In today's post, we're going to look at the REAL differences between using a Facebook Group and using a Facebook Page for your business. Not just what Facebook says about the two options, which frankly doesn't help all that much, but the actual pros and cons in practice - from your future Facebook community's point of view as well as yours. And there are some huge implications which most people aren't aware of.
Facebook Page vs Facebook Group - Definitions
So, let's start with what Facebook has to say.
"...allow entities such as public figures and organizations to broadcast information to their fans."
Whereas Facebook Groups are for
"..members... to connect, share and even collaborate on a given topic or idea".
So, here's the first point about the difference between the two, and it's an important one: Pages are intended primarily for one-to-many broadcast. You run the show, your Likers join in. That's not so say that discussions can't take place between community members, they can, but it'll be within the context of a post that you initiated.
One of the things that many people are unaware of with Pages, is that if a user posts on your Page, only you and anyone directly visiting that Page will actually see it. It will NOT appear in other Likers' News Feeds, UNLESS you choose to share the post. Depending on the type of organisation you are, and what you're trying to achieve with Facebook, that may be an advantage or a disadvantage - more on this below.
The key word in the Group description is collaborate. Groups are much more about a many-to-many discussion; think of them as all the members sitting in a big circle in a room, rather than classroom style with you at the front!
What that means in practice, is that when any group member posts to the group, that post will go into all the other members' news feeds (News Feed Algorithm notwithstanding) without any kind of involvement, or moderation, from you. You will still have the ability to delete inappropriate posts and so on, but the basic assumption is that all members are of equal importance in terms of creating content.
Pages vs Groups - pros and cons
So hopefully you can already see that there is a distinct difference between Pages and Groups. They're definitely not just interchangeable. But beyond the basic structure, there are some additional pros and cons which you need to be aware of when choosing your Facebook presence.
Facebook Page Pros
With a Facebook Page, you get access to a whole host of enhanced features which aren't available to Group owners. These include:
Promotion. The opportunity to promote your content to a wider audience, via Promoted Posts, Advertising and so on, is only available to Facebook Pages, not to Groups. If attracting new members, or promoting specific content or offers in a short time frame is important to you, then this is going to be a deal breaker and you will need to use a Page.
Analytics. The facebook Insights package, which is included free of charge with all Pages, is very powerful and is continuing to be actively developed by Facebook - so it's likely to get even better in the future. Insights can show you all kinds of valuable stuff from who your Likers are (where they come from, what age group and gender they are, and even when most of them are logged on to Facebook) to which of your Posts are most effective. You can even compare the performance of your Page with that of a competitor, without the competitor knowing about it. So again, this is a huge plus for Pages over Groups.
Visibility. When you're in Admin mode for your Page, posting on other Pages creates a nice live link back to your own organisation.
News Feed. Liking another Page while you're in Admin mode will pull that Page's content into your Page's News Feed (not your personal feed). This allows you to automatically collate content from partners or businesses which are complementary to yours, for example wedding photographers or florists if you're promoting a wedding venue. That not only helps you keep in touch with those businesses, but it will often provide a good source of content which will be valuable to your own Likers, too.
Facebook Page Cons
Community spirit and engagement. Tthere are exceptions, but the majority of Pages find creating a real spirit of community - where Likers actively request and value other Likers' opinions - an ongoing challenge.
You will be fighting the News Feed algorithm. Although we've not studied this scientifically, our own experience and those of our clients suggests that Facebook is far less generous when deciding how many Page posts are going to reach Likers' newsfeeds, than they are with Group posts.
Moving on to Groups, there are pros and cons here, too. (Sorry - we never said it would be an easy decision!).
Facebook Group Pros
The major advantage is the way that Group posts work, in terms of the visibility of all posts to all members, and the higher probability (we believe) of a Group post showing up in a members' News Feed vs an un-Boosted Page post.
Privacy options. The other Group-only function is the ability to make the group Closed. This means that a group administrator has to approve every new member before they get access, and group discussions are not visible to non members. Of course, if you're aiming to build visibility on Facebook, this is a bad thing. But if you're dealing with a sensitive topic / product / service which your users may not want to be seen discussing in "public", this is the only way to go.
It's also worth considering making a Group Closed in other circumstances, though. With an Open Group, each time a member comments on a post, that comment is likely to be included in their friends' news feeds. If the Group discussions are on a fairly niche area, and it is (or is likely to become) a very busy group, members may actually prefer it if that wasn't the case. That's not necessarily because it's a sensitive topic, but just because their friends may not share their avid interest in tropical fish breeding! So by Closing the group, you're removing the issue of members self-limiting the amount they engage because their friends are telling them they're sick of hearing about Guppies.
Apart from missing out on the promotional and analytical functions you get with a Page, the other issue we see with Groups is futureproofing. Group functionality hasn't been actively developed by Facebook for a while, and unlike Business Pages they aren't a direct revenue generating area. So in theory, there may be a higher risk that Facebook bins the Group function in the future.
However, good Groups definitely make a big contribution to Facebook's "stickiness" - the frequency with which users log in, and the amount of time they spend on the site. So we don't think Facebook are likely to kill off Groups altogether, but they may miss out on function enhancements in the future.
So, when do I use a Facebook Group?!
Hopefully you can analyse the pros and cons of each option above in terms of the impact on your own organisation type and objectives, as there really isn't one right or wrong answer here. In general, if your Facebook strategy is quite strongly commercial - for example, you want to use it to sell directly, make special offers, reach out to a targeted audience quickly - then a Page will likely be the right choice.
On the other hand, if your product or service would benefit from a much "softer" approach, and/or you're in a very niche area, then a Group might work better for you. For example, let's say you're selling Dog Agility equipment, and the community of people who own dogs and do agility with them is quite small - but extremely committed and interested in sharing knowledge. In those circumstances giving up some control in favour of hosting a very active community (to which you then have access for sales purposes!) might well be worth it.
Have we missed anything? We're still realising little differences in the way both options work which can make a big difference, so if you're aware of anything else please do comment below.