Facebook Groups – A Walkthrough of Group Email, Docs, Chat, and More

Facebook’s Groups is a powerful new product allowing for sharing, organizing, chatting, and collaborating with a set of friends. The product is heavily integrated into the rest of Facebook’s core apps, but also includes new features such as Docs, and enhanced functionality such as automatic Event invitations and Group Chat. Here we’ll take a detailed tour of how users can create and use Groups.

Group Creation and Privacy

To start a Group, users click the “Create Group” link in the Facebook home page’s left navigation sidebar. This may be buried under the “More” button if a user is already a member of several Groups. Users will then see a pop-up where they can name the Group, use a typeahead to select friends to add to the Group, and choose a privacy setting to make the Group open (Group name, members, and content visible to everyone), closed (Group name and members visible to everyone, content visible only to members), or secret (Group name, members, and content visible only to Group members).

Non-members of open Groups can see the Group name, existing posts, members, description, Group Events, and can view but not edit Docs. They can’t see the publisher or Group Chat. Non-members of closed Groups can only see the Group name, members, description, and Group Events. Users must be a member to Like, comment, or subscribe to posts.

A drop-down menu in the Group creator lets users choose a favicon which will be shown alongside the Group’s name in the home page navigation panel. Choices hint at the types of Groups Facebook thinks users might create, including a red plastic cup, a soccer ball, a solidarity fist, and many icons already used on Facebook such as the video camera, and briefcase.

Group Editing and Admins

Once created, users are brought to their new Group’s page. In the top right, a Group’s founder and anyone they’ve set as an admin can click “Edit Group” to change the settings chosen when the Group was created. The default Basic Information tab lets admins enter a description of the Group, but they must click the easily missed tabs in the left navigation sidebar to upload a profile picture for the Group, and assign admin privileges to members. Members can only be made admins one at a time, which makes creating an egalitarian Group by sharing the privilege with large numbers of members a laborious task. Admins cannot remove admin privileges from those who have been admins longer than them.

Admins can remove members from the Group by going to “See All” in the members panel of the Group page, then clicking “See All” on the members page, then clicking the “x” next to a user’s name, or by clicking the “x” next to a user’s name in the members tab of the “Edit Group” page. Admins can permanently ban users from joining the Group, viewing the Group’s content, or finding the Group via search by checking the “Ban Permanently” box when removing a user.

Group Email

Groups can act as email lists. Admins request a Group email address which will have the format “[Any untaken prefix]@groups.facebook.com.” Note that a Group’s email address cannot be changed once it is set. Members can send emails to this address from the email address they’ve connected to their Facebook profile, and the message will show up on the Group page. The message is then syndicated out to all Group members who have email notifications turned on for “Posts on the Wall of one of your groups.” Currently, Gmail is routing some Group emails to the spam filter — something Facebook will have to work out if it wants users to replace their present listserv system with Facebook Groups.

Group Notifications

All members can click “Edit Notifications” on the Group Page to turn on or off email notifications from that specific Group. They can also select whose actions generate both email notifications and in-Facebook notifications which appear as red counts on the globe icon in Facebook’s top navigation bar. For granular control over exactly which actions generate notifications, user can go to Account->Account Settings->Notifications.