Facebook has a PR problem. It’s not cool with the kids, it’s not helpful for democracy and it’s not met it’s own 2018 mission to be a healthy place to spend your time.
But Facebook groups were big news in 2018, and are a huge success story of the platform and have been key in keeping Facebook as a place where millions of us spend our precious screen time.
Facebook groups are useful. No doubt about it. “Can I breastfeed in it” helped me more than words can say. As has my local Mums and Dads group where I shift used prams and jumparoos. These are practical groups where people coalesce around a common interest – breastfeeding clothes, or passing around plastic fantastic baby goods.
But Facebook groups have become increasingly a place where people inside the social media industry spend their time. I set one up in 2016 and was very proud of its 500+ members. I went live weekly (in fits and starts), shared news and opinions, gave advice and “added value” as our industry is harangued to do.
But was I adding value?
Was my community building efforts worthwhile? And should I be encouraging social media professionals to be hanging out on Facebook contributing to my digital community? I got to say I was important as I “owned” this group but what did they get out of it?
I’ve deleted it as I came to the conclusion:
- It was no longer a relevant space for the social media professionals on Facebook. Very relevant discussions involving articles I had written happened elsewhere on Facebook – not in my group – so what on earth did it exist for?
- I wasn’t adding distinctive value – the information I was sharing was far from unique and there are now bigger, newer and more shiny fish to listen to.
- My drive to maintain it was driven by my own vanity – and you don’t have to have my upbringing in the church to know vanity is a sin that leads to all sorts of bad things.
And while I was selecting each member and clicking the “remove from the group”, checking a box and clicking a button 530 times in a quite painfully boring hour and a half of my life I’m never getting back as Facebook makes deleting a group a very difficult thing to do, I starting thinking about whether Facebook groups are a good thing for social media professionals in general?
You don’t see management consultants getting heated in a Facebook group with each over an article in Project Management Today? You don’t see lawyers asking for opinion on one of their clients and getting 20 other lawyers to give up their time for free to offer their 2 cents about what they should do next. I’d be more than a little worried if my neurologist decided to change my drug dosage because Susan on Facebook said she should in 50 words and her advice is based solely on the fact that this is what she did 6 months ago on a totally unrelated case and it worked for her patient of a different age with a different form of epilepsy.
What it boils down to is the question – is it professional to use Facebook groups?
Does membership do more harm than good?
Time for a SWOT analysis.
- Combats freelance loneliness
- Creates virtual colleagues
- Means you have people to sit with at conferences
- Offers creative sounding board
- Keeps you up to date with industry news
- Builds confidence in your skillset and your knowledge
- Wastes time you should be working
- Makes you feel less than
- Reduces confidence in your skillset and your knowledge
- Makes it harder to stay in your own lane
- Pressure to think the same way as the group signals “we” think
- Fear of being removed from the group reduces your content output
- Referrals for work from people in professional group
- Visibility of paid work opportunities
- Visibility of PR opportunities
- Group rates and discounts
- Believing and passing forward dis-information
- Identifying with opinions that are formed by a group and you wouldn’t have reached on your own (the herd mentality)
- Top of the sales funnel marketing
- Reduces innovation in the industry as outlying opinions are not allowed
- Enforces echo chamber
This is just my starter for 10 – do comment if you want to add more to this analysis.
So on balance are Facebook groups a net positive thing for social media professionals to contribute to?
Each Facebook group offers opportunities. It just depends what you personally get out of each one, and it’s worth have an audit of where you are spending your time and if a Facebook group membership is a net positive for your business.
Or whether the time would be better spent on your business plan!