Facebook groups vs. Facebook pages


I’ve been working on series of strategy options for engaging young people in local democracy activities through Facebook. The two key platforms for engagement that support some level of dialogue appear to be Facebook pages, and Facebook groups. So I though I’d try and get a sense of when you would choose one over the other.

If you were looking to host a discussion between young people and local councillors on Facebook – which would you use?

Below are the notes I’ve drafted on the topic so far…

Pages of Groups?

Groups or Pages?

Both ‘Facebook pages’ and ‘Facebook groups’ offer a way of promoting activities and of hosting a discussion between different Facebook users. Both can have a discussion wall, and discussion forum. Both offer ways of Facebook members affiliating with them, with that affiliation optionally displayed to a members ‘friends’ (creating a viral marketing effect). They are, however, subtly different:

Groups

You can create a Facebook group for just about anything. They can be used as serious discussion forums, virtual petitions where membership indicates support for a cause, a space for sharing photos and videos or a way of subscribing to get messages from an organisation (amongst other things).

As the creator of a group you gain control over which features of the group are enabled, and whether it is visible to all members of Facebook, or is closed and visible only to invited Facebook members. Facebook groups are never visible to non Facebook users.

Users of Facebook can ‘join’ your group and then post messages on the ‘wall’ or in the ‘discussion forum’ (which allows for threaded discussions). As the group owner you can send a message to all your group members – this will appear in their Facebook inbox. You can also invite group members to events created through the Facebook event system (which allows RSVP guest lists etc.).

Pros

  • Facebook users are familiar with groups
  • You can send messages to group members
  • They are marginally easier to set up and manage than pages

Cons

  • Groups are only visible to Facebook members
  • Groups cannot have extra applications added to them
  • You generally have to visit a group regularly and to use the messaging feature to keep discussions flowing.

Pages

You can create a ‘Facebook Page’ for any entity such as a club, youth council, youth project etc. Unlike groups which have ‘members’, and which are only visible to logged in Facebook users, most of a ‘Facebook Page’ can be visible on the wider internet to those without a Facebook account, and have ‘fans’.

You can send updates to fans, but these will only be displayed on the side of a users homepage when they log-in, rather than appearing in their inbox. This means they are likely to get less attention that messages sent to group members.

You can add some ‘applications’ to pages, similar to the way you can add applications to your Facebook profile. For example, you could add an RSS application to your page that would pull in the headlines from your blog, or from another discussion board, to display on your Facebook page.

Here is an example page created for Practical Participation.

Pros

  • Can be visible on the wider internet to non-Facebook members (although only Facebook members can interact with them)
  • You can add applications
  • Facebook presents you with visitor statistics to let you know how many visitors you pages are getting.

Cons

  • ‘Updates’ sent to those who decide to be a ‘fan’ of your page are lower key than messages to group ‘members’.
  • Facebook users are less familiar with pages than they are with groups.
  • Visitors still need to be a member of Facebook if they want to join in discussions on your page message board.

When would you choose one over the other?

If you were looking to host a discussion between young people and local councillors on Facebook – which would you use?

There are many factors that could decide between pages and groups. However, in this case my leanings would lead me to choose:

  • Pages if I wanted a long-term public record of the dialogue, and wanted to engage young people via Facebook over the longer term
  • Groups if I wanted to quickly host a discussion with those already on facebook, but without building a presence on Facebook right now.

What would your choice be?

66 thoughts on “Facebook groups vs. Facebook pages

  1. Andy

    Hi Tim. I happened upon this post through a Google search. Great stuff.

    I’m used to using Yahoo Groups for discussion amongst neighbors, but I’m trying to decide if FB would be a good alternative, since most people are familiar with it. My problem is that I can’t figure out how to replicate the Yahoo feature of having an email address that users can post discussions to which copies all members of the group for all replies. It seems that with a FB group, you have to be more proactive as a member in going to the group page to see discussions. You don’t automatically get included on all discussions via email unless you post a reply yourself. Based on your research, do you have any insight or recommendations?

  2. Tim Davies

    Hey Andy,

    For discussion I think Yahoo Groups is still a very good bet – particularly if you point out to people they can access digest mode if they don’t like too many e-mails.

    The poor integration of Facebook groups with e-mail makes them pretty poor as discussion spaces in most cases.

    You could though use a Facebook page as a ‘shop front’ for the Yahoo Group – pulling in headlines from the Yahoo Group using the RSS feature, so that anyone who is a fan of the page gets the opportunity to see what’s going on through the Yahoo group – and is enticed to join.

    (This would only work if your Yahoo group is open, so that RSS feeds of recent topics are available. See this page for integrating pages and feeds: http://practicalparticipation.co.uk/yes/toolbox/facebook/feeds)

    You would probably need to experiment in this case with whether to leave comments on Facebook’s copy of the headlines from the Yahoo group switched on – as that could fragment discussions a bit – or it could provide space for different groups to engage at different levels which can be good…

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  5. Gio

    Hi there! Thanks for the post. I found it useful, all your comments, as well.
    Does anybody now how to change the account the org page is linked to. I created a page for my organisation and didn’t necessarily want to link it to my personal account, so I created a new account. No it’s obviously not working well, because I have no friends on my new account and people are wondering what am I doing with two accounts anyway! Please if anyone can help that would be great!!
    Many thanks,
    Gio

  6. Facebook Applications

    Thanks for sharing a good blog. You can bring a goog point that Both ‘Facebook pages’ and ‘Facebook groups’ offer a way of promoting activities and of hosting a discussion between different Facebook users. Both can have a discussion wall, and discussion forum.

  7. Emily Carpenter

    Hi Tim. I’m wondering if there’s a way to link a page to a group, and vice versa. I work for a school and the school has it’s own page but there’s also an alumni group. As a marketing tool, I want them to be linked. Any ideas?

    Thanks,
    Emily

  8. Tim Post author

    No way of automatically linking them as far as I know – but you can add links between them in the descriptions and encourage group members to like the page, or page fans to join the group…

  9. Emily Carpenter

    Thanks Tim. Yeah I was hoping the page could be added as a member of the group. But at least maybe the Alumni group could “like” the school’s page, which I’m guessing the administrator could do.

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