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Facebook Groups Get a Page-style Makeover

Lori Halley 20 October 2009 9 comments

Facebook has just begun to introduce a new design for its Groups application that looks a lot more like Pages and personal Profiles. Giving Groups a Stronger Voice should be good news for the many nonprofit folks frustrated by the limitations of Facebook Groups, compared to what the spiffy new Fan Pages offer:

Starting today, we’re transforming Groups to make it easier for you to communicate with other members and create a smoother experience as you browse through Facebook. If you don’t see the new design just yet, you will soon. We’re currently testing it with a small percentage of people on the site and will roll it out to everyone in the coming days.

As we’ve discussed before, there’s currently no way to convert a Group to a Page. If a Page is really what you need, you’ll have to set it up and then invite all the Group members to become Fans of the Page, then delete the Group - that’s the only way to change from one to the other.

But the good news is that, now, with this new Groups makeover, you might find that you don’t need to change your Facebook Group to a Page after all.

New Design Makes Groups Look More like Pages

Groups will now have a Wall that summarizes all the recent activities of people within the group. Group pages will also have the same Publisher bar as Profiles and Pages, so members can  easily share their content.

Facebook Group screenshot 

Group Activities Now Appear on News Feed

Before, activity within your Group could only be viewed by visiting the Group page. Now, group activities will show up in the News Feed, on your members’ home pages — where they have a choice to follow the content links back to the Group page, or comment directly from the home page.

Members won’t be flooded with all the activity on a Group to which they belong, however. They’ll see only that content shared with the Group by members who are also their Facebook Friends.

And now that a member will get his/her Friends’ postings in the News Feed, it will open up the possibility to get notified of those Group updates by RSS and/or email — a feature that many Group admins and members have been requesting for some time.

So, What’s the Difference Between Facebook Groups and Fan Pages?

Groups still do not have the full functionality of Pages, but it’s important to keep in mind that they are intended to serve different roles.

Groups are for fostering member-to-member collaboration, while Pages remain the best way to broadcast messages to your fans if you are a business, organization, public figure or other entity.

The new look for Groups, as it stands, has a few notable limitations compared to Pages. For example, Groups do not (yet) allow for custom usernames — but I’d expect to see that introduced before too long.

Of more immediate to concern for nonprofits with Facebook Groups, however, is the default Wall tab view. Many Group admins say they would prefer to show the Info tab to new visitors, judging by public comments on the Facebook blog. My best guess is that the reasoning for this default comes back to the difference in function between Groups and Pages — logically, Groups should highlight the contributions of members, while Pages focus more on the organization itself.

New Facebook Groups: Better for Nonprofits?

Do bear in mind that this makeover is still a “work in progress” — 

We’ve been seeing some strange things on Group pages overnight that suggest that Facebook is still testing and refining the new Groups functions as it rolls the new design out gradually to more users. For example, I spotted a “Delete Tab” option on one Group of which I’m a member but not an admin! 

Facebook Group tab error screenshotFacebook Group tab error screenshot

Facebook Group tab error screenshotThe error was there just long enough for me to grab a screenshot, and fortunately it was not a working link. Clicking on "delete Tab" just gave a validation error, fortunately, and did nothing to the Group page.

Other users have reported such errors as the appearance of private Group updates in a public news feed, the loss of access or admin privileges, and the disappearance of some posted content. Let's hope that those are temporary events! 

Of course, any major site change is bound to have bugs. And it stands to reason that Facebook is likely to limit the functionality of its Groups in the first few days, while the system is stabilized and users get familiar with the new interface.  (I suspect that we'll be continuing to see changes and refinements to Facebook Groups over the next several weeks... stay tuned!)

On balance — although any major change in a social network will be greeted with strongly mixed reactions, and this one certainly is! —  I think the Groups makeover will prove to be a change for the better. The consistent design across Profiles, Pages and Groups should make it easier for new Facebook users to orient themselves, find their way around, and begin to participate — and we know that the complexity of Facebook has long been a common complaint, even among long-time members. Meanwhile, the addition of News Feed updates should help Group members to connect with each other. And, after alll, enabling communication between your members is the main purpose of having a Group in the first place, right?

How do you feel about the "new" Facebook Groups?  Will these changes make a difference in how your nonprofit organization uses Facebook?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 20 October 2009 at 1:48 PM


  • Ian Haisley said:

    Tuesday, 20 October 2009 at 8:45 AM

    So glad to see the new changes in groups. I act as the admin for a number of groups with our organization and we rely on Facebook's tools to easily connect our users. These updates will bring the group functionality back in to the main stream as it has become some what dated.

  • Scott Meis said:

    Tuesday, 20 October 2009 at 10:48 AM

    Nice analysis Rebecca. I agree, like anything new with Facebook, there will be an adaption period but overall this should improve interaction and overall engagement that enhances the purpose behind groups.

  • uberVU - social comments said:

    Tuesday, 20 October 2009 at 7:30 PM

    This post was mentioned on Friendfeed by Angela Mc: Wild Apricot Blog : Facebook Groups Get a Page-style Makeover - https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs...

  • tosca said:

    Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 8:50 PM

    I have designed a neighborhood community website,and have created a facebook group.  I would like to place a facebook group link on the website, but I cannot get the URL for the group in facebook, only my personal URL.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 30 October 2009 at 7:19 AM

    Tosca, when you're viewing your Facebook Group page, the correct link will be in the location bar of your web browser.

    Sometimes Facebook adds a bunch of miscellaneous junk to a URL that has to do with what page you'd clicked through from, but you can edit that out. The correct format for a Group URL will be something like this: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=102242335014 -- but with your own Group ID number on the end of it.

  • Dante Russo said:

    Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 7:40 PM

    Is there any way to replace the Group ID # in your Facebook Group URL with the actual name of the Group like you can do on FAN Pages?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 8:13 PM

    Not as far as I know, Dante, sorry.  

    From what I can tell, it seems that they're sort of phasing out Groups altogether, so that may be the reason  - but then, of course, none of us really knows what FB has in mind.

  • Iskren Pushkarov said:

    Saturday, 06 February 2010 at 12:39 AM

    Rebecca, is there any way for group admin to add new / custom tabs in the group page to default ones (for example tab that links to  web site associated with that group).

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Saturday, 06 February 2010 at 5:45 AM

    Iskren, no: at this date, custom tabs can be made for Pages, but not for Groups. (I say "at this date" because Facebook is always changing things, so tomorrow... who knows?!)

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