admin will have to change settings and then vet your application. Don’t expect to waltz in anywhere.
- Yes, a page that joins a group can still be chucked out as if it was a member. So, don’t expect to be a fixture.
- But if you are in, you’ll be able to post and comment in groups as the page rather than as yourself. This can give some credibility to your answers or your content. It’ll also re-assure people reluctant to use their own profile.
- But you could be a grief magnet. Having a corporate page talking in a group rather than a person may attract more abuse. If you’re a real person the tendency is for there to be less abuse as people mind less shouting at a logo.
- But you could unlock a big chunk of audience that you wouldn’t be reaching otherwise. The new Mum who doesn’t read the local paper or listen to the radio could be reached through the New Mum Facebook group she’s joined for support.
- But you’ll have to change your mindset. This won’t be one-and-done comms. You will need to search Facebook for the right groups, build a relationship with the admin and maybe target a dozen groups for your targeted content. The New Mum Facebook group will want to hear new parent advice. It won’t want to hear about an exhibition of Old Stafford.
- Yes, you’ll need to know about Facebook groups on your patch. A trawl through the towns, villages, estates and communities on your patch will surprise you. You won’t need to know all of them. But you will need to know the process of searching for the right community.
So, the answer is broadly good news for public sector comms people. But it’s also a bit messy. Just slightly less messy than it was before.
I’ve not seen this change in my role as admin of the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group. I’ll keep you posted.
Drop me a note if those dates don’t work for you firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Jamie Baker from the UK Government Cabinet Office for spotting this Facebook development.
Picture credit: Book Catalog / Flickr.