At PR News' Social Media Awards Luncheon on May 23 in New York, keynote speaker Jennifer Dulski, Facebook's head of groups and community, hinted at a major announcement coming that afternoon from her division. Minutes later, the company announced via its blog four new features aimed at supporting communicators who manage Facebook Groups.
Facebook Groups allow small communities to form around niche interests and causes. Their members—over a billion Facebook users, according to TechCrunch—run the gamut from supporters of philanthropic efforts to "people who love chopping wood—no, really," as Dulski put it.
Many communicators have adopted Groups as an essential tool for seeking out and connecting with potential brand advocates that share their organizations' values. But the Groups function also has a dark side, from trolls who disrupt the convivial atmosphere to technical issues with the Groups interface that make certain features difficult to use or find.
Facebook's latest announcement offers up four new resources for Groups administrators and moderators, whether they're encountering technical problems or finding that Group conversations are significantly disrupted:
- Support for Group administrators, with a quick turnaround. To date, Facebook has not been known for a personalized customer support program. The blog post says the company "aim[s] to respond within one business day" to Group-related questions from administrators.
- Online training. A new "online learning destination" offers case studies, tips and tricks for managing communities for those seeking to grow group membership or increase interaction among group members.
- More transparency with Group rule breakers. When administrators or moderators delete posts, they can now reach out directly to users who post content in violation of Group guidelines to let them know why a post was removed. The feature also includes a tracking system allowing administrators and moderators to collaborate and keep notes on these interventions.
- The option to give vetted Group members the benefit of the doubt. Group administrators will now be able to preapprove all posts of members who have a proven record of abiding by Group guidelines. This will allow communicators to provide white-glove treatment to the biggest advocates of their brands' missions.
While these features might be helpful to online community managers at brands, they also raise a question for the longer term. Does preferential treatment for compliant group members and admonishment of those who go against the grain truly work toward Facebook's stated mission to "build community and bring the world closer together"?
These enhancements to Groups could certainly make for more serene online communities, but also run the risk of making it easier to silence those who might otherwise provide creative professionals with useful insights into audience pain points.
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