One of my facebook friends Louise Edington made a statement the other day that “Facebook Groups are the new spam“. She was referring to how people can create a group, add you without your knowledge or permission and then you start getting group posts and updates automatically even into your email depending on settings until you opt out or change settings.
I’ve been using facebook groups for over a year and they range from about a dozen members to over a thousand with most in the one or two hundred member range. Some of these are open, some are closed, a few are secret…shhhhh.
Often groups are started by a ring-leader type person or organization and the best ones have a clear objective and some guidelines for participation. It’s also important to have a few moderators to kick out spammers and watch for anyone posting that needs something urgently.
Since I like to end things on a positive note… let’s begin with…
Impunity (not being punished or avoiding consequences)
When you add someone to a group without their permission or their requesting to be added, who isn’t a very close friend or colleague that will immediately see the purpose and value, you are creating a form of Spam. This is like adding someone to a mailing list just because you got their business card from a networking event or group directory. It isn’t friendly, it isn’t professional and it should be called out as bad behavior.
Another thing to watch for in groups is confidentiality and compliance. I was in a group of Entrepreneurs that had a lot of Inventors and Start-Ups raising capital. This was an open group and occasionally members would post things about needing Capital, new rounds of Capital, Investor Opportunity, etc. Although there isn’t any “real” privacy with anything you post online, if the SEC wanted to gather information, an Open Group has posts that are visible to the public and in the news stream of members so this would be a bad practice to allow.
There are new FTC policies taking effect next year that regulate work at home and business opportunities and if you have a group giving step by step business advice, pricing practices or income assurances you definitely want this to not be publicly posted on member’s Walls from an Open Group.
Immunity – You may not be as invisible as you think…You may be a lot more invisible than you think!
One of the patterns of a Social Media platform like facebook or Twitter is that information comes in waves and streams. This is one of the benefits of using a group – posts in the group are collected and aren’t lost “out there” so group members can visit, engage and respond or respond when they see a group post in their stream when it first happens. If you are working with people who are serious about getting something done, like cross promoting each other or planning an event, a Closed Group or Secret Group may be a convenient venue if you don’t want to be spammed – if you can moderate some spammy content or conduct, an Open Group may attract more new members.
If you are in a group that has lots and lots of members posting their own information who do not comment, interact, share, forward or even “like” the postings of other members, you absolutely have invisibility issues and a group that is immune to engagement. This often happens when someone charismatic starts the group and engages with people who get excited and then as more and more people come in, they can’t carry that level on – nor should they! If this is happening to the group or you are thinking about joining one, just watch what happens over the course of a non-holiday week. If the same 10 people are posting, commenting and interacting and the other 690 of a 700 member group just stop in to post whatever their new thing is… forming a smaller group with those active 10 is smart – to the others your posts are on down in the feed and will probably never get looked at or worked with – really.
Are you in a group that has a mission statement to collaborate, network or cross promote that has a high percentage of new content from people who are sharing daily spiritual lessons, business advice that they post on their business fan page, request after request to “like” their fan page or come in like a dive bomber with machine guns blazing a couple times a month with multiple pitch posts for this event or that …rat-tat-tat-tat-tat? The other members of the group have probably already given up and just stay listed to be nice. If you’re in charge of the group, a gentle private message to the preachers, SallyFields (“you like me, you really like me, all I wanted was for you to like me”) and Rats MIGHT help, but you really need to have a group of members get active doing the group mission and have something to get people excited again or just let it go.
Community – Collaboration, Thoughtful Engagement, Consistency, Trust and Respect
This is the highest and best you can have with a Facebook Group and when you do, treasure it and express appreciation to the other members. The healthiest and most worthwhile groups I’ve seen and have been involved with have a core group of active members and a few peripheral members who are more active and less active depending on their work load, etc.
The key dynamic for having a strong social network is not to have perfection, harmony and zero conflict – it is creating a place for people to connect and then work on the connections between each other. My colleague Scott Degraffenreid says it this way – “Don’t try to change people, people are almost impossible to change. Instead, change the connections between people, this is what creates a strong social network.” Catch each other doing good, when possible build Edge rank by responding within the first hour when people post things and WHEN there are misunderstandings, explain how you see it in a way that doesn’t make the other person wrong and extend trust and respect. Once you have gone back and forth to clear it up and reach a consensus or agree to disagree, make it known that the relationship is complete and you feel like it is settled and you’re ready to move forward.
Amazing, amazing things happen when a group operates as a Community – Do It Well or Don’t Do It At All.