Getting Started with Facebook: Pages or Groups?

When you set up Facebook for your organisation, your choice is between pages and groups, or possibly to use both.

Before we get into the differences between pages and groups, let me stress that you should never create profile page for your organisation. A profile page is for individuals only, and Facebook’s Terms of Service state that you are not permitted to create a personal profile page for an individual who does not exist. So apart from the unnecessary admin on a personal page (having to constantly accept “friend requests”), if Facebook discovers your illegally created profile page, they can, and will, delete the page with no warning. This can even happen to large, famous NGOs, an example being Oxfam.

So, when you set up Facebook for your organisation, your choice is between pages and groups, or possibly to use both. Why is this so confusing? Well Facebook has evolved both Pages and Groups over the years so that many of the features now overlap and many features that used to be specific only to pages or only to groups are now available on either option.

The use of pages grew organically when Facebook noticed that people were trying to connect with brands and famous artists in ways that didn’t quite work on Facebook. Pages are useful for an organisation not only for sharing news, events, videos and photos via status updates. You can also view ‘insights’ into the number of people who viewed each of your posts. From these you can learn users' levels of interaction, demographics, and other information that may be helpful to an organisation. 

How do you know which is right for you? It really depends on how you would like to use and interact with Facebook.  One of the key differences between pages and groups are that interactions on your page can be done as your organisation, so it can keep your personal profile anonymous. However, groups are directly connected to the people who administer them, therefore your personal profile is used in all interactions.

Groups are more like a ‘club’, belonging to a group of people. Your groups can be open to everyone, restricted to invite-only, or restricted so that people have to request approval to join the group. You can add people to the group without their consent, though this is not advised – and they can easily leave a group.

With pages, you can only invite people to “like” the page, but you can’t add them. However, no action is required on your part when a fan “likes” your page.

Groups are better suited to discussion and organising; Pages are better to interact with your supporters without the profile being connected to a personal account, and is more “official”. 

Benefits of Pages:

  • Pages are indexed by search engines, so can be found on Google;
  • You can restrict access to a page (by age or location);
  • You can install applications on your page;
  • Pages are not connected to a personal profile so content can be posted by the page itself, so content isn’t linked to an individual;
  • Pages can also interact with other pages.

Benefits of Groups:

  • You have a lot more control over access to a group than a page (can be fully restricted, hidden group, or open group);
  • You can send messages group members (up to 5000 people);
  • It is well suited to engagement and discussion around a cause;
  • Is more open to users submitting content.

It is not recommended that you create both groups and pages unless you have the capacity to manage them, and a specific role for each one. Duplicate content on your group and your page is confusing to users -- which should they respond to? And you would be cluttering their newsfeed, likely resulting in leaving the group and 'unliking' the page.

My recommendation is to create a page first, and if you still have the time and resources to manage another space, create a group with a specific focus that is not already covered by the page.