By Andrew Hutchison

Source: Social Media Today

Facebook has today hosted its annual Communities Summit, which, like all events in 2020, is entirely online – you can re-watch all the keynote speeches and events here.

And as with past Communities Summit events, Facebook has announced a range of new features for groups, and provided some new insights into group usage, engagement, etc.

Here’s what’s been announced:

Groups Usage

With people seeking new ways to stay connected while physically distanced due to COVID-19, Facebook groups have seen a significant increase in usage, with more than 1.8 billion people now using Facebook Groups every month.

Facebook groups usage

Facebook reported that 1.4 billion people were using groups every month last October, so it’s added another 4 million active groups users over the past year.

As noted, many of those people have joined groups as a means to stay connected while adhering to lockdown measures, while that figure also takes into account the many groups that Facebook has removed, for various reasons, in recent months, including thousands of groups linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory which were deleted back in August.

As explained by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

“Whether you’re organizing your groups around volunteering or a passion for singalongs, strong online communities like the Facebook groups help bring people closer together, and as individuals, the groups that you’ve all built change people’s lives […] and on a collective scale, that positive impact is just massive.”

Zuckerberg’s statement aligns with Facebook’s renewed push to underline the benefits that Facebook provides, amid various reports that have highlighted the division and angst that Facebook has caused over time. One former Facebook manager recently noted that the company’s all-out focus on maximizing user engagement has come at a significant cost, with the platform amplifying disagreement for the sake of keeping people online.

There are, of course, differing opinions on this, but Facebook can definitely argue that its groups, in particular, have provided significant benefit for many people – and at 1.8 billion active groups users, they’ve clearly become a key means of keeping people connected during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Facebook also notes that more than 70 million people now serve as Facebook group admins across the world.

Admin Assist

In terms of new features, first off, Facebook has announced a new set of admin tools for Facebook groups, which will provide more ways for group admins to control their group discussions, and manage engagement.

The biggest addition, from a group management perspective, is Admin Assist, which is a new process that will enable group admins to set up automated rules for post moderation, saving them time in having to sort through common problematic posts.

“For example, you can limit promotional content in your group by automatically declining posts that have certain keywords, or that include a link, or are from people who haven’t been members of the group for a specific amount of time. In short, Admin Assist enables you to set controls on what content is published and who can post in your Group.”

Facebook Groups Admin Assist

As you can see here, the new Admin Assist tools can cover a range of actions, which will save group admins time and effort, enabling them to better focus on building community and maximizing group engagement.

They won’t cover all issues, but the spam tools, in particular, could be hugely beneficial – as anybody running a group is no doubt aware.

Admin Assist will be rolling out to Facebook group admins “over the coming months” and will initially only be available on desktop.

Group Topics

In addition to this, Facebook’s also adding new pinnable topics within groups, defined by hashtags.

“Now, admins and members will be able to add a topic to any of their posts by simply using a hashtag before a keyword or phrase, and in turn, admins can then pin topics to the top of their groups for people to easily see.” 

Facebook group topics

Facebook’s actually turning to hashtags more and more as a content sorting option – just this week, Facebook alerted group admins to its new ‘hashtag challenge’ option for groups, as a new means to increase engagement.

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