One of the larger temptations a business can face when setting up a community is to take the quick and easy route by relying on Facebook. After all, early this year, the social media platform changed its public mission statement to: “[G]ive people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
Putting yourself in a business owner’s shoes, you can understand the allure. Whereas most platforms are very costly, Facebook is free. Plus, with over one billion active daily users, your customers are most likely on there already and generally understand how to utilize the interface – which means little time needs to be spent trying to create new habits or teach functionality. If you can separate this from the fact that the entire system is just designed to be an attention sucking black hole, those are compelling business reasons to jump on the bandwagon.
However, this shiny exterior camouflages some serious flaws and shortcomings when it comes to growing and enhancing a true community.
The biggest issue is easily how little control you have over anything. The data? Not yours. Want to tag new members or send out messages to people? Better not have too many! If tomorrow morning, Facebook just decided to get rid of all groups, what would you do? What happens if a competitor files a complaint against you as a user (getting your account locked) or your group (getting it shut down)?
At any point in time, Facebook can make any change and implement it whenever it wants. It doesn’t care what you think. You don’t have a contract with it. Facebook doesn’t make money from you. And, let’s be honest, people probably aren’t looking at every complaint – instead, it’s relying on an algorithm to decide what to drop the ban hammer.
While these have all focused on the community owner, let’s look at the community member’s perspective as well.
The big problem here is Facebook is inherently designed for the moment. It’s not easy to go back in time and find information that’s already been shared. Anything that’s not in the most recent 10 “threads” may as well not even exist. If you don’t ask your question at the right point in time (when people are logged in), your question is likely to be overshadowed by other questions that were posted at the right time – and there’s little that can be done to draw attention to this other than posting again.
Facebook is designed for conversations, but it’s not designed for community. At its heart, it’s really a marketing platform designed for companies to have basic conversations with people, but not to be co-creators. In essence, it’s an interactive FAQ platform. It should be part of your business plan, but separate from your community. The conversations may be a mile wide, but the depth you require for community simply doesn’t exist there.
For more information, you may be interested in:
- What are you (technologically) addicted to?
- Community Signal Podcast: Online Communities in the Post-Facebook Era (start at the 33:00 mark to hear about some problems with Facebook’s communities)
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