Public-sector social media professionals are using Facebook’s Groups feature to generate increased reach and organic conversation that’s not always achievable on the platform with a simple government page.
If you’re a Facebook user, odds are you belong to at least one Facebook group. If you personally participate in a very active group, you may have had the thought, could the public we serve benefit from our government agency starting a group?
Over the last year, I’ve talked a lot about how the Groups feature in Facebook brings value to private industry. It undoubtedly does — in fact, there’s so much to say about the business case for Facebook groups that I authored an entire LinkedIn Learning course on the subject.
If you’re not selling widgets and your service is to the public, can Facebook groups still bring value? My answer is yes, but you have to craft your group with the right goal in mind, and you must have the bandwidth to support it.
A group does take some work to manage, since it’s yet another communication tool needing support. So don’t drop my column on your social media manager’s desk and request a Facebook group without having them weigh your agency’s needs and resources. I suggest first exploring where groups might fit into your existing social strategy.
Facebook has made a visible effort over the past year to encourage the creation and use of groups. From tweaking the placement of the group shortcut icon on mobile to allowing pages to join and interact in groups as members, there’s no question about the social platform’s push for the medium.
While there’s a laundry list of benefits to using Facebook groups in addition to maintaining a page for your government, let’s skip to the real reason why I’d even recommend that you consider adopting yet another social media tool. In one word: notifications.
With your traditional Facebook page, you can expect a very, very small number of people who have liked your page to see your updates in their newsfeed. This is a fraction of the people who saw your updates a year ago, thanks to Facebook’s famous algorithm adjustments that give priority to “meaningful” interactions between friends, not pages.
The important thing about groups is that members receive notifications about new posts and new comments. Truth be told, I’ve received at least three alerts to my phone from groups I’m a member of just while writing this article. The potential visibility gained with managing a group can’t be understated.
Ever since Facebook gave page administrators the ability to create groups as their pages, government agencies have started experimenting with running them. When thinking of a purpose for your group, keep in mind that communication happens differently here — there’s more focus on conversations between group members than the admins of the group.
The city of Lenexa, Kan., started a group for its seasonal farmers market. It allows vendors and shoppers to connect with one another more authentically than an official government page could offer.
Zach Whitney from the Utah Department of Transportation manages Facebook groups for stakeholders. In his remarks at the 2019 Government Social Media Conference, he pointed out that using groups is a good way to write focused content for specific regions. He noted that while groups are certainly more work than simply running a basic Facebook page, there’s a lot of value in it for agencies.
There are many other details to consider, such as group privacy settings, comment moderation and content strategy. Even so, Facebook groups might be a worthwhile path for building engagement with the public in an organic way.