What Do New Facebook Groups Features Mean?

This is the latest in Localogy’s Skate To Where the Puck is Going series. Running semi-weekly, it examines the moves and motivations of tech giants as leading indicators for where markets are moving. Check out the entire series here, and its origin here.

Facebook has announced a series of new updates for its Groups product. These updates are primarily aimed at those who run Groups and help them manage their communities and communications with members. Facebook Groups is currently used by 1.8 billion people monthly, including many SMBs.

Drilling down on the new features, a new “Admin Assist” tool will help Group administrators moderate posts in automated ways, such as designating keywords in advance that cause posts to be deactivated. This can include explicit language or more granular filtering like competitors’ names or controversial topics.

Another use case this caters to is the rampant posting of promotional content on Facebook Groups from organizations that want free advertising. This happens frequently from multi-level marketing firms, otherwise known as pyramid schemes. There are standardized options in Groups that now help block this activity.

Group admins can also now organize content by hashtag so that discussions can be thematically grouped. A business for example could create a hashtag for a specific product or upcoming promotional event. This type of clustering can keep Group activity better organized and reduce redundancy in different threads.

One thing that these organizational features will accomplish is more professional and structured Groups, which could attract brand advertisers. To double down on that, a new “Brand Collabs Manager” will help groups monetize by working directly with brands who want to promote themselves to specific communities.

These brand tools are new in that brands didn’t have any formal way of promoting to specific groups. They could previously work with influencers and work with them on an individual profile level. But groups — which make sense for brand promotion given that they’re thematically oriented — didn’t have that option.

Moving down the list of Groups updates, they also now have real-time messaging so that group members can converse with each other or with a Group administrator. A new collaborative post type called “Prompts” will meanwhile let members or admins spark a discussion with just a photo (e.g. new product).

Speaking of messaging and Groups communications features, there’s a new format for Q&A sessions. By eschewing the traditional threaded comment format, a new messaging setup makes it easier for community members and administrators to launch topics and participate in discussions.

Related to that, Facebook has infused new functionality that breeds content discovery. For example, a new “Related Discussions” feature in a Group’s News Feed will suggest related groups. Notably and somewhat divergent from Facebook’s walled garden approach, these will also be indexed by search engines.

Facebook says that new discovery features are to prevent users from being too insular in a few Groups. It can also increase users’ session lengths (our speculation) which means more page and ad views. To further support multi-group activity, a new feature will let Group members customize their profile photos per Group.

Lastly, Facebook is introducing a formal curriculum around Groups. This consists of educational content and exams that will let people achieve certification in community management. This creates a sort of badge of honor for those that wish to formalize their competence with growing and managing Facebook Groups.

All of the above applies to SMBs as well as non-SMB run Groups. Because Groups can represent entities in addition to themes and affinity groups, some savvy SMBs have begun to use them as a way to organically reach and interact with their customers. These new tools should embolden those efforts.

Facebook says all of these new Groups features will be tested in the U.S. in the “coming months.” As this rolls out, administrators will be given the option to activate new features. Then things will roll out to international audiences starting next year. We’ll watch closely for any SMB activity and impact.

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