Should I set up a Facebook page or group?
Good question and the short answer in most cases is both!
The longer and more helpful answer is that it depends largely on what you’re trying to do (your organisational aims and objectives) and who you’re trying to do it with (your target audience). By answering the following questions you’ll be able to arrive at the best answer…
Which description best fits you and your organisation?
A: We’ve got a well-established support base on the social web and would simply like to split this existing audience into more manageable and natural subsets.
B: We need to get more likes and build a bigger audience in order to “sell” our products, services or ideas.
Answer A Then a group or groups is probably the best option for you.
Answer B Then a page is more likely the better option.
Do you want to keep the conversation between you and your audience private?
YES! Then a group is probably the best option because with closed or secret groups you can more easily manage who sees what’s being shared on the group’s timeline. For example, with a secret group nobody outside the group can see it and, as a result, know who’s in it or what they post.
NO! You need to answer a few more questions yet. A page might be the best option but equally an open group could be the perfect solution.
Do you want to vet who’s allowed to join?
YES! Then a group is probably best. Group settings allow you to decide who you invite and/or accept.
NO! Then either a group set to anyone can join will be the right option or a page where anyone can like a page to connect with it and get updates in their news feed.
Do you want to use Facebook Insights to measure the results?
YES! Then go for a page because Insights doesn’t currently work with groups.
NO! Then it doesn’t matter which.
Do you need to share with your audience documents or files on your computer?
YES! Then go for the group option as it’s easier to share, collaborate and ask questions.
NO! Then again it doesn’t matter.
CASE STUDY – local authority
Victoria Fawcett of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council set up a Facebook group called Stockton 5K trail series to promote, as the name suggests, a series of 5k runs across the North East of England. The group was fine as a way of communicating with athletes who’d already heard of the series from other sources – both on and offline. But it wasn’t so effective at growing that community to get more taking part in the events. Two things informed Victoria’s decision to set up a page and invite group members to join her there: firstly visibility – pages, she was told, are easier to find on Facebook than groups; secondly, because only a page gives you access to valuable metrics via the Facebook Insights suite of feedback and analysis tools. Whilst the latter is true the former is not – unless your group is secret. The community page has nearly 1,500 likes (July 2016). That’s significantly more than were members of the now defunct group so it was clearly a good decision to make the change to page.
Make an informed decision before you establish a page or group as you can’t automatically convert a group into a page or vice versa at a later stage. The only workaround in the case study above was for the group owner to ask members via the group timeline to migrate to the page incentivising those who make the journey across the wide open trails of cyberstockton by offering modest prizes (a beanie)! Nor is it possible to merge two groups into one short of asking members of the one you’re closing to join the one you’re keeping going.
Think of pages as physical places. If you’re a small organisation you might only need one page/room. If you’re a big organisation you’ll probably need several pages/rooms. Get as many people coming through the doors of these pages/rooms as you can and then, once they’re in, decide how you want to organise them into separate groups.
CASE STUDY – national charity
As a supporter of the NSPCC you might like the charity’s Facebook ’s page. Almost 300,000 people already have. But it would be inappropriate for discussions about some of the grittier areas of the society’s work to be held, in effect, with all these people listening. So there are five open or public groups and who knows how many secret groups where like-minded individuals can get together in much smaller groups to discuss things. Social workers use these groups, for example, to discuss child welfare issues away from the public gaze. And young people can discuss growing up in a secret group away from the inappropriate gaze of adults.
Ask yourself is it more appropriate for conversations with a target audience to be happening in relative if not absolute privacy? If the answer is yes then a Facebook group with its built in privacy settings is probably the best for you.
CASE STUDY – small business
At ACM Training we had too many groups and it was almost impossible to find both the content and the time to post stuff to the various groups’ timelines to stimulate debate among members. For example, we had one group for people who’d been on our social media training courses and another for those who’d attended our writing for the web courses. Now we have a larger – but more easily managed – social web group which works for us because resources aren’t spread so thinly and works for group members (unless they think otherwise!) because there is a natural crossover between the two subject areas – if you’re interested in the social web you’re almost certainly going to be interested in writing for the web. We encourage group members to like our page but don’t insist on it as a precursor to joining the group. We also allow group members to invite new members so we can grow organically.