Facebook Groups and (Fan) Pages should be merged

by Maskil on 3 Jun 2010

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I recently volunteered to become the Webmaster and all-round IT Guy for our local community police forum, the Norwood Community Police Forum (NCPF). (Officially, “The Norwood Community Police Forum (NCPF) is a community based organization that works in close harmony with community stakeholders. It creates a link between community and police and improves co-operation between both parties.”)

The NCPF’s two digital assets were:

  • A Website. Technically a blog, as its platform is the WordPress content management system (CMS)
  • A Facebook Group (note: Group, not (Fan) Page)

The Website didn’t present any real challenges, as I’ve been using self-hosted WordPress for a couple of years now. The limitations (irritations) I have found can probably be addressed by using a better Theme.

I hadn’t managed a Facebook Group before, but wasn’t expecting any issues, as I maintain two Facebook Pages. I had three short-term objectives for the Group:

  1. Create a Facebook “Page Badge” linking to the Group from the NCPF Website
  2. Automatically update the Group Wall each time there’s a new post on our blog
  3. Alert the committee members each time there’s activity on our Group Wall or Discussions

Sound easy for a seasoned IT person? I thought so too!

To my surprise, however, I found that FB apparently doesn’t officially support Facebook Badges for Groups! After some diligent research (I Googled a whole bunch of search terms), I finally came across a useful little FB App called Page Badge (Beta). First problem solved!

The next shock came when I realised that FB Groups do not support FB Apps (certainly not in the same way as Pages do). That scuppered my intention to use NetworkedBlogs to update the Wall! The workaround of using Notes to import a Feed is also not available. More diligent research, and I laid my hands on RSS Graffiti. Second problem solved!

I held out no hope whatsoever of finding a solution to the third challenge, that of automatic alerts for new Wall/Discussion items; I’d run into that particular brick wall before. The block is there intentionally, put there in support of FB’s contradictory stance on Privacy controls.

Out of the blue, I received a note from Scott Beach, who’d seen one of the questions I’d posted and asked if I’d found a solution (Scott runs an outfit called Adaptive Web Design). He dived in, and after trying various approaches, it became apparent that a solution using Pipes was the only workable one.

Using Scott’s Facebook Group, Fan or Page RSS Pipe, plus the Facebook Discussion Board RSS Feed from Andre Levy, I should now be able to immediately alert the committee to activity on our Facebook Group (we crave feedback!). I haven’t put this Live yet.

The differences between Facebook Pages and Groups are too subtle for most of us, and there really doesn’t appear to be much logic behind why these two separate objects exist, what the differences are, and why they should be there.

(The table in this blog post does a nice job of laying out the differences, but they still look pretty arbitrary.)

The only meaningful difference between the two is that Pages are Public, while Groups are (ostensibly) Private. If that’s the case, then why not merge the two – combining the best features and functionality of each – and allow Page creators/admins to designate whether it’s a Private or a Public Page? So much simpler for administrators, developers, users and mere mortals. But then again, simplicity has never been a hallmark of Facebook!


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