Facebook Groups can now screen new members with a questionnaire

Facebook is making good on Mark Zuckerberg’s promise to build community by improving admin tools for Facebook Groups. Now Group admins can establish up to three questions for people requesting to join their Group to answer. This lets admins screen potential members to ensure they’re the right fit for the group and will add constructively to the discussion, not just spam or troll the Group.

Facebook says this feature is now rolled out to 100% of group admins globally. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch:

“Screening new membership requests requires time and legwork for admins – particularly for groups built around focused passions or purpose. For these groups, admins typically have specific criteria they require before admitting new members. Establishing these open-ended questions enables them to more quickly review and approve member requests; in turn, people seeking communities of support or shared interest can more quickly connect with others.”

Group Admins can find the “Ask Pending Members Questions” option in their Group’s settings menu. They then have the option to great up to 3 questions that potential members can answer in up to 250 characters each. Only admins and moderators see the answers to the questions, which are not posted to the group. Users who hit “Join” on a Group with a questionnaire will be asked to fill it out immediately, while those invited to join will get a notification linked to the form. Applicants can edit their answers until they’re reviewed.

Previously if an admin wanted to inquire about why someone wanted to join their group, they’d have to either friend them, or try to send a Facebook Message that would likely be buried in their Message Requests. Doing this on a one-by-one basis and keeping track of the answers was likely too much effort for most admins. That led them to either indiscriminately admit people who might abuse the Group, or deny people based on limited information from the profile — excluding them from the Group’s community and support.

Back in February, Zuckerberg wrote that “One of the things that we’ve seen in online communities, but also including offline communities, is that having an engaged and talented leader is one of the key things for making a strong community … but right now our Groups product hasn’t really been built to facilitate the leaders.”

Allowing Group leaders to define these questions and select who to admit based on the answers gives them much more control. It could lead to more productive discussion and less of the kind of disruption and needless posts that can cause members to turn off the notifications for a Group.

Next month, Facebook will hold its first Communities Summit for Group admins in Chicago. There we might expect more product announcements based on the goals outlined in Zuckerberg’s manifesto. Those could include the ability to create sub-Groups, set more specific roles and permissions for moderators, and collect analytics about the performance of different content or Group growth.