18 Social Media Insiders React to New Facebook Groups, Privacy

Hanging on to every word said at yesterday’s Facebook announcement were the developers and agencies that have built their businesses on Facebook’s offerings. I reached out to this influential and insightful “group” for reactions on the revamped Facebook Groups, allowing users to download their data and the new application dashboard.

After the jump, some comments that will surprise you.

Kevin Barenblat, Co-founder and CEO, Context Optional

Launching Facebook’s expanded groups product is a smart move by the company that serves a dual purpose: the increased privacy settings placate critics of the company’s emphasis on making the world too open while simultaneously strengthening Facebook’s ownership of the protected web beyond Google’s reach. The announcement feels perfectly timed–following the release of The Social Network, it returns some of the exclusivity that made early Facebook so successful.

Michael Lazerow, Chairman and CEO, Buddy Media

Any time Facebook gives users more control over their information, that’s a good thing. In terms of brands, Mark Zuckerberg said at the event today, “For brands, we have Pages… going forward there is nothing stopping for them (brands) from making a group,” but added, “Pages are much better for you to build a massive open ended community.” At Buddy Media, we’ve seen brands have tremendous success with Pages.

Dave Kerpen, CEO, Likeable

Social Executive Summary: Google Wave meets Twitter Lists meets Facebook’s social graph. HUGE win for Facebook.

Facebook’s revamped groups product is an excellent solution for online instant communication and collaboration amongst groups of people. For example – employees on a team, students in a class, colleagues in an industry and members of a club. We used Yammer for internal communication at Likeable and I’ve already set up two Facebook groups to replace it. Groups adds great potential for enterprise use of Facebook.

James Borow, CEO, Focused Labs

Evolving from a private social network for college students to over a half a billion users has its fair share of unintended consequences. Just ask anyone who found out the hard way that not every status, picture or comment was meant to be shared with their entire social network. And that is why Groups is so important – it is Facebook’s proactive solution to the problems that arise when the social graph evolves from small and manageable to large and complicated. Zuckerberg is empowering people to share and communicate on their own terms (as opposed to Facebook’s) and in the process is bringing the social graph back to basics.

Prakash Mishra, Co-CEO and Founder, Offerpop

Facebook’s new Groups feature is simple, designed for an average Facebook user, and most importantly, tied neatly into the usage patterns of its users. It’s not a stretch seeing Facebook Groups taking off and leapfrogging well-established alternatives like Google Groups.

Meanwhile, we love the new Applications Dashboard! This is a significant step toward creating greater trust and transparency between users and app developers. When combined with Profile Download, Facebook is signaling a serious commitment to giving users much needed control over their private information. Overall, these are really smart moves, good for Facebook, Facebook users, and their ecosystem partners.

Gail Scibelli, VP of Marketing, Organic

The new Groups feature seems like a good alternative to the Friends List feature, which is only used by 5% of Facebook users. Users seem to appreciate the ability to set up private groups with a small number of people. While Facebook has not yet mentioned advertising in this context, one could see how valuable it would be for brands to communicate their messages to specific groups of people whose interests coincide with a company’s products or services.

Tom Johansmeyer, Senior Content Director, enter:marketing

There’s probably going to be a marketing rush to Facebook Groups, as there is to any new feature on any major social media platform. In the B2B space, though, the smartest thing to do is join a few groups first and get a feel for the dynamic. Rather than try to own the conversation, which you can do on your Facebook page, participate in it, learn something from your target market and use that intelligence to market more effectively through other channels.

Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Vice President Marketing, Involver

We think Groups represents a massive opportunity for creating participation – Facebook’s old groups had the problem of fading into obscurity and not being feature rich, with the New Groups, users will ultimately be far more engaged in the groups they stay in. There are open questions with regard to combating overzealous marketers trying to abuse the product as well as giving more granular control to individual users about interacting with different groups at different levels.

Tyler Willis, our Head of Brand Strategy, has posted a vBlog further exploring Facebook Groups.

Connie Bensen, Director of Social Media and Community Strategy, Alterian

Offering the ability to download user information will help brands that thrive in Facebook by offering a new wealth of data available for companies to harvest. Facebook was long criticized as a walled garden. Many regular Facebook users were concerned about the fragmentation happening in having their blog comments in a separate stream on Facebook. I predict that soon the Facebook comments will be viewable on blogs.

Additionally, the dashboard will be a great relief to many of us. Facebook was notoriously difficult to navigate in regard to changing settings. Kudos to them for making it more user friendly!

