Groups on Facebook are nothing new. But if you represent a brand on Facebook, groups for the most part have not been an integral part of your engagement strategy. All of that may be changing as Facebook has begun beta testing groups functionality embedded within brand pages.
To date, groups have been reserved for individuals to create either open or private spaces to collaborate and share information. However, there has not been an option to apply this functionality for brand pages. This can be a significant enhancement if leveraged correctly and in conjunction with other elements of your integrated strategy.
To this point, brands have relied primarily on their timeline to drive a majority of quick hitting conversations that vary based on engagement levels. But deeper discussion and interaction by the brand and consumers has been limited to date to varied apps & tabs that can still lack the level of brand to consumer and peer-to-peer interaction that some brands desire.
If you are a very large brand, having the ability to segment conversations or even isolate campaigns has been difficult to facilitate natively within Facebook. Things are definitely changing with the recent roll out of additional precision targeting to segment content by various attributes beyond location and language, Facebook is making it easier to have multiple conversations with different audience segments.
This may also play a key role in the emergence of the groups for brand pages functionality. By leveraging precision targeting to segment content postings and then push conversations into a central location to further foster the conversation and enable peer-to-peer interaction beyond a single post is potentially a key integration point that brands need to consider.
Having the ability to create a specific group around various topics can further drive engagement and extend campaigns to those who are truly interested. This was prevalent from 2005-2008 during the hey-day of branded forums. The value in understanding who of your core fan base is willing to engage in topical conversation can be a very telling insight.
Brands that have capitalized on the concept of user segmentation to drive brand advocacy via task based interactions have been a key driver in building additional affinity and loyalty for brands such as Chili’s & their Chili-head nation via Facebook.
By taking the first step to natively support topical segmentation, beta brands now have the basis for creating both open and potentially private groups.
Here is a shot of the current group setup options
While open conversation is of key interest, one of the other elements of groups, the private, “invite only” option is also potentially appealing if it rolls out to brands as this may provide a deeper level of interaction with those individuals that the brand deems the most topically or socially influential. This could even be a subset of engaged open group users that are then invited into a private group for unique interaction opportunities.
CNN is one of a handful of beta partners experimenting with groups on their brand page. Groups make a lot of sense for brands that either have a high amount of topical content or campaigns that strive to drive deeper user interaction.
Here are the elements of the groups beta as it exists today on CNN.
Groups are consolidated via a visual tile similar to other tabbed elements. Initially the group tile shows fb icons vs. a branded tile. This may be due to the need to show the number of topical conversation groups that are currently active.
Once you click on the tile you are driven to the standard view for tabbed pages with the option to join a topical group. Groups can also support Facebook media campaigns at this level.
As stated below, anyone can see the group and who’s in it if it is an open group.
Below is the view of the default groups landing page. Content flows in a similar manner to newsfeed with a slight difference associated with the “seen by” call out showcasing how many group members have seen the content.
One nice feature is group centric search.
Meaning users can search for specific keywords based on interest within the group.
It is unknown when the full functionality will be rolled out, but it is possible to work with your Facebook representative to potentially secure a spot in the beta program. As a marketer, it is important to identify the potential value associated with this type of functionality and the impact it can have on a branded presence to drive deeper engagement.
Follow Tom Edwards @Blackfin360