Exploring the New Facebook Groups

I was thinking about going to sleep tonight… when something changed. A former student of mine invited me to a rolling conversation on Facebook. Rolling you ask? Well, Facebook changed in the last 24 hours.

Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team announced a number of new changes that include being able to download the content you’ve posted to your profile and the development of groups. I asked my new Facebook group on Social Journalism about a link that summarizes the changes, and Craig Kanalley from The Huffington Post shared his explanation. Groups have existed before on Facebook. But this time, it’s alive.

I’m not kidding.

I was going to go to sleep. Instead I jumped in and found a lively, flowing conversation underway. It’s hard to explain, so I took a screen capture. (I asked permission first.)

Let me explain what you’re looking at. This isn’t your normal wall post. When you post, you just hit enter and it pops up. Seconds later, another person’s post pops up. It’s live. And you don’t have to be friends with that person to have the conversation. I’ve always said Facebook is a space where I can communicate with people I know and I’ve met face-to-face while Twitter is a place for me to have great conversations with people I don’t know. Well. This changes it all. For the last hour or so, I’ve had a conversation with people I know on Twitter but the conversation is on Facebook. This conversation is hosted through a tool I played around with during SXSW earlier this year called Hot Potato (I an assuming the live chat function is what makes this new group experience possible). The Hot Potato concept was creating specific online “rooms” where people could have Twitter-like conversations but only people who are interested in the topic would read it. That’s what’s happening with the Facebook group concept. I had envisioned Hot Potato as a great thing for conversations during conferences so my Twitter feed wouldn’t be so loud. Mark Zuckerberg saw it in a wider perspective.

So one person on this new Facebook group asked me if I know what kind of implications this brings to journalism. My initial reaction is this is an enhancement to the current Facebook fan/like pages. It’s an opportunity to talk about topics in real time with people who have similar interests… or a similar newsroom. I immediately created a new group for my newsroom. I run a mommy blog Facebook page and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the pros and cons of adding a group to the page as well.

There are different types of groups. The one I played in tonight is closed – that means I was invited in and you need an invite to participate. There are also open groups and secret groups. The open and closed groups are searchable. The secret groups are only known by those people who are invited. I created an open group for my newsroom and one I might use for current and former students of my #jenclass. The amount of oversight for these groups may be impossible. I’m not saying that is good or bad at this point. I am curious to see what could happen when my “traditional” newsroom hooks up with the general public with the new Facebook group experience. I am hoping we could create a new even more personal interactive experience.

*One quick warning – if you get invited to a new group, you’re immediately in the group. You can remove yourself or change the permissions of the group. I immediately turned off email notifications. That helped save an incredible mess inside my inbox as the conversations got really rolling online tonight.*


  1. Great post, Jen!

    I love the idea of having a group for former students!

    On the journalism side: I’m volunteering with a local non-profit news startup, and I think it’d be great to have a group for volunteers; we need extra hands for certain events, but the director doesn’t really like to ask for that help on the Facebook wall; a group could ensure that we could organize volunteer efforts with the most interested parties.

    And I hear you about having planned on going to bed!


  2. Beth

    This is freaking AWESOME! This is going to change the role of a social media manager overnight – literally!

  3. I like the idea of FB groups — but the email fire hose this morning was daunting. I wish there was a digest setting of some kind. It’s either email notification on or off.

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  6. willettjf

    Did you try the new group chat function? That looks interesting. Just like regular FB chat but with everyone in a group.

  7. I certainly did – the chat function is the centerpiece of the new group experience. It’s kind of mind blowing if you think about the implications for communities that really buy into using a group like this.

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