Mark Zuckerberg and his product development team gave a presentation today to announce the new Facebook Groups feature. This is different from the friend lists feature already in place on Facebook, and the previous Groups feature geared toward people with shared interests. The new groups feature allows you to create a shared space between a small group of people- Facebook says up to 100- and post messages and events intended for that small group only. You can have group chat as well.
This feature isn’t really intended for companies and brands- Zuckerberg maintains that Pages are meant for companies- but this gives users another opportunity to design their interactions on Facebook and make it into another viable communication platform for a purpose it didn’t previously serve (especially since Facebook messaging limits you to 20 people at a time). It could possibly be used as a mailing list or communication tool for a very close-knit customer base, but for the most part this is Facebook giving users another cool tool in exchange for giving them even more data- you see, the security measures for groups includes what Zuckerberg calls “social captchas”- if they don’t recognize your ISP or location, they make you answer questions about your relationships and identify friends in photographs to confirm your identity. Populating these groups and filling out these captchas provide Facebook even more information about your social interactions. But this is also a tool that remedies privacy issues and gives users an opportunity to create even smaller social spaces within the larger plane of Facebook- now you have more control over information sharing among your friends.
So even though businesses might not directly benefit from these changes, the influx of new users who will join Facebook to be a member of these small groups represent new potential customers. I’ve already set up a group for my family members to talk to each other- what will you create with this new tool?
If you want to try out the new groups feature for yourself, check out https://www.facebook.com/groups/.