Why Facebook “Groups” Is a Big Deal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Groups a “fundamental building block of the social web,” and as I discuss this week at GigaOM Pro, the feature could have a big impact on communications and identity management, and on viral application and content distribution.

If Groups adoption is widespread, those “building blocks” Zuckerberg refers to could generate powerful effects inside and outside of Facebook. Groups are woven into the Graph API. That means apps can make use of Group, and Facebook intends Groups membership and interaction to be syndicate-able outside of Facebook, similar to the Like button or log-in.

So where could Groups make waves?

  • Feed filtering and curation. Users will filter their Facebook news feed — which includes aggregated updates from Twitter, Foursquare, and others — by Groups. This could prove more efficient than using search or topical taxonomies, and give Facebook more advertising inventory targetable by highly relevant information.
  • Identity management. Users will be able to engage in social media interactions in the appropriate