Facebook currently has three types of groups: Secret, Closed, and Open. First, a quick overview of each - followed by my case for why the secret ones are the most powerful.
Open Facebook Groups
Open Facebook groups are a great way for people to gather together around a shared cause or vision. The downside of these groups is that they tend to become rather large and the noise (and spam) becomes overwhelming. Regrettably, it's easy to end up leaving more groups than you join for this reason.
Closed Facebook Groups
Closed groups require invitations to join, but as Facebook says: "Anyone can see the group and who's in it." So you may want to rethink joining a group called "I Attended Rocky Horror Picture Show Over 100 Times" if your goal on Facebook is to present a professional image.
Secret Facebook Groups
Secret groups are what they appear to be: they're secret. Only current group members can see the group and its posts, and only the group administrator can add/invite new members. Beyond the technical privacy benefits, secret Facebook groups have significant personal and professional advantages over open and closed groups.
How a Secret Facebook Group Changed my Life
In 2011, I met a group of businesswomen who were all conversing consistently using a certain hashtag on Twitter. We started to get to know each other quite well, and decided to take some of our conversations out of the public eye via our very own secret Facebook group.
What happened after that is indescribable. This group of women have become WAY more than just "Twitter friends." We have personally and professionally gotten to know each other on a deeper level than ever expected. We share about personal joys and issues, as well as professional successes and challenges. These women feel like family to me.
In addition to communicating daily in our secret Facebook group, we group video chat once a month, and most of us have now met in person during various travels to each other's states. Almost all of us went on a group trip to Arizona last fall to spend a fantastic long weekend together. We are friends, mentors, and professional colleagues that consistently refer business to one another due to the level of trust that has been built up between us.
The Secret Power of Secret Facebook Groups
So how exactly did the secret Facebook group contribute to the building of the amazing relationships described above?
Secret groups provide an opportunity to develop the seeds of friendship that often can only cultivated within the privacy of "real life" gatherings. Social networking is great for meeting new people, but really getting to know someone requires an element of privacy. Secret Facebook groups provide that privacy.
As people get to know one another, they naturally develop empathy. Secret Facebook groups often evolve to become a support group, even if they started out purely professional in nature. Members offer up their experience and advice, a shoulder to lean on, or some humor to help other members through their day. Those of us in the technology sector often forget that as humans who are inherently social, we need each other and even long for deeper connections.
The trust that develops over time can sprout into collaboration and/or referred business. The format of a Facebook group allows members to collectively brainstorm about projects via the posting of photos, documents, and organized conversations. In doing so, members have the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise to one another, which when combined with the trust built in these groups, leads to referred business.
Share Your "Secret"
So there you have it - those are the "secret" powers of secret Facebook groups as I have experienced them. I know of many other people who use these groups in this way as well. If you're one of them, I'd love for you to share your experience in the comments below.