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. Shane McCracken

    Surely the first question is whether to host it on Facebook or not. The privacy issues around Facebook and the amount of information that gets broadcast to your friends could (or perhaps should) inhibit discussion.

  2. Tim Post author

    Indeed.

    This is just part of a larger post I’m working on at the moment about choosing where to host discussions…

    The broadcast feature of Facebook is both an asset and as you identify a potential privacy issue.

    I’m not sure why it should inhibit discussion though – as when I’m in an open discussion forum elsewhere on the web my friends could easily see what I’m saying – all Facebook does is let them know which discussions (via groups) I might be joining in…

  3. Shane McCracken

    There have been many groups on Facebook that I thought might be fun to join but when I think about what my various friends might think I sometimes resist. I maybe be different to most people but I suspect not.

  4. Tim Post author

    Hey Martin

    As far as I’m aware the group forum’s don’t provide a feed which you can take out to elsewhere. Discussions in groups appear to take place in a ‘walled garden’, and discussions on pages, whilst in the open, can only be added to by members.

    For ongoing dialogue with supporters / members of a campaign then I would, like you, opt for an e-mail list group – but I would keep a Facebook group as a place for people to sign up and express interest – sending regular (well, perhaps monthly at most) messages to Facebook group members to summarise what’s been happening on the e-mail list and to give people a reminder/opportunity to sign up to that if they want to be more involved…

  5. Martin

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the info. I’m going to use the Facebook Group to simply update members of news and events.

    Cheers,
    Martin

  6. Anonymous

    Another major difference is the way they let you categorize groups vs. pages. There are 2 completely different hierarchies. It seems that there is some forward thinking going on, especially around ‘local’ pages for restaurants, bars and the like. Can you even search for local pages yet?

  7. Morgan Sully

    Hi Tim,
    just wanted to say hello and thank you for the post. Very helpful. I currently work as an Online Community Manager at a national media arts organization in the United States. We are currently thinking about starting up our own Facebook presence and I found this post helpful.

    Thank you!

  8. Christopher S. Rollyson

    Tim, thanks for a very helpful post. I am experimenting with Facebook “initiatives” and didn’t find a good comparison on Facebook itself. Do you find any changes after “the new Facebook?”

    All the best- Chris

  9. Francis Irving

    There’s another big difference – the sharing tool available.

    As far as I can see, groups have a proper, large “tick the friends you want to tell about the group” tool that appears after you join a group.

    Fan pages, in contrast, have just a share button, which pops up a message dialog where you have to think of and type the names of your friends in.

    I suspect groups spread much better than fan pages for this reason.

  10. Mike Zino

    If we knew then what we know now (or if we had read this post before creating our Psoriasis Cure Now page), we DEFINITELY would have created a group instead. Pages are largely invisible in practice and the ability to email group members into their inbox alone is reason enough not to go the page route. Sigh. Pages do allow you to add html, though, so that actually has a benefit.

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  19. erwin

    i just set up a Group
    the tools seems easy and very Google/Yahoo Group type like
    but i can use to drive to my friends
    feel like this is more in group

    will try page soon

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  23. Debbie Wilson

    I’m struggling to get our facebook group (for a charity) to serve our needs. For example we want to post photo albums of different groups’ team-building events, but I can’t seem to display an album anywhere within the group. Any suggestions?

  24. Martino

    Debbie, you can’t post albums on groups. It is just an amalgamate of different photos from different group members. If you want to set up albums, consider setting up a page instead.

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  30. Jennifer

    Hi Tim, just found your site while looking for information on whether to start a group or a page. I thought you might be interested in our project, which was inspired by Don Taspcott’s book “Grown Up Digital.” It’s a website called http://www.theyoungandthewireless.com, intended to tell the stories of how young people’s lives have been affected by technology and social media. It’s just a blog right now, but the content will all be up at the end of this month. I hope you check it out, and become a fan of our page on Facebook.

    Sincerely,
    Jennifer

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  33. Jackie

    I read above that you can’t have albums in a Group, but I think that if you’re the admin for the Group, the ability to sort photos (If only the ones posted by you) would make much more sense than a hodge podge of hundreds of pics.
    When I weighed the pros & cons,for my purposes, a Group fits all my needs except in this regard. Is there any possibility for a mod any time soon?

  34. facebook application development

    It seems that Facebook Groups are just a remnant of the “old” Facebook (pre-Newsfeed). Pages have essentially become the current hub for organizing the way that Groups used to do. I wonder if at some point Facebook won’t merge the two features.

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  36. Sarah

    Hey Tim,

    I was just wondering if I joined a group, can the admin of that group or it’s other members see my profile, pictures, and other such things?My privacy settings only allow friends to see them, but I wasn’t sure if joining a group puts the admin and it’s members under the “friend category”.

    Thanks!
    Sarah

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  38. Ron R

    Hi,
    Started working at a start up marketing/promotions company in Barcelona, this is a a new adventure for me as my background is in finance. Does anyone know of any applications for downloading lists of people/groups members from either pages or group pages from facebook?
    Thank you. Ron

  39. Tim Post author

    I’m not planning on updating this post at present. If any suggestions for an alternative that I should direct people to then do let me know..

  40. Athina

    Hello.
    I have create a facebook page and I wonder how I can send a photo via page update?
    I saw that i can write only a text and i can’t send a photo or a link. Is there a way??
    Please help me

  41. Hatim Mousa

    Thank you very much it was great and help full, i found this article easily in Google when i wrote what is the difference between face-book group and face-book pages, thank you very much again.

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