From Giovanni Rodriguez, CMO, BroadVision

This has potential to disrupt the business collaboration market because, quite frankly, this is Facebook, and they’ve got so many people on their platform. But the disruption is likely to play out differently across different sectors of the market. On the low-end, Facebook Groups is likely to put pressure on vendors that provide simple collaboration tools — for example, 37Signals, Ning, and Google. On the higher end of the market, the disruption is likely to be more subtle. The enterprise will require a whole lot more functionality, and more in the way of privacy and security. But Facebook Groups could help evangelize the new architectural requirements for business collaboration. Collaboration with people outside your company needs to be in the cloud – how else would you be able to freely connect and collaborate with them? And it has to be do-it-yourself, scalable, and in an environment that allows you to move easily from public to private spaces, and, yes, manage all those spaces. Long-term, that’s probably bad news for older “software”-based systems like JIVE and Microsoft Sharepoint. But it’s good news for the social business cloud.

Brandon Whalen, Room 214

Facebook has created a rather useful tool for businesses, or any organization, with their new groups feature. It is a perfect place for you and your co-workers to post ideas and to have discussions within the same stream. There is a huge difference between Facebook groups a number of costly project management tools, because people will actually use groups. The new groups feature somewhat successfully solves Facebook’s biggest fundamental flaw, a lack of exclusiveness. In real life we do not share ideas with our entire network of friends, we share targeted ideas with different groups of friends. You don’t interact the same with your college buddies as you do with your coworkers.

David Rollo, SVP/Director of Digital & Social Media Strategy, 22squared

Facebook Groups will allow you to hyper-target your friends or brand influencers into groups – clique as opposed to mass networking – so you can centralize your conversations, shared content and experiences.

Michael Della Penna, EVP, StrongMail

Facebook Groups is a proactive move that addresses an age old problem – clutter and relevance. We should expect to see more and more of these micro-targeting capabilities across all social networks as they continue to evolve and mature as viable advertising platforms. That being said, Groups is not a replacement for Fan pages as it lacks some of the functionality for brands. However, the ability to eliminate clutter and improve relevance is something that both brands and consumers will both increasingly demand as these channels mature. In addition, the release of the new Groups also presents a potentially interesting advertising opportunity as advertisers look to target specific interests to grow their Likes and more importantly to grow a highly engaged community around a shared passion (sports, music, food, etc.) which are often the most successful engagements.

Sandra Fathi, President, Affect Strategies

These changes are a smart, strategic move for Facebook. They will encourage folks to use Facebook in more areas of their lives, allowing individuals to connect to business contacts, family and casual acquaintances without fear of oversharing or posting irrelevant content. This is Facebook recognizing that adults have more complex types of relationships and not just ‘friends.’ This move is going to give other social networks a run for their money. Those networks that previously had a value proposition based on the type of relationship – like business only – are going to feel the heat.

Craig Daitch, Senior Vice President of Activation, Converseon

Facebook understands that privacy is at the forefront of conversation in social media. Through the ability to download all personal information accrued through one’s experiences, Facebook ensures that you own your social footprint.

However Facebook continues to embrace the “fail forward” approach to experience design and application logic – specifically around Facebook Groups. In a day and age where personal user information is indexed through search engines such as Google, one could feasibly be included in a group without their direct knowledge. There are obvious personal implications of being affiliated with content or groups that one may not necessarily endorse. As the Facebook “walled garden” comes down, and indexed data becomes more accessible this could cast a negative shadow on the endorsements of individual users’ participation in Facebook Groups.

Finally as the shift of power over who controls your personal privacy settings on Facebook defaults back to the user, the implications for Marketers looking for deeper analytical insight into a user’s social graph could be prohibitive. For example, if a Facebook user determines to restrict their personal information from being disclosed, yet still uses a branded application what exposure to user data does that brand own? If the answer is nothing, should brands consider moving away from applications as a means of reaching their audience if they can not accrue key marketing insights through data collection?

Quy Le, Founder, FanPageList.com

The new Facebook Groups feature helps solve the bloated Friends list problem by allowing users to privately interact with a subset of their Friends outside of their News Feed. It will only encourage more interaction/page views within Facebook (which is good for Facebook). It’ll be interesting to see how Brands leverage this new Groups feature. I could see Brand administrators creating “official” Facebook groups based on region or product line to further engage their community which could compliment their official Fan Pages.

Chad Estes, Director of Strategic Services, Vitrue

The new Facebook Groups product does a great job of addressing a common user concern about sharing too much with too many people. While friend lists existed to help with that, it was up to each person to maintain their own lists and many never took the time and shared less as a result. The new groups feature allows collective management of groups, which are also better than old groups because of their connection to the news feed, notifications and email. This is great news for brands because more users should share more often in a comfortable environment.

Joe Baratelli, Sr. V.P. Group Creative Director, RPA

Groups are not new, but are confusing and hidden on the platform. I think by bubbling up this functionality, it allows more of us to communicate on FB the way we do in our lives. Normally, we don’t mass broadcast the same message to soccer parents, college buds or colleagues, so why should we do that on FB? The stage is set for us to be more targeted with our personal communication on FB. Let’s see if more than five percent catch on this time.

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