Facebook opens up PMD information groups

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Want to know more about what’s going on with Facebook’s Preferred Marketing Developer program? Now you can.

Facebook opened up two groups previously only available to PMD members: PMD News and FB Marketing Technology Dev Community. The privacy has gone from closed to open, but with an application process. This is for those who work with or are somehow affiliated with Facebook PMD.

When Facebook announces changes to PMDs, the announcements will also be posted to the group.

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Facebook adds ‘Groups You Admin’ feature

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that groups will be a major area of focus for the company moving forward. For admins who manage multiple groups, the site is making it easier to switch between them.

Inside Facebook reader Matteo Gamba noticed that there’s a new feature on the left sidebar: “Groups You Admin.”

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Facebook prompts admins to add tags to groups

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Groups were a major super star in Facebook’s Q4 earnings call, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that groups will be a major part of the company in 2014. Changes are apparently starting already, as admins can add tags to a group. While it may not do much for closed/private groups, it’s a way for people to find new groups similar to or regarding similar topics for communities they’re already a part of.

Adam Rosenberg of Edelman Digital noticed that Facebook asked him to add tags to his group.

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Facebook tests Suggested Groups module on mobile

suggestedgroupsWithin a group’s mobile timeline, Facebook is testing a new module to get users to join and engage with more groups.

Some users are seeing a box for Suggested Groups, which prompts users to join groups that their friends are in. The module includes links to three groups, as well as a plus box to add in one touch. It also shows how many of their friends are members of these groups.

Similar modules have been in News Feed for a while, asking users to like pages their friends have liked.

On desktop, the sidebar for groups includes a prompt to like other groups that their friends have joined. The desktop user timeline also has a section where friends can see what public groups a friend has joined.

Readers: Have you seen this?

Timeline gets new section for Groups

groupsFacebook is rolling out a new Groups section of Timeline today to allow users to share and highlight the groups that they’re a part of, a company spokesperson tells us.

With the latest Timeline redesign, Facebook overhauled the About page so that it’s one long page with different content-specific sections. Users have more options to show off their favorite movies, books and music, as well as their fitness activity and other stories they’ve shared through Open Graph apps. Users can also pick which sections appear on their profile and the order in which they appear.

groups-timeline

The new Groups section will only display “open groups” that users have joined. If a user was added or invited to a group but didn’t accept, it will not appear on the person’s Timeline. Closed or private groups will also be hidden. The point is to highlight the groups that users might represent part of their identity and to help their friends find groups that they might be interested in joining.

Since the new Timeline began rolling out, Facebook has also added a Games section and hidden the Events section while it addresses a bug.

Facebook head of brand design calls out trends to watch in 2013

Facebook Head of Brand Design Paul Adams says mobile, small networks and aggregation of data are the three trends to watch in 2013.

Adams wrote about these trends on his blog, giving insight into what he’d like his team and other companies to think about when building on the Facebook platform.

Mobile

The first area Adams addresses is mobile — something a lot of people are talking about but perhaps aren’t fully understanding.

“Stop thinking about devices,” he says and instead focus on the concept of mobile meaning “access to any information anywhere in the world.”

This shift has so many implications for people and industries, but the one Adams points to is commerce. He believes mobile will help bring value back to physical stores, combining the type of personal interaction that used to only happen in small local stores with the scale of big box retail and the convenience of e-commerce.

Adams doesn’t point to any examples, but consider the Apple Store, which is known for its innovative retail experience. The store doesn’t use traditional cash register stands. Instead, employees walk around freely, carrying iPod Touch devices and credit card scanners. This can be more efficient and personal since customers don’t have to wait in line and there isn’t a barrier between them and a salesperson. But even this is a bit more about the device than the idea of information anywhere, which Adams is talking about.

When Facebook is brought into the equation, it’s easy to see how social information can make experiences in any space more personal. Mobile apps could help consumers easily see their friends’ interests and preferences that are relevant to where they are. At the Apple Store? Here’s a breakdown of which Apple devices your friends own and who to ask if the iPhone 5 is worth the upgrade from the 4S.

