Making Marketing Sense of the New Facebook Groups, Lists & Pages

The new Facebook Groups were heralded by some as a possible replacement for Lists and maybe even Pages. According to strategist Christine Pilch, since they all have distinct advantages and serve specific purposes, it is unlikely that Facebook will merge them anytime soon.

Christine Pilch was among the commenters on my industry roundup of opinions on the new Facebook Groups. Pilch is a social media marketing strategist and partner at Grow My Company. Her comments provoked further discussion, so we asked her to provide readers of Social Times with her take on the “mini-platforms” marketers can use on Facebook. Join Pilch’s conversation on @ChristinePilch.

The new Facebook Groups, introduced a couple weeks ago, were heralded by some as a possible replacement for Lists and maybe even Pages. However, since they all have distinct advantages and serve specific purposes, it is unlikely that Facebook will merge them anytime soon.

Let’s start with Facebook Pages, which seem to be the most popular. Pages are easy to set up. You then invite friends, start posting relevant content, and watch the viral growth of the Page. You do not control your Fan base, however. Anybody can Like a page as long as they aren’t blocked. The main advantage to Pages is that Admins can keep in touch with Fans (Likers) by posting content that Fans find interesting and valuable. New posts to the page appear in the News Feed of each Fan, so it’s a way to push out information that people have agreed to receive. Such Facebook marketing is 100% permission-based.

There are a couple down sides to Facebook Fan pages though. There is no way to message your fans directly unless you set up an event and send a message promoting that. Also, don’t confuse Fans with Friends. Friends are mutual and both have access to each other’s wall. Page Admins can’t access anything restricted from view by non-Friends of Fans. So you generally don’t have access to your Fan’s Walls unless Fans are also your Facebook Friends.

Facebook Friends Lists are perhaps the most underutilized feature of Facebook. In fact, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg recently stated that a mere 5% of Facebook members use them. However, Lists are a critical component to customizing the privacy and security of your information.

You can use Lists to decide who can see a particular status update, photo, album, video, photos and videos you’re tagged in, comments your friends post on your wall, particular sections of your bio information, and determine who can write on your wall. Lists make it possible to have a single Facebook page with Friends from every aspect of your life: family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, competitors, etc., because you can control what each group of people can see. Best of all, your restricted Friends don’t even know what they’re missing, so they’re not offended.

Facebook did, however, create confusion by introducing a new feature with the same name as an existing one. “Classic” Groups are radically different from “New” Groups, which leads many to ponder the sustainability of Classic Groups.

Classic Groups filled a unique niche on Facebook. They had options that made them open, closed or secret, and they required the invitation or permission of the Admin to join. They were designed much like Pages in their features, with the ability to create photo albums and host videos in a single location, and they were unique from Pages in their ability for unrestricted messaging of all Group members.

New Groups seem to be intended to promote discussion among a group of people with some commonality. They are essentially chat-like, without a button to push to post a comment and lacking the ability to add a paragraph break within a comment.

They are seriously flawed, however, in the fact that even closed or secret Groups allow any member to invite any other Facebook user, which can thus compromise sensitive information. Another issue is that there are no photo or video tabs in the Group’s navigation, so once something purges from view, it is forever lost unless a member is willing to dig for it through pages and pages of posts.

Facebook Page Admins have been pulling their hair out for years in frustration over the lack of notification of member activity on their Page, but New Groups went overboard. They auto-opted every new member into email and Facebook notifications of all Group activity, thus overwhelming members until they discovered how to turn off notifications. They also required auto-subscribed new members to leave unwanted groups rather than simply asking them if they wanted to join in the first place.

My blog presents a myriad of additional issues with New Facebook Groups. It’s unfortunate that Facebook didn’t simply add the great features of New Groups to Classic Groups.

So, to wrap this up, Facebook Pages are used essentially as a marketing vehicle. Friends Lists are used to augment privacy. Classic Groups provide what can be an exclusive space for a body of people to collaborate, share, and compile information, and New Groups are essentially an unsecure, collaborative tool. Each serves a unique purpose, and none are necessarily interchangeable.