May 18, 2011 - Comments Off on Facebook doesn't want our brand in their groups

Facebook doesn't want our brand in their groups

Ever since Facebook Pages became official channels for brands to use for marketing, it was only a matter of time before Facebook started closing off the other options, now it’s old style Facebook Groups that are biting the dust.

Facebook Groups used to be a way of connecting with all of your customers/clients/members to update them on events, services, deals and news about your brand. They chose to become a member, and they could leave whenever they liked. They could share the group with their friends and they could post on the group wall for all members to see. This sounds a lot like how Facebook pages work? It is, in fact it makes complete sense for brands to use pages over groups as they have even more features and benefits in terms of external open graph integration as well as within the Facebook network.

Out with the old, in with the new

BUT, Facebook seemed to have missed a trick with how they introduce this to their customers, and how they manage this transition. We first heard about the change from old groups to new groups in October, and then it was only the benefits of new groups that Facebook focussed on, not what you do or what the impact is for old group administrators. This first update explained that new groups had been brought in to enable sharing with smaller gangs of friends and family rather than loads of people at once.

There is another issue with the new groups as well, namely that people can add you to them without your permission. Facebook’s argument is that your Facebook friends should be real friends, and therefore you should trust their judgement on whether you should be in a group or not. Basically any of us with more than the average 100 or so friends are going to have some email overload issues. Techcrunch addresses this issue in an entertaining commentary here.

Small groups good, big groups BAD

New Features include being able to chat with everyone in the group at once and email notifications that Facebook claims can eliminate the need for a mailing list as members are emailed when people post updates. This all sounds great for small groups, e.g a local youth club, sports team, book club, family group etc. Doesn’t sound quite so useful for brands who have a healthy collection of members of their group in the hundreds or the thousands! If you have tried the new group format you’ll be aware that it simply doesn’t work for larger groups, and this has clearly been done on purpose to force brands over to pages and to keep these groups focussed on communities. While this is actually a logical step if you think about it- keeping the marketing and commercially driven interaction in one place and the community and personal ‘private’ (as much as can be achieved on an online social network!) it really astounds me that while Facebook want brands to start using pages they have not currently enabled the transferal of members to Likes!

Migration from friends to likes

Brands who used to use Facebook as a ‘person’ rather than a page have already gone through an update similar to this one when Facebook decided this was not a good idea, which I do actually agree with, especially since they enabled brands to ‘use Facebook as Page’ which enables real professional interaction on the network that page owners were crying out for. So if Facebook were ok with transferring the friends of a brand over to a page to become ‘likes’, why is it not willing/able to do the same for members of brand groups? If you weren’t aware that you could do this and you have been using Facebook as a person rather than a page then see this really useful blog post by Lisa Barone which covers the group upgrade and links back to her previous post on the Facebook Business Page Migration Tool.

1000 members? = 0 likes

So Facebook recognised that business needed to convert friends into likes, but what about members? What if you’re one of these brands that have been steadily gathering members to their groups and in some cases, on Facebook’s encouragement, invested in pay per click Facebook ads to recruit more members? Well Facebook say that groups will be offered the opportunity to upgrade or archive. This may sound simple but actually lots of groups will find themselves being automatically archived if Facebook don’t deem them to have been recently active, and there have been reports of groups upgrading but losing all their members. For an excellent step by step breakdown of out with the old groups and exactly what that means for you, Mari Smith has hit the nail on the head.

Facebook’s happy though, what’s the problem guys?

Facebook find positives with the new groups, but so far no one that I can find is satisfied or pleased with the way old groups are being abolished. There are of course the usual groups and pages like this one set up within Facebook to complain, and although these happen every time the social network changes something, this time I really agree. It just seems really strange that Facebook would be so actively unhelpful to businesses that have actually had a media spend with them; it is now a social-people AND a social-business network and while it seems to embrace that one way it turns its back with the other.

Don’t LIKE it? Lump it.

When businesses talk about effective engagement via social networks with their clients one of the most regularly quoted themes is that listening to the end user of their product or service and then improving it based on that recommendation is the most effective result. This pleases current customers as they feel valued and listened to, and recruits new customers as the current ones have something positive to shout about. Why then, is Facebook so set on updating all the time but telling people to lump it rather than LIKE it?

My advice would be to create an official brand page pronto and get suggesting your old group members ‘like’ it before you suddenly find your group archived and your members zeroed.