Facebook is hosting its 2021 Communities Summit today, where it brings together group admins from across the platform to help them connect, share insights, and learn about upcoming features to help improve group engagement.
And as part of the event, Facebook has announced a slew of new groups tools – here’s an overview of all the new options being added to further streamline and improve its community offerings.
First off, Facebook’s adding new custom color and post background options for groups, as well as specific font styles made available by admins.
As you can see in this example, admins will now be able to choose new color and format options for post, which looks…. Interesting.
In addition to this, Admins will also now be able to select the emoji defaults that users respond with in their group. That won’t restrict emoji use, as such, but it will enable admins to put specific focus on certain emoji images, which relate to their group. So the ‘Avocado Lover & Growers’ group might want to set the avocado emoji as a default for example, or others will have their own response emojis that see more thematic use.
Admins will also now be able to utilize feature sets to select preset collections of post formats and badges, while Facebook’s also adding an automated greeting message option, enabling group managers to outline key rules and guidelines for new members.
Welcome posts are also getting a redesign, providing more opportunity for connection with new group members, while Facebook’s also increasing the tagging limit for welcome posts to 500, so that admins can connect with more newcomers at once.
In terms of in-community engagement, Facebook has officially announced its new Community Awards, which enable group members to allocate ‘Insightful’, ‘Uplifting’ or ‘Fun’ markers to posts and comments that they find valuable in the group.
As per Facebook:
“These awards encourage engagement, make the content more visible to members and help demonstrate the group’s content at its best.”
So more than just being a basic engagement prompt, the awards also improve post/comment visibility, which could be a simple way to better surface the most relevant conversations and replies, and improve interaction by highlighting these contributions.
Some groups have seen the Community Awards prompt pop-up over the past couple of months, but Facebook is now expanding it to all, providing another engagement option to consider. And maybe, by putting more focus on the best content, that could be another way to model group engagement, and encourage the best contributors to keep posting.
Facebook’s also testing a new sub-groups option within groups that will enable admins to separate elements of group discussion into more specific categories.
That’ll make it easier for each user to find the discussions of most relevance to them – so if you’re into card collecting, for example, the group could be separated into sports cards, Pokemon, MTG, etc.
In some ways, it seems like if you’re adding a sub-group, maybe you should just start a new, more dedicated space for each segment, but there is also benefit to being part of a broader community, and having the capacity to interact with each element.
Interestingly, admins will also be able to make their sub-groups a separate paid element.
That could provide another avenue for monetization with your most dedicated group members – while also building the FOMO factor for those on the outside of this more intimate community segment.
Another new engagement element will be Community Chats, coming to both Facebook and Messenger, providing an immediate, interactive connection option in groups, while recurring events will also facilitate regular meet-ups and discussions, via audio, video or text, in your groups.
A new ‘Columns’ option for longer-form posts will also provide another connective consideration.
Facebook’s also adding a new option for admins to pin group announcements, and choose the order in which they show up in a new ‘Featured’ section at the top of their group, while ‘Community Chats’ will facilitate better coordination between admins and moderators specifically.
“To help make your groups more accessible to those in the broader community, we will be testing the option for admins to extend community access to those without an existing Facebook account, enabling them to participate in a single group.”
So non-Facebook users on Facebook. Along with the addition of separate Work accounts, alleviating the need to use a personal profile, it’s interesting to see Facebook easing back on this requirement just a little, though it’ll be interesting to see whether this has any ad targeting ramifications.
Additional group monetization and fund-raising options are also on the way, with community fundraisers to highlight charitable causes, and merchandise displays to highlight group-related, and created, products.
The options add to Facebook’s expanding toolset of monetization options for creators, and considering the amount of time group admins spend managing their groups, it’s another important aspect of focus for The Social Network’s ongoing growth plans.
Finally, Facebook’s also building a new, combined Group and Page experience that will better enable managers of both to integrate their efforts.
“For admins of Facebook Groups, the new experience will allow them to use an official voice when interacting with their community. For admins of Facebook Pages, the new experience will help them build community in a single space for members to participate and engage. Admins of Pages will also be able to take advantage of the moderation tools that Groups have today. This new experience is in early testing over the next year, before it becomes more broadly available.”
Groups remain a critical element of Facebook’s success – in fact, it’s likely the key aspect that keeps many users coming back, particularly considering recent insights which show that Facebook engagement has been in decline in many aspects over the past few years.
Facebook Groups, at 1.8 billion monthly active users, are a central social element for many people around the world, and as local news publications shutter, due to impacts on advertising, groups are also becoming an even more crucial tool for staying in touch with happenings in your area, and maintaining connection with neighbors and friends.
It’s one of the more powerful, and beneficial aspects of Facebook’s platform – and while groups can also amplify more harmful movements, and bring dangerously like-minded collectives of people into contact, the broader good of such connection is also clear.
Facebook can do more to protect against the former, but the latter is central to parent company Meta’s ongoing mission.
Indeed, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg had this to say on the metaverse as part of his speech to the Communities Summit:
“Groups and communities on Facebook are going to be an important part of [the metaverse] vision. Nothing beats being together. But when we can’t be together in person, the metaverse will help get us even closer to feeling that sense of an in-person connection.So, we’re focused on building bridges from our apps on 2D screens into more immersive virtual experiences. Facebook, and your groups, are going to be central to this.”
It might be eying the future, but Meta needs to maintain the bonds of existing communities to maximize its vision.
Groups remain central to this, and these new tools will provide more options on this front.