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Facebook Groups and Pages: What’s the difference?

The difference between Facebook pages and groups is profound explains WNIP’s Deputy Editor, Esther Kezia Thorpe, not just in terms of reach but also engagement.

If you’re not particularly au fait with publishing on Facebook, it’s easy enough to be unsure of the difference between Facebook groups and pages, and which one you should focus on.

After Facebook announced a series of algorithm changes late last year, a number of publishers decided to start up or shift their attention to groups instead.

This guide will show you the differences between groups and pages, and where you should be focusing your attention if you choose to put your content on Facebook.

Facebook Pages

A page is a bit like a profile, but for a brand, publisher or celebrity. People can choose to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ a page – if they ‘Like’ it, it shows up on their own profile and newsfeed but if they just ‘Follow’, they see updates from that page without it appearing as one of their likes on their profile.

However, if someone ‘Likes’ your page, that’s no guarantee that they’ll see content from it, especially if they also like a lot of other pages. When people like a page, they also follow it by default, which will show a varying number of your updates in their newsfeed (depending on engagement), but they can choose to adjust this level of following to prioritise content from the page, or to not see updates at all. This level of granularity is rarely used or understood by most users, so it’s not something to worry about.

One of the key factors about a Page is that it’s public. People can search for it and see content posted to that page without liking or following it themselves, and if users interact with posts, it can show in their friend’s newsfeeds as well. This means Pages are great for showcasing your content, and is a front-facing window to the Facebook world (if its algorithms are kind).

Facebook provide a decent set of analytics and publishing tools for pages, including being able to see when your audience is most active, post engagements, scheduling and a host of advertising tools. However, you can’t see details of individuals who are following your pages, or interact with them outside of your posts.

Pages can be verified, but that depends on whether Facebook deems you eligible for verification. Verification ensures that users know your page is legitimate, and will improve where it shows up in searches.

Facebook Groups

By contrast, Facebook Groups are a more private affair. Groups can be affiliated with pages, which can be a great way of building a more engaged community.

Groups are used for all sorts of things, from special interests to local buying and selling, and even local news and events. Posts in Groups are prioritised in individual’s newsfeeds, but unlike Pages, if a user interacts with a Group post, it won’t share this in their friend’s newsfeeds. Members can choose whether to receive notifications for everything posted in the group, just highlights or to not have notifications at all.

When setting up a Group, there are a variety of different privacy methods available, from public – meaning anyone can join, to completely private Groups which don’t show up in search. There are also options where people can request to join – a function that’s useful to keep spammers out. As a result, most groups tend to be smaller than pages, and grow more slowly.

Administrators of Groups have virtually no access to any analytics tools, but are able to see names and public profiles of people who have joined. They are also able to invite people to join the Group, and if they are also an admin of a Page, they can bulk invite those fans to join a Group affiliated to a Page.

Which is best for me?

A word of warning on this section: Facebook is constantly developing both features, and as anyone heavily reliant on Pages learned, they can change the algorithm to favour one or the other very quickly.

As a general guideline, Pages are a great shop front. People can see straight away what you’re about and can choose whether they’re interested in more, but unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of time and effort responding to comments, it’s seen as a ‘push’ method of getting articles, pictures and videos out to a wide audience.

On the other hand, Groups encourage a much more intimate level of conversation, and if set up correctly, can be a good way to gather intelligent and honest feedback from readers. Quartz launched a new edition called ‘Quartz At Work’ last October but chose to do it as a closed Facebook Group, rather than a Page. People are much happier to answer questions and respond in a closed environment which won’t be broadcast across their friend’s newsfeeds, and Quartz have got their own editors and reporters involved in many of the discussions.

Vox have also experimented with building community Groups on Facebook around social issues, and have said they were surprised at how thoughtful many of the comments and debates are around particularly sensitive questions, where the response on a Page would have been much more aggressive.

It’s not an either-or situation. If you have the resources to do both, then it’s certainly worth it for the different levels of engagement. But aside from that, it depends whether you’re looking to find a wider audience or deepen engagement with your existing fans.

A final word: Linkedin Groups and Pages work very differently. More on that soon!

Further reading:

How publishers are monetizing their Facebook groups – Digiday

9 Observations from Vox About Building and Growing Groups – Facebook

How do top publishers drive comments on Facebook and Instagram? – Newswhip

Why Quartz Launched its New Edition With a Facebook Group – Facebook

Download WNIP’s comprehensive new report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.

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