Facebook Groups: A Guide on When to Use Them and When to Seek Alternatives | Blog

For a fledgling community, Facebook Groups are often seen as the leading standard. They’re easy to access, come with a built-in audience, and require little to no knowledge to get started. But are Facebook Groups the only option? When might you need something a bit more powerful?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://blog.discourse.org/2021/09/alternatives-to-facebook-groups
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What about Twitter Communities?

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They’re still pretty new, and Twitter has a habit of rolling back new things lately :slight_smile:

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I don’t think this is a feature that Twitter will dump. It worked out very well for Facebook, so why not Twitter?

Besides, Twitter has always been a popular place amongst hobbyists. This is something that’ll be much appreciated.

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First of all let me congratulate for starting this very important conversation. Facebook Groups continue to be a very powerful way to keep the stickiness of Facebook for people like me who are on the fence of keeping their account active at all. I am a participant on 2-3 Facebook Groups that honestly I don’t think would run outside of Facebook well. One is under 100 members that I run for an alumni club. The other is a 5000+ member group for a piece of software I resell.

It’s the second group that I think would be amazing outside of Facebook Groups, but I fear that the since the average age of that group is closer to 50+ and their technical level is quite low, I do wonder whether there is another factor to consider on moving off Facebook Groups: mobile enagement.

It is the asynchronous nature of these communities with strong mobile app support that keep systems like Facebook, Slack, Twitter stickier than ever. Without a strong mobile experience for a community platform and extraordinarily easy out of the box onboarding, I fear that “yet another place to click” phenomenon may take over. A community that has spent years on Facebook will need to have something extraordinarily better to go to, and if it fails on mobile, I think that community will suffer greatly. The risk is real.

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It’s definitely difficult to get a group entrenched in one platform to switch to another – especially without a full migration option. One challenge that might arise on a different platform is realizing just how a community was due to the platform’s network effect vs. the actual value the community provided. Discourse naturally doesn’t have a network effect like that as we don’t have a broad-based network of any kind – just lots of variously sized communities dotting the Internet landscape. And what makes a Discourse community stick is the inherent value its members find in discussing topics together, not just the platform itself.

As far as mobile goes - I’m curious if you see an advantage Facebook has over other platforms (including ours) on mobile?

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I agree. I think the level of discourse will be better but honestly some people don’t want to invest the time and effort to up their game.

On mobile it’s simple - one feature rules them all: notifications on likes, responses and new content in a feed. Without that it doesn’t work at all.

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I test the new Discourse Chat plugin. The chat in itself makes me much more excited to use Discourse with a group and yet, iOS not allowing progressive web apps (PWAs, or when one clicks “Add to Home Screen” from Safari) to send notifications makes it hard for mobile usage. I mean, for me, I may see it as a blessing, as I often turn off notifications anyway, yet not sure community members would agree.

Apparently PWAs can have notifications on Android, so it seems to be just a waiting game until Apple allows them.

In the meantime, I don’t know what the other options are. DiscourseHub seems to give notifications only for Discourse-hosted sites, and Fig for iOS, which I like, I think has stopped being developed.

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This is not correct. It should work for the self-hosted too.

And that’s good because I can’t see Apple closing this gap. It’s an unacceptably dominant pseudo-monopoly. Were they to implement web notifications on iOS that would be yet another reason not to bother with creating a app specifically for their proprietary App Store to then have to suffer revenue sharing and/or the additional build and maintenance costs. Were law makers sophisticated enough they should probably have legislated for this already. Don’t let that stop you contacting your representative: not providing web notifications is highly anti-competitive!

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