At its Facebook Communities Summit today, the social networking giant announced a series of updates and new tools for managing Facebook Groups, including tools designed to help admins better develop the group’s culture, as well as several other new additions like subgroups and subscription-based paid subgroups, real-time chat for moderators, support for community fundraisers and more.
Among the new features is a suite of tools for Facebook Group admins that will help those who run online communities customize their group in various ways — from the look-and-feel to greeting messages and more. These features can help to better differentiate one group from another and help to set the tone for the group and its culture, Facebook believes.
With the new tools, admins will be able to change the group’s colors, post backgrounds and fonts that appear in the group, and the emoji that members use to react to its content. They’ll also be able to use feature sets to select from preset collections of posts, formats, badges, admin tools and more that they can then enable for their group with a click to customize the group further. Admins could add multiple feature sets designed around what their group is about (e.g. “parenting”) or what sort of functionality it may offer (e.g. “questions and advice,” “real-time connections,” “learning,” etc.).
Another addition will be a new greeting message where admins can share the group rules with new members. Typically, larger groups ask members to agree to a set of rules that some new members simply click “yes” to, but never really read. The greeting message could help to address this problem, as it will automatically appear when a member joins the group for the first time, introducing members to the rules and other group norms — like a suggestion for the members to introduce themselves with a post, for instance.
Facebook today also teased an upcoming feature called “community awards” that it plans to broadly roll out soon. This will allow admins to encourage and reward members for their positive participation in the group by anointing select posts with accolades like “Insightful,” “Uplifting,” “Fun,” “Informative” or “Relevant,” for example. (Some groups have already been testing this feature.)
In terms of group functionality, admins will now be able to pin announcements to a new Featured section at the top of their groups, and take advantage of an update to the moderation aid, Admin Assist. The tool will now give personalized suggestions of criteria to add and better inform admins when certain content is declined. Admin Assist will roll out to Facebook Lite, Facebook’s app for emerging markets, as well.
Another set of newly announced tools are designed to help group members better connect with one another and, in some cases, generate revenue.
This includes the launch of Community Chats, a chat interface in both Facebook and Messenger that allows the admins and the moderation team to talk to each other in real time. The feature could come in handy for larger communities that involve a team of people who all need to be on the same page about community management decisions, including those that have to be made quickly in reaction to content that may need their input, oversight or removal.
Groups will also be able to create recurring events if the group regularly meets virtually or in-person.
Facebook says it will also begin testing a new “subgroups” feature that will allow members to split off for specific topics, regions or occasions. These subgroups can be managed in one place and give people a way to have side discussions without cluttering up the main group’s feed.
Another interesting aspect to this test is that Facebook will permit groups to create paid subgroups that group members can subscribe to for a fee in order to access exclusive content or experiences. Facebook suggests the feature could be used for things like coaching, networking or other “deeper conversations.”
During the tests, admins will receive the earnings from the subscriptions minus the app store fees and applicable taxes, but Facebook says it won’t take a cut of the revenue at this time. (Of course, that could change in the future.) This differs from yesterday’s news that Facebook will offer individual creators a way to offer custom subscription links that route around Apple’s in-app purchase fees.
Facebook Groups will be able to host community fundraisers as well, to raise money for group projects, to pay hosts for their time managing the group or anything else admins and members want to support financially.
And groups will be able to sell merchandise through a shop attached to their group, which would be another way for members to support the group. Here, admins can sell products they’ve specifically created for their group — like custom tees or bags, for instance.
In addition to the rollout of all the new tools and features, Facebook says it’s introducing a new consumer experience that’s in early testing, but will later become more broadly available. The company didn’t offer as much detail on this but noted it would allow Groups admins to “use an official voice” when interacting with their community (i.e. post as their Page) and would help Page admins “build communities in a single place” and give them access to the same moderation tools that Facebook Groups today have access to.
The company said these changes were in anticipation of how groups would play a role in parent company Meta’s upcoming plans for the “metaverse” it’s building.
In introducing the new features, Meta (Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “building community” is going to be a key part of the metaverse.
“Groups and communities on Facebook are going to be an important part of this vision. Nothing beats being together. But when we can’t be together in person, the metaverse will help get us even closer to feeling that sense of an in-person connection,” he explained. “So, we’re focused on building bridges from our apps on 2D screens into more immersive virtual experiences. Facebook, and your groups, are going to be central to this. That’s why I’m glad to be here to help kick off this celebration of communities,” Zuckerberg said.