Small networks

Adams notes that several start-ups are working on products and services for small groups, which he sees as a “huge growth area,” for connecting either groups of close friends or strangers with similar interests.

Facebook reinvented its groups product in 2010, after Adams, who worked at Google at the time, critiqued how the social network put users’ friends in one big bucket rather than supporting the distinct social circles that occur offline. Adams joined Facebook two months later.

This November, Facebook introduced a way for third-party apps to create and manage groups for users. The API was largely pitched as a way for game developers to help players connect around clans, alliances, guilds or other game communities, but non-game apps could ultimately find use in it as well. For instance, an app like Goodreads might want to allow users to form groups around their book clubs. Fitness apps like Endomondo might do the same for running clubs or teams training together. Fantasy sports apps would also seem to have a good use case.

Aggregation of data

Adams predicts, “We’ll see a shift away from individual tiny stories as the focus of what is being published and consumed and towards powerful aggregated experiences that tell a bigger picture.”

In the first year of Open Graph applications there have been a lot of one-off News Feed stories that tell what is happening now or what has just happened. Adams says to think beyond that and share richer stories about trends over time.

“Don’t think about what song I listened to, think about my favorite music this week, this year,” he says. “Don’t think about yesterday’s three-mile run, think about my marathon training.”

Open Graph apps include monthly and yearly summaries that developers can customize to tell these types of stories on a user’s Timeline. In addition to supporting Timeline summaries, Facebook generates aggregate News Feed stories based on trends it picks up on in Open Graph activity. A common example is “[a number] of your friends listened to [an artist] on Spotify.”

When developers create a more detailed map for their actions and objects, Facebook can return additional stories like “[a number] of your friends listened to songs from [a particular year] on Spotify.” What Adams is suggesting goes beyond an aggregation of similar activity among friends, but a way to express what many individual actions say about a person as a whole.

Read Adams’ post here.

Facebook introduces API for apps and games to create groups for users

Facebook has made it possible for apps and games to create and manage groups for users, the company announced in a blog post Wednesday evening. This was created as a way for game developers to help players connect around clans, alliances, guilds or other game communities, but non-game apps could ultimately find use in the API as well.

With these new groups, users can share content, post updates, create events and poll members, just as they can with traditional groups. However, these groups are created and controlled by a game rather than an individual user. Users can be promoted as admins if the developer wishes.

Many users already create groups to connect with people they play games with. Now with the API, games can facilitate this by inviting players to join existing groups or building the group creation process right into the game. Clans have long been a part of traditional online gaming — especially MMORPGs and online strategy games — and this could help social games be taken more seriously by core gamers. It should be noted that some games already include in-app clans groups, but these were created by the developer and don’t create an external group on Facebook.

In an overview of the feature, Facebook says, “Game Groups help make games more social and engaging by creating another place where users can interact with each other. Group social dynamics help with retention and monetization.”

Groups give users a place to share achievements and tips. When users begin to feel as though they are part of a community, they are more likely to continue playing a game. The notifications generated by Facebook groups could also serve as prompts to get users re-engaged with an app.

Outside of games, some lifestyle applications might want to integrate groups. For instance, an app like Goodreads might want to allow users to form groups around their book clubs. Fitness apps like Endomondo might do the same for running clubs or teams training together. Fantasy sports apps would also seem to have a good use case.

The feature is starting in beta for apps and games that are listed in App Center so Facebook can monitor use and create more guidelines and best practices for developers over time. Developers can get an overview of game groups here and read reference documentation here.

Facebook tests pinned posts for groups

Facebook has begun testing an update for Facebook groups which allows admins to pin posts to the top of the group feed.

Much like on a page’s Timeline, pinning a post can be done by navigating a drop down menu in the top right hand corner of a post. It is possible for group admins to pin multiple posts, unlike on Timeline where there can only be one post pinned to the top. It is unclear how long a pinned post stays at the top of the feed or if it needs to be manually unpinned. Pinned posts do not seem to carry over to mobile.

