No matter what subject matter, their stories are similar. They started using Facebook Groups because they’re easy to set up but limitations regarding control and data ownership surfaced over time. Eventually they were compelled to find a more robust solution for their tribe.
In this post, we examine the pros and cons of Facebook Groups for building your community.
- Simple set up
- Many users already have Facebook
- Email alerts
- Privacy options: open, closed, or secret
- Good for small, closely knit groups (e.g., family)
- Easy to embed rich media such as photos and videos
- Mobile support
- Many people don’t have Facebook, no longer use Facebook, or don’t check Facebook routinely
- Content “disappears” after user scrolls past it
- Group content competes against other content in the user’s Facebook stream which is often more provocative
- Limited control over functionality
- Limited control over the data (e.g., data cannot be exported)
- Does not integrate with your website or URL
- Users are confused between a Facebook page (typically large and public) and a Facebook group (typically small and private)
Facebook Groups’ greatest strength is their cost (free!) and ease of set up. However, we’ve found that engagement tends to be lower, less serious, and short term on Facebook Groups compared to forum communities. Perhaps that’s because it’s easier to scroll through Facebook mindlessly rather than actively engage. Facebook does a great job with rich media and mobile support but a good forum platform offers similar functionality.
In our experience, the biggest drawback to Facebook Groups is that, without fail, prominent members of the tribe do not use Facebook. This might be hard to believe for Facebook power users but we’ve seen it happen many times! We’ve also talked to users who say they prefer to post sensitive information on their own site instead of inside of Facebook’s walled garden.
A Facebook Group is a simple, low friction option to create a new community. But “free” services often have hidden costs. We believe this is true with Facebook Groups because people tell us they feel “locked in.” For increased community engagement—where both site owners and users have a strong sense of control—a hosted forum seems to provide more flexibility over the long-term.