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Facebook Groups – Like or Dislike?

March 30, 2011

The offices of Facebook are surely an exciting place to be at the moment. A great deal about the network is changing as the company’s commercial opportunities continue to expand.

One set of changes that took place late last year were to Facebook Groups. Now, through a couple of different projects my colleagues on this blog and some others beyond it have had cause to make regular use of the Groups function and have had some time to reflect on its utility.

Groups on Facebook are now far more open: they are not top-down, controlled by the administrator, with a front page that remains in his or her control. Everyone involved controls what appears when you click on the group – which is now, in essence, a wall for posts and comments.

In short, it is no substitute for a web page. There is not even the possibility of appending a strap line to the name of the group. Anything posted below the group name will be knocked further down the wall by the stream of posts by its members. The emphasis, by design, is on the Groups as a place for conversation – somewhere for the informal exchange of thoughts or information. They are no longer the best way to organise people – because information disappears down the wall as soon as a few more people post.

That’s fine, it’s just that people’s use of them might be different to that of the old groups. They are now, we have discovered, great for the exhange of links and short notices in particular – but for a larger organisation of people they are necessarily accompanied by a full website which enables a home page, ‘about’ section and other immovable items.

Facebook might never have said these new groups were a place to do journalism, or a forum on which to formally organise your local Women’s Institute or Ramblers’ Association. But there are many organisers who might wish they could do everyting they wanted in terms of online community management from within Facebook rather than using it as a helpful addition to their projects, which have their base on external blogs or websites.

Anyhow, here is a video tutorial on the latest incarnation of the groups, offered by Mashable:

 

What do you think? Do you think the best thing is that it democratises the group and makes it a better place to share? Or are the limitations it places on the creator significant?

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