Facebook makes it easier to find groups that brands care about

The social network tells CNET it's testing new features that let brands call attention to specific groups, or just link Pages and groups.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
3 min read

Now it's easier to find official groups from brand pages.

Screenshot by Richard Nieva/CNET

If you go to a few brand pages on Facebook, like HBO's, you might notice a new tab along the left edge of the page: groups.

It's an easy-to-miss addition, but it actually represents a big push for CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his social network: building out Facebook's platforms for large online communities, instead of just connecting people with friends or family.

Facebook has been testing a way to make it easier to navigate through groups and brand pages (which Facebook also calls Pages, capital P), by allowing administrators to link the two together. For example, if you click on the new groups tab from HBO's Facebook brand page, you can get to the the official group for the show "Big Little Lies." That ensures you're getting to the official group instead of one of the many fan groups.

Right now, more than a billion people use groups and there are 65 million brand pages on Facebook. In February, When Zuckerberg laid out his vision for the future of the company, he specifically called out expanding groups and Pages, and "enabling community leaders to create more meaningful groups for people to connect with."

To be clear, "groups" are those pockets on Facebook that can include just you and your friends, or millions of people like the Hillary Clinton group Pantsuit Nation. Pages are mostly for brands, artists or organizations. If you follow a page, you get its updates in your news feed.

As part of the new features being tested, brands can also create groups and link to them from their Pages. So, if a nonprofit has a brand page, its administrators can create groups specifically for certain causes, like helping children or disaster relief.

"The ability for people to find people that are like them, and actually provide support to each other, is something currently happening on groups and something we want to expand," said Alex Deve, a product manager director at Facebook. "We see a lot of nonprofits create communities where members can just get together."

Other Pages testing the features include Ellie's Way, a nonprofit that helps parents get through the loss of a child, and Pretty Presets for Lightroom, a collective for photography business owners. Right now only about 2 percent of Pages are testing the new features, but they will roll out more broadly in June.

The new features come as Facebook grapples with its massive scale and influence in the world. Its nearly 2 billion users come to the social network for everything from baby pictures to live videos to news (both real and fake, though Facebook has been cracking down).

Administrators can also post to a group as the brand itself. So, if HBO wants to post something on the official "Big Little Lies" group, the company can post simply as HBO, instead of from the personal account of the HBO admin who runs the brand page.

Dana Flax, HBO's director of digital and social media, said in a statement the benefit of linking the group to HBO's brand page is that it makes it easier for the company to participate in the conversation.

The emphasis on groups and Pages is a big shift for the social network that started in a dorm room as a way to connect with your college classmates.

"We've spent the last decade or more focusing on connecting friends and family," Zuckerberg said in February, during an event at Facebook headquarters with several groups administrators. "Now we need to focus on groups and communities. That's going to be part of the next chapter."

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