A common question I’ve received since my Facebook webinar two weeks ago is: “What is the difference between a group and a page on Facebook? And which should my parish use?” (OK, that’s two questions, but work with me here.)
It’s a fair question; on the surface the two seem to be very similar. Both allow you to
- publish information to a select group of Facebook members;
- post information that will appear on members’ News Feeds;
- and assign multiple administrators.
That having been said, I think there are five good reasons for a parish to choose a page instead of a group:
- Original Purpose – Pages were originally designed to accommodate businesses, celebrities, non-profits, and other entities who wanted a presence on Facebook. Pages provide a way for these groups to share their message in the Facebook environment. Groups are designed for more detailed conversations with a smaller audience; they contain more tools for collaborative interaction (such as the ability to work on the same document and engage in group chats) that don’t work for broad message delivery.
- Sharing Items – One major difference is in what people can do with the information on your page. In groups, the information stays in the group; there is no way for someone to easily re-publish a link, picture, or event from the group to their own friends. With a page, however, information posted to the page comes with a “Share” link. (see image) When clicked, users can re-post the link, picture or event onto their page, effectively increasing your audience.
- Linking and Analytical Tools – Facebook offers pages many more tools for tracking the interactions between your fans and your page. If you have a campaign in place to increase the number of fans on your Facebook page, these tools can be invaluable for measuring your success. Facebook also offers “widgets” that you can add to your regular web site directing users to your Facebook page; no such widgets currently exist for groups. (Groups also don’t get custom URLs or photo galleries.)
- User Expectations – When people click the Facebook icon on your web site they expect to go to a page, not a group. I also think that, because of the terminology used, there is a lower psychological barrier to someone choosing to “like” your page as opposed to “joining” your group. “Join” implies a greater level of commitment and approval than “like”; if your goal is to reach as many people as possible, then a page is the way to go.
- FBML – Facebook Markup Language allows advanced users to insert HTML code directly into a tab on your page. This lets you create all sorts of tricks. For one example, go to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois’ Facebook page and click the “Parishes” tab. This list of parish links could not be placed in a group. Now, imagine a similar list of your parish’s outreach ministries on your page, with links to their pages on your web site.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for Facebook groups in your parish. I think they are well-suited for smaller ministries. For instance, a Facebook group set up for the parish youth group can provide a place where the youth minister can interact with young people without having to friend them directly and (assuming the group is an “open” group, which I recommend) where anyone can monitor the activity going on. But for the wider parish community, I definitely recommend a page.