Facebook Sees Groups As Key To Its Growth

Facebook-is-a-media-company

 

Earlier this summer in Chicago, Mark Zuckerberg hosted the first ever Facebook Community Summit, where he announced a shift in Facebook’s mission.

As he published to Facebook itself, the site’s aim for the last dozen years or so has been “make the world more open and connected.”

Now, however, its new mission is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

What does this mean, in practical terms?

Facebook’s new growth driver (and emphasis) is on Groups.

The goal is increased stickiness – to evolve from the social platform where people go to catch up on the latest from their friends, relatives and acquaintances – to the place they go to connect with like-minded strangers who share a tribe or cause.

The rationale is simple:

People are passionate about their causes.

So by encouraging cause- and tribe-based conversation, Facebook hopes it can vastly increase the amount of time people spend on the site, thus allowing them to charge advertisers even more money.

Ironically, this emphasis on tribes and discussion was precisely the goal that would-be “Facebook killer” Google+ had when it rolled out years ago.

But the takeaway for digital marketers is clear:

Facebook Groups are going to be key to building a digital tribe for brands for at least the next 18 months.

Specifics

Facebook recently surpassed 2 billion active users.

The new stategic goal is to work toward having 1 billion users actively engaged in Groups.

To that end, the 300 administrators of top Facebook Groups invited to the Community Summit were introduced to seven new power tools.

New Tools for Facebook Group Admins:

  1. Insights (the best times to post, as well as metrics for week-to-week activity levels)
  2. Post scheduling
  3. Membership request filtering (including the ability to add your own filters)
  4. Member leaderboards, based on level of engagement
  5. Streamlined process for removing members (bad actors)
  6. Linking among groups and sub-groups
  7. Sub-groups for different cities

Discussion

As for Facebook’s near-term pivot, we’ve seen this before.

When LinkedIn first announced Pulse and opened its platform to writing from everyone (not just influencers), the administrators of LinkedIn groups greatly accelerated their own networks and influence.

But last summer LinkedIn changed its algorithm to greatly diminish the reach of posts published to Pulse. I wrote about that here.

This left many who had invested heavily in LinkedIn for the audience out in the cold. Posts that would received 15,000 views only two months earlier would now receive only 900.

Fast forward to today and the new trends to maximize organic reach on LinkedIn are to post status updates rather than essays to Pulse, and to post videos.

The Solution

Never forget that social media outlets and other digital platforms are in the business of making money first and foremost.

They will continue to change and limit organic reach in order to maximize profits.

As digital marketers (or interested observers) the takeaways are three-fold:

1. Diversify your platforms

Never go all-in on one platform. Investing too heavily in one social media site could leave you without an audience when the site shifts emphasis or (even worse) shuts down (see MySpace or Vine).

Far more likely, however, is that the platform simply becomes saturated and your audience will naturally diminish as its popularity grows.

Early adopters were able to leverage LinkedIn Pulse or Medium or Instagram into outsized fame.

In 2017, this is orders of magnitude harder, simply because it’s a more competitive space.

2. Develop your own site

One of the biggest arguments for having a blog (like this one) is control.

I can post when I want and about the topics of my choosing without fear that the work will simply vanish one day.

3. Continue to research social media trends

A major reason I started this blog more than 18 months ago was to force myself to keep up with the latest trends in social media and digital marketing.

That has already paid off in my work as a public relations consultant.

More than once I’ve sat in meetings where a client has said something about social media or SEO that was more than a year out-of-date, unaware that the landscape had already changed.

So the biggest takeaway from all of this is also the simplest:

Never stop learning.

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