Facebook groups are nothing new – they were among the early features on the platform – but they’re having a moment in the spotlight as the sudden star of personal social networking adoption. Are you a craft beer enthusiast? A female motorcyclist? Rest assured, there’s a group for that. Groups are closed spaces where people gather to discuss a specific topic, connect about real-life events, or to seek out help of others who have similar interests. They connect you to people who might not be your actual Facebook “friend,” because you don’t know them in real life. Groups create new communities of people who wouldn’t have otherwise become acquainted.
Groups are powerful tools for mobilization. In the past year, Facebook group membership has grown by 40 percent, with 1.4 billion people using groups each month. Of those, “200 million or so” groups are those Facebook deemed “meaningful.” These are groups that “upon joining, quickly become the most important part of our social experiences and an important part of our physical support structure,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes in his Building Global Community manifesto. A new parent joining a parenting group after having a child fits this bill, for example.
Factors that play into this sudden explosion of groups goes beyond Facebook algorithm recalibrations and platform tweaks, writes Hootsuite Founder and CEO Ryan Holmes. The growth concept points “a way forward for social media in general — a means to recover the trust and authenticity that made Facebook and other platforms so revolutionary to begin with,” he writes.
What is OK for your employees to discuss privately in a consumer social network, and what conversations should you require to be on a secure, enterprise social network?
People are clearly craving authentic connections in close-knit communities. This isn’t just in our personal lives, however; your employees want authentic connection and community with each other, too. With that said, Facebook groups aren’t a substitute for an enterprise-controlled social network. There’s a fine line between your employees connecting to talk about 100 percent personal information and talking about work. You need to think about where your comfort zone is in this regard. What is OK for your employees to discuss privately in a consumer social network, and what conversations should you require to be on a secure, enterprise social network?
Employees Are Already Using Facebook Groups Without Your Knowledge
Over the past two years, the Talk Social to Me team has conducted hundreds of discovery interviews with employees ranging from merchandisers to salespeople, nurses to bartenders, mechanics to engineers and more. For every company that we’ve talked to, we have encountered countless employees using Facebook groups, often paired with WhatsApp exchanges, to connect during and outside business hours. Typical reasons for using Facebook groups include:
- Congratulating each other on milestones and accomplishments
- Swapping shifts and hours
- Managers circumventing official communications channels
- Planning and promoting company events
- Sharing ideas for office improvements
- Asking each other questions about deadlines and tasks
The danger of conducting these conversations in a Facebook group –– versus an enterprise social network like Workplace by Facebook –– is that the company owns none of the information. Not to mention the wage and hour legal concerns associated with employees connecting off the clock. You haven’t asked employees to discuss work off-hours, but the fact of the matter is, they’re doing it anyway, and it’s symptomatic of an ineffective internal communications process that isn’t fast enough, or robust enough, to meet varying degrees of communication habits and needs.
These unsanctioned Facebook groups often come as a surprise to many IT and communications leaders with whom we engage to launch and revive official enterprise-controlled networks. But it should not bring shock that if you haven’t been providing sufficient opportunities for employees to connect, they will likely facilitate it themselves.
What to Do if You Encounter Unsanctioned ‘Company’ Facebook Groups
- Take inventory – How many unsanctioned “company” groups exist? Ask your network within the company. Search for your company name on Facebook and see what appears, aside from your official company Page. Gather more information through discovery interviews. Create a list of existing unsanctioned groups, along with a hyperlink and administrator’s name.
- Start a deeper discovery process before introducing Workplace by Facebook – Are unsanctioned Facebook groups alone a compelling enough a reason to adopt Workplace by Facebook organization-wide? Maybe. The most successful enterprise social networks Talk Social to Me engages with start with their “why.” What is your vision for Workplace? What are its intended use cases? Why and how will employees use it? We’ve helped plenty of organizations to determine whether or not Workplace is a good fit. We suggest asking yourself these eight questions to determine if you have the right level of commitment in place to realize success – for the long term.
- Introduce Workplace thoughtfully and gradually – Don’t expect the C-Suite’s approval and a company-wide invitation email to be enough to make the platform an overnight success. Have a plan. Invite others from different departments and seniority levels to the table. Be ready to commit. Check out our tips and tricks to ensure that the enterprise social network is a success at your organization.
- Reach out to the group administrators – Explain that your organization has adopted Workplace by Facebook, and why it’s important they migrate.
- Offer to help – Give him or her the keys to be successful on the enterprise social network. For example, it could be a private walkthrough of the platform’s features. Make sure they understand the importance of security and compliance.
- Partner with this person – If someone went out of their way to create a “company” group on Facebook, clearly they’re passionate about community, and likely have good intentions (unless the group is titled “We Hate Acme Corp.”). Consider recognizing this person as a “Champion” and giving them special treatment in Workplace once they begin to contribute valuable content.