The update will be useful as it will enable group admins to make sure all members see a post when they visit the group page. For example, an admin might want to pin the group rules, a post with time sensitive information or a post with a good thread of conversation. However, pinning a post does not seem to work like Promoted Posts in that it does not improve the post’s reach or prominence in users’ News Feeds.

Facebook confirms that pinned posts for groups are in testing, but the company did not share any more details about the feature.

The Facebook groups product has seen recent updates in the past few months including Dropbox integration and the ability for users to see which members have seen a post and when they saw it. Admins may decide to unpin a post once they’ve seen that all members have viewed it.

Screenshot via Social Marketers, a private industry group for social marketing professionals.

Facebook makes Questions product available only for groups, pages

Facebook has removed the Questions feature from users’ News Feed publisher, leaving the product only available to groups and pages, TechCrunch confirms.

Questions has gone through a number of iterations, never quite catching on as the social network envisioned. It began in 2010 as a Q&A community, similar to Quora, but that product didn’t even make it out of beta. The company overhauled Questions and relaunched it as a type of polling and recommendation feature in 2011, focusing on users’ opinions rather than facts.

Ultimately, Questions turned out to be more of a novelty feature than a utility and the company subsequently put little development into it. It was nearly a year after the product launched that Facebook even made it possible to see and answer questions from mobile devices. Users never gained a way to ask questions via mobile.

The product did take off more among page owners. Marketers found success in asking Questions in a format that users could quickly answer. And since they generated News Feed stories when users answered them, Questions could go viral, especially when they first launched and had higher weight in the feed. For now, pages still have the option to create Questions, albeit behind a drop-down menu where they’ve been since April. In August, we saw Facebook testing a new, more visual format for the feature. We wonder whether this may become a paid feature similar to Offers and perhaps Collections.

Facebook has also left Questions in tact for groups and events, suggesting that the feature has been useful for helping small groups of people make decisions together.

When it launched, Questions seemed like it could be an interesting social plugin for blogs and news sites to get feedback and engagement from readers, but Facebook never offered this. In fact, it didn’t even add the ability to write Questions via the Graph API until 10 months after launch.

Facebook Groups get Dropbox integration for more flexible file sharing

Facebook and Dropbox today announce the integration of the cloud storage service to allow users to easily share Dropbox files with people in their Facebook Groups.

Now when users select “Add File” from the Groups publisher, they will have an option to choose a file from Dropbox. The first time users do this, they will have to connect their Dropbox and Facebook accounts, if they have not done so already. Then, any document, photo or video file they share will show up on the group’s wall and can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet. Group members can like or comment on file posts, just as they can with other group posts. When users make edits to files they’ve shared, the group will get an update automatically.

Group members are able to see a user’s post with the link to the file but do not have access to the rest of the person’s Dropbox. Dropbox creates a unique token used only in that link, however, group members can copy the link and share the file elsewhere.

The feature helps make Facebook Groups more flexible and efficient for team collaboration as well as personal sharing. Dropbox suggests the examples of students sharing notes with their study group, a coach sharing the latest game schedule with his basketball team’s group, or someone posting a birthday video to a family group.

The social network first gave school-specific groups native file-sharing capabilities in April, and then began to roll it out to all groups in May. Natively shared documents within a group can be public or available to members-only based on the original privacy setting of the group. Public groups cannot make individual files members-only without making the entire group “closed” or “private.”

Dropbox offers users 2 GB of storage for free, with opportunities to gain more free storage by referring friends to the service. The company also offers plans starting at $9.99 a month for additional storage. The new groups integration could help raise awareness and usage of the service among Facebook users, as the prompt to upload Dropbox files will appear to everyone even if they haven’t already created an account.

TechCrunch notes that Dropbox VP of Engineering Aditya Agarwal once served as director of engineering at Facebook. The company has previously allowed users to connect with Facebook to share files with friends, but it did not have integration with groups. Dropbox has 1.3 million monthly active Facebook-connected users, according to AppData.

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