When the new Facebook groups were launched it was clear that they had finally given us a groups tool that could be effective. There is huge potential for groups for research, discussion and for like-minded people to communicate in a more private way than public Facebook allows. Recently we used Facebook groups as an organisational tool for the Bloggers International event. There are better tools out there for collaboration but Facebook worked well for us for a number of reasons. I’ve tried lots of wikis and collaboration tools in the past, many that are feature rich but Facebook was a better fit for this event. Here’s why and my top 6 pro’s and cons. Pros 1. Everyone is on Facebook Facebook is a good solution for many as ‘everyone’ is on Facebook. Our group was split across 2 countries and several counties. We all had different time constraints due to running our own businesses, children etc but we were all Facebook users. Being on Facebook means you don’t have to log in somewhere else. We were on Facebook anyway so checking into the group was never a problem. If we’d had to access a stand-alone tool it is unlikely it would have been so active. Depending on your preferences you can choose to be emailed or notified when someone posts in a group, this keeps the momentum going. Those little red Facebook notification flags are almost irresistible. Facebook users are familiar with the tools of Facebook so translating them into a group environment is easy. Users don’t need to learn a whole new set of tools. 2. Documents Not unique to Facebook but when used well within a Facebook group they are great. Group members can collaborate on a document (we used them for a press release and for ideas of what to say for a radio appearance). Documents are useful for conversations you will need to revisit. They sit on the right hand side of the page so are easy to access without scrolling through past conversations and threads to find them. 3. Group Chat The group chat feature allows you to have live instant messaging conversations with the entire group. You don’t have to be friends on Facebook to participate in these conversations and you can easily view who is available to chat on the top right hand side of the group. This is great for co-ordinating during events as well as the planning stage. Phone calls are expensive and not everyone has Skype or windows live messenger, using the instant messaging feature gives you real-time contact with your collaborators. For us co-ordinating the live feed, particularly in the test stage this was in valuable. 4. Tagging When you have a number of people in your group tagging is a great way to make sure the right people are seeing the right posts. By tagging someone in a post or comment you are drawing his or her attention to it. This is a handy way to assign tasks. 5. Events You can create events specifically for members of a group. This is a great way to co-ordinate real life or virtual meetings, making it easier to know who is attending without constant back and forth emails or conversations to check. 6. Questions To get a consensus within a group can be hard. Conversation threads can easily span 30 comments so for specific speedy decisions the questions application helps you gauge the groups opinion quickly. Cons 1. Not everyone is on Facebook OK I know I said everyone was on Facebook but in reality, ‘almost’ everyone is on Facebook, there are a few who have held out. If even one of your organising committee isn’t there then Facebook groups cannot be the solution for you. 2. You can be added to a group even if you don’t want to be This isn’t really a con from an organisational point of view but it is by far the biggest complaint about Facebook groups. You can be added to them without your permission and they don’t all have wholesome titles. Once your added you start getting notifications and emails. As the group owner you should ask people to join and make it a rule of the group that only people who have been asked in advance should be invited. 3. The mobile version isn’t great If event organisers are accessing the group from their mobile phone, whether Android or iOS the functionality on mobile apps is very limited. You will be able to scroll through posts but they are not ordered the same neither can you access documents. If one of your organising party relies on the mobile apps Facebook groups is not for you. 4. Fast moving stream If your group is very active the news feed can move very fast meaning you could well miss out on posts. Even if you are keeping an eye on it constantly it is still possible to miss something. 5. Disappearing links Facebook has a habit of eating links that you post in groups. I assume that this is an anti spam measure but it can be quite frustrating when you are trying to post a link within a group. When testing our live feed for the first time we had this problem and it was quite frustratingfor all involved. It’s hard to know what links Facebook will like or dislike but posting them in the middle of a comment seems to work slightly better than posting the link alone. 6. Heavy on notifications Once your added to a group you automatically start getting notifications and emails. This can be quite noisy and it’s up to you to change your settings within the group. It can be quite annoying for light Facebook users so it’s worth telling them how to adjust their settings when you add them to the group. Groups are a great resource and although I’ve concentrated on organising events here there are many uses for them. Collaborating on a project, networking or even following up with groups you work with. I tend to open a Facebook group for Facebook courses I teach, this way participants can stay in touch and I’m able to answer questions in a public forum. Groups are also a handy research tool. I went to two of my Facebook groups to get some ideas for this blog post, a big thank you to all who gave suggestions. Do you use Facebook groups? What have I left out? I’d love to hear your ideas for using them so please leave a comment below.