How Sustainability Professionals Can Use Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are another new feature on the social media scene (yes, yet another feature to keep up with the ever-changing online social crowd) … so we thought we’d take a minute to reflect on whether or not they are of use to the sustainability professional today. 

First, let's define what a Facebook Group is.  Think of it as a new private space you can easily create to chat and share things with a specific group of people.  Facebook says that, “by creating a group for each of the important parts of your life — family, teammates, coworkers — you decide who sees what you share.”

We “like” Facebook Groups because they allow:

  • A group of people who want to interact online
  • Chatting to many people at one time within the group
  • Sending Facebook messages direct to all member’s inboxes rather than sending individual messages or hoping that they read a post
  • Sharing documents with others – documents can be uploaded to one spot where others can view them
  • Creating a secret or approval only space.  Secret groups are by invite only and can’t be found by searching on Facebook, approval only groups can be seen in search but not joined without approval.  Your group will feel so special! 

Facebook Groups aren’t really so good for:

  • Promoting a business, let’s face it … they are an intentionally small subset so your outreach is stifled unless your intent is to make a select few feel loved or create an group-think team of collaborators.  Worse yet, Google doesn’t show groups in search results, making you even harder to be seen or heard.  You can’t get a nice looking URL for a group or get it customized to reflect your brand, like you can for a page.  Albums can’t be created, making it hard for people to find images, and there are no photos at the top of a group to help with branding like a page offers. 
  • Using geo-tagging.  Really, this is just  annoying. Be thoughtful about tying your location-specific apps (like Foursquare or Gowalla) to a Facebook group update, because it generally does not add value to the group's conversation.
  • Getting to know your audience.  There are no demographic insights into your members, apart from their names (you can find out by clicking on each member individually, but who has that kind of time in sustainability consulting!).  Also, there are no insights into how many people have viewed a post, making it hard to tell if you are hitting or missing the mark.
  • Scheduling posts, because on a page there are various tools you can use to schedule posts to come out at a certain day and time and with groups you simply can’t do this for the time being.

Bottom line, we think it’s important to get your social media strategy in place and carefully select what tools really help you to meet your goals … if they don’t answer all your needs you’ll want to spend your time on the one’s that do (trust us, there are plenty!).  First and foremost, you want a page if you are using Facebook to promote your business, especially sustainability professionals out there.  A group might be a way to communicate with a group of friends, employees on a project or even a group think team … but it is not a way to grow your business on Facebook. 

Need more help getting your strengthening those social media muscles for 2012? Check out our 8-week, self-guided, online course called Social Media for Sustainability Professionals. It includes an entire section devoted to Facebook (with additional sections focused on websites, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, Google+ and more!)—including the difference between a Facebook profiles and pages, privacy issues, tactics for growing your fan base, and mistakes to avoid.