FRIENDS, FAMILY, GROUPS: What are the Facebook changes and what do they mean for public sector comms people?


Every year Facebook set out where they’re heading over the next few years and every year there’s a few surprises.

So, I’ve watched Mark Zuckerburg’s F8 address which sets out where Facebook is headed so you don’t have to.

What did it make me think? That one constant with being a communicator is change and being able to adapt to change.

Research shows the best content is video, then pictures, then a link and then text. More on that here.

This announcement is about what’s next. Here’s some thoughts on how it impacts public sector comms.

Direction of travel: privacy and private messagers

It’s clear that Facebook have been stung by misuse and criticism. It’s also clear that the old Facebook of pages, news feed and the blue and white branding are on their way out.

The focus from Facebook will be privacy.

For the future, people want a privacy-focussed social platform.

  • Mark Zuckerburg, F8, 2019

Tools for business to buy and sell on WhatsApp will follow and there’s a lot of talk about Facebook Messenger being the safest, securest and quickest private messenger service.

Key message: Private messaging apps Facebook own like Messenger and WhatsApp will get more important as will messaging through Instagram.

Friends and family… and communities in groups

It would be wrong to translate the shift to privacy to more private messages.

It means a focus on smaller groups. Your friends and your family are that.

Two years ago, Mark Zuckerburg caused major upheaval by declaring an end to click-bait. How? He switched focus from naked clicks on pages to friend and family. The shift overnight undermined the business model of many media companies.

This year he reinforced the direction of travel to keep it towards friends and family.

So, your mates and you brother will be seen more as you scroll through your Facebook.

Our friends and family are always going to be the core of our social lives.

– Mark Zuckerburg, F8, 2019.


Key message: Not PMs but you’ll see more from your mates and your Mum and Dad.

Direction of travel: Groups, groups, groups

Facebook groups are going to be big, big, big.

I’ve been a keen observer of the role Facebook groups have played for a couple of years. They’re going to play an even bigger role. Why? They give a sense of community and there’s a bit of walled garden from the nasty wider internet.

I could not be happier about this.

In a world where people are joining fewer physical communities and there is less social cohesion its more important than ever to be part of comunities that are meaningful to us.

There are already more than 400 million members of Facebook groups that are meaningful to them.

We believe there is a community for everyone so we’re building on a major evolution to redesign the Facebook app to make communities as central as friends.

Overall, we’ve made it a lot easier to find and connect to groups with much better suggestions  and search.

It all adds up to the feeling that groups are at the heart of the experience just as much as friends and family.

– Mark Zuckerburg, F8, 2019

This is huge, huge, huge.

If you’ve been a member of the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group you’ll have seen the benefits for some time. A walled garden of shared interest it has engagement rates that dwarf any pages I know. You can find it here.

But it does mean that public sector comms people need to massively switch-up their overall Facebook game. The idea of chucking something onto a page and forgetting about it has become as pointless as pinning an announcement to a lamp post.

Extra tools have been announced to clamp-down on misinformation or harmful content in Facebook groups.

Message: Communication on Facebook will increasingly be through groups.


Direction of travel: Seriously bad news for pages

Here’s the bad news for the public sector. Your page on its own is pointless. It’s something I’ve been saying for some time and has been hugely reinforced.

What’s interesting is not just what Zuckerburg said but what he didn’t.

The biggest loser in this announcement are pages. There was nothing of note said about them. When you bear in mind that the public sector pages real estate is huge and extensive this is really, really important.

The direction of travel for Facebook is clear: friends, family and communities through groups. Pages don’t feature in that at all.

Message: Stop putting all your eggs into the Facebook page basket.

Direction of travel: Facebook are keen on stories

Facebook are really keen on you making more stories with your content.

These are upright filmstrips that can be created with text, video, stickers and emojis.

I’m not a huge fan but if the direction of travel is towards rewarding them this is something that needs to be worked on if you want to reach people.

Message: Look afresh at stories.


Direction of travel: Instagram is not just for pictures it’s for buying and donating

Instagram has been a platform of growth for years.

The big changes announced here will delight charity comms people. A button to help people donate to a cause close to their heart has been announced. Aside from that, a shopping channel has been launched and Facebook are looking at ways to allow business to use the platform.

So, ‘merch link in bio’ will become a thing of the past. That means ticketing for events suddenly opens up as a viable strategy.

They’re also improving Instagram stories, improving private interactions and making the camera better.

Key message: Instagram has just got a lot more interesting to communicators and marketers looking to sell stuff.

Direction of travel: they’re having a re-brand and trying to win your trust back

The blue and white logo will go and will be ‘modernised.’ You won’t hardly see blue on the app and website from sneak peaks of the new platform.

So, white backgrounds. That’s the colour of purity, right?

They’re also stressing a new approach based on the principles of private interactions, encription and safety. They also talk of ‘interoperability’. That means how Facebook brands like WhatsApp, Messenger and the main platform can navigate to each other. On top of that, secure data storage is more important. So is ‘reducing permanence’ (translation: In other words, they don’t want you do be frightened that something you say as a kid will be dug-up to blight your future.)

Key message: Facebook are staging the largest re-brand in corporate history.

In summary: Big changes will require some big thinking from public sector people and a new use for some old furniture.

vital facebook skillsI’m running a new workshop to help public sector people understand how to better use Facebook.

I’ll be joined by Sarah Lay for VITAL FACEBOOK SKILLS at a city near you.

You can see more and book here



Leave a comment

Leave a Reply