Facebook’s secret groups

It’s been almost two years since Facebook introduced private family groups, and then last October the concept was extended with the introduction of ‘secret’ groups. But many people are unaware of this function or don’t understand how to use it.

The original idea behind them was to let family or other intimate groups of individuals share very private content without exposing it to their larger Facebook friend communities. The launch last autumn extended the concept for use among other small groups, for example sports teams or book clubs.

The function is easy to use and is a great way to improve communication among group members and still keep important or sensitive information private.

When a group member posts to the group, everyone in the group receives a notification about that post. Since information posted in a secret group is only visible to group members by default, users can feel confident about who sees what is posted. In addition, users can chat amongst themselves at once with the group chat function.

Lately, I’ve been helping companies leverage secret groups to improve their communications with small, key groups.

For one company, secret groups is proving to be a great way to dip a cautious toe in social media waters for a management team that is a bit skittish, fearing loss of both control and competitiveness.

To help the management understand the true benefits of social media and get more comfortable with the tools, we’ve opted to create a small, secret group of the company’s top clients with the aim of recruiting them as brand ambassadors. We provide this group with premium content and a ‘news here first’ service. The group also serves to facilitate conversations that will provide management with insight to help better serve all clients going forward.

It’s early days yet, and there have been some bumps on the road. We soon discovered that staff members were reticent to participate in the secret group because they feared sharing their private FB profile content with colleagues and clients. We’ve countered this by providing individuals with training on how to set up friend lists and adjust privacy controls within their own profiles.

Another trend among staff members is to have back-story discussions via email. Instead of using the secret group page for frank discussion, they tend to revert to using email for one-on-one commentary. This is a shame because it undermines the main goals of the group…to share insight and build strong relationships with key customers. We are countering this through education and example. We are slowly building trust among users by listening to their concerns about group sharing, helping them understand and trust ‘wisdom of the crowd’.

For example, a news story which included a positive mention of competitors was posted to the group. Staff members were concerned about exposing clients to such messages, and the emails started flying. But after some discussion, staff started to understand this was a great starting point for discussion of a serious industry issue and an opportunity establish credibility and leadership among this key customer group. Then they contributed their views to the secret group.

For this company, we are restricting their FB presence to the secret group for now as a proof of concept so the management team can get used to the idea of social media. Once we’ve gained trust and confidence, we’ll look at expanding this company’s activity across other social platforms.

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Sherrilynne Starkie is a consultant at PDMS. For almost 18 years, Sherrilynne has been advising blue-chip organisations on both sides of the pond, covering Britain, Canada and the United States. For three years, Sherrilynne was the Tech Talk columnist for the Isle of Man newspapers. She serves on the steering committee for Isle of Man Women in Business, is on the Executive Council for the Isle of Man Junior Chamber of Commerce. In the past she was on the management committee for the Isle of Man British Computer Society and the marketing committee of Junior Achievement.