This week, we’ve managed to pin down Huddle Director Colin Sneath for a quick 5 minute chat on the latest Facebook update- the Brands in Groups trial (Checkout our blog on the topic here). Kettle’s on and take 5… (coffee for us- cheers!)
Morning Colin- so why has Facebook decided now is the time to trial this update?
I believe the timing is more than a coincidence. We blogged about Facebook Zero back in January of this year, where Zuckerberg talked about changing the objective of the Facebook product teams, their primary objective now being to ‘encourage meaningful interactions between people’ rather than helping users find relevant content. This creates a significant challenge for brands, as historically they’ve been incentivised by Facebook to encourage engagements and interactions between brand and user and they’ve been rewarded with organic reach by the algorithm for achieving this.
For many brands, opportunities for generating these intra-user interactions are very limited. Its easy if you’re a football club or a media outlet, where courting controversy is a regular occurrence (check out any league club’s Facebook Page when they announce a squad or buy a player), but for a food or drink brand being contentious doesn’t come naturally.
So what’s the link between this objective change and Brands in Groups trial?
When Facebook Zero happened, brand marketers scurried off and found their own solutions to the update. Marketers realised that “meaningful interactions between people” was the norm in Groups rather than on Pages, and a significant number of brands responded by establishing their own Facebook Groups to capitalise on this. So Sports Clothing brands established running Groups, Beer brands created Groups to act as forums to discuss Craft Beer and so on.
In these brand- moderated Groups, they are able to get involved in conversations, post themselves, listen, interact and of course lock out competitors. So there is a school of thought that believes Facebook, with this trial, is now saying, ‘ok guys, no need to set up your own Groups, instead we’ll just give you access to Groups run by your consumers where you have to abide by Group rules and moderation.”
So this could be hugely beneficial right?
Yes, it could transform relationships between brands and consumers on Facebook. However there are risks for brands as they will need to adapt their communication style to reflect the fact that they no longer “own” the interaction environment. Groups are moderated by the people for the people and are democratic and self-policed. Brands with a marketing culture still built around push-messaging and one-way communication (telling not listening) will find themselves censured, possibly even ejected. The consumer is in control.
Right- these group interactions then- how best to go about it?
The key thing to remember is value! Brands need to add value to these groups as any other member would, so it’s really going to be about brand culture rather than brand promotion. By listening and fulfilling the need of group members rather than their own marketing objectives (although the two may of course coincide).
How much of an effect will this have on community management?
If Group membership becomes the norm for brands then it will transform community management. Brands/agencies will need to look at how they allocate resources and make major investments in this area. Brand pages could become exclusively for Paid Social campaigns (if they’re not already) and Facebook Groups will become the organic setting that brands can leverage.
Nice one- thanks Colin!
Sounds like exciting times ahead then- will your brand be joining the conversation?