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Improvements to Facebook Groups

BY Michael Bassik | Tuesday, October 9 2007

techPresident reported yesterday that "a number of participants are going to press Facebook to get rid of its 1000-person cap on email to group members" at the Facebook Political Summit today in Washington, DC. Indeed, about 50 of us packed into the morning session and listened on as Facebook made two big announcements certain to make every group administrator happy.

Messaging to 1,000+ Supporters
Facebook currently prohibits administrators from sending bulk messages once a group reaches more than 1,000 supporters. There have been a few hints that Facebook was about to change this rule, including a recent message to the presidential campaigns stating that they’re "working on allowing politicians to message all their supporters."

Facebook representatives this morning acknowledged a forthcoming "fundamental shift" in policies that will soon render the 1,000-supporter cut-off a thing of the past –- and not just for political candidates, but for other groups, as well. Changes should take place before January.

Group News Feed Integration
Facebook developer Ezra Callahan also confirmed that changes are being made to the way in which group-related activities integrate with the Facebook News Feed. Today, members of groups do not receive notifications when, for example, a group administrator adds photos or creates an event. Ezra indicated that this was all about to change and will be rolled out in a few months.

In addition to the changes above, Facebook acknowledged that it was exploring additional message segmentation tools that would, for example, allow groups to message supporters based on certain geographic criteria. However, Facebook developers expressed doubts that the service would provide any reporting on messaging activities, such as message open rates.

What Does It All Mean?
Facebook has become the tool of choice for political and non-profit organizations to identify and energize supporters. But once your group reached 1,000 friends, you were suddenly hit with a "success penalty" (a term coined by MoveOn.org's Adam Green) and could no longer use Facebook to communicate with or activate supporters. By changing the messaging policy, Facebook will soon find itself the center of activism online. Some predictions:

1. Facebook users will begin to think twice before joining large groups while simultaneously gaining greater control over which groups have the ability to send messages and post stories in their News Feeds.

2. Campaigns and organizations will (1) spend considerable amounts of time recruiting supporters to join their Facebook groups and (2) begin to invest in ads on Facebook and evaluate them on a "cost-per-group-signup" metric.

3. Companies like Convio and Democracy in Action will find new sources of revenue in building "message your member of Congress" applications and licensing them to groups for use within Facebook.