I was going to wait a bit longer before sharing this news, but after yesterday’s Facebook worldwide blowout, I figured I might as well share now.
Over the next several weeks, we are transitioning out of our Facebook Groups and into a private-label solution called Circle.
We at Nonprofit Marketing Guide have used Facebook Groups practically since they became available. We have dozens of them based on the various training cohorts we have created over the years. We often recommend that nonprofits use them to improve their social media engagement.
Their biggest selling point is the convenience: Most nonprofit communicators have to manage Facebook Pages as part of their jobs, so they are already in there anyway. People know how Facebook works, so there is no learning curve. Notifications from our Groups fit right in with the other notifications people are already watching for.
But, the downsides. So many downsides, with the list getting longer by the day.
Over the last few years, a small but growing number of members of our community have refused to use Facebook, which means we can’t deliver everything we are promising to them when they purchase our training and coaching programs.
For the specific kind of work we do, Groups are lacking in many ways. Organizing content by topic is a laborious nightmare. Keeping track of all the different groups and knowing which one to post in when you are a long-time member of the community is a huge hassle. If Kristina and I want to share something with the whole community, we have to post in multiple places.
The whole vibe just feels so wrong now. People on Facebook are obviously and with good reason very concerned about privacy and what Facebook is learning and doing with what people do in Groups. Being on Facebook simply doesn’t feel good for many people any longer. It’s not conducive to the kind of trusting, cooperative, and authentic spirit we want to foster within our community. It’s hard to create a retreat vibe in the middle of a noisy supermarket or town square.
What We are Looking Forward To
So, we are moving on, and our new community will have several benefits:
- We’ve organized the community into subgroups around topics and small group themes that people can join or leave at will. Same goes for the notifications. Each person can customize the community to fit what they want to get out of it.
- We can control access to different parts of the community based on what people have enrolled in, and yet it’s all in the same place.
- We can allow small groups to self-organize and gather on their own, with their own moderators, all within the same larger community.
- While it does require a login to our website, the new community login fully integrates with our existing membership and Learning Center login.
- It has the right levels of both transparency and privacy. We will require people to be themselves (no organizations/Pages/avatars, just humans), but no outside force will be tracking their behavior and selling it around the world.
- We and our members have control over how the community feels, without the ugly influences that seem to leak into Groups from other areas of Facebook.
- Members can build out robust profiles specifically for this community, and full directory functionality will be coming soon. This will help our folks get to know each other better.
- It looks a fair amount like Facebook in terms of the user experience, so it’s familiar, but cleaner.
- Circle is a relatively new service, but developing fast. So while some of the functionality isn’t quite there yet (e.g. livestreaming), it’s coming fast. The management team there is very accessible to their customers and they use their own platform to model what a good community can look like and how community members can support each other.
When You’ll Get Access to the New Community
Kristina and I are building it out now and have been for the last few weeks. We are starting to add a few people here and there this week and next.
Mid-October, we’ll invite in the “Brain Trust,” which are the people who successfully completed the Communications Director Mentoring Program, as well as the current cohort in the Mentoring Program.
The first week of November will be “Moving Week” for our All-Access Pass Holder Facebook Group.
In mid-November, we will start inviting in anyone who has purchased training from us this year, as well as people who register for trainings on the schedule in November and December.
We’ll see how it goes from there.
Should You Stop Using Facebook Groups?
I don’t know. I’m still an active participant in several Facebook Groups centered on hobbies of mine. But those are obviously optional to me and not core to my livelihood. I don’t have to use them.
I’d recommend that you keep an open mind about which platform has the features you want. Maybe Slack or Discord is better. And maybe not . . . maybe Facebook really is the best choice for what you want to do and who you want to reach. When I think about those personal Facebook Groups I am in, for some, I might login elsewhere for that community, where others, I probably wouldn’t.
A lot of this decision comes down to the Convenience versus Quality balance. We initially leaned into the convenience, but have now decided that the quality we believe we can provide in a private community will outweigh the (in)convenience factors of leaving Facebook. That’s a calculation you have to make for yourself and your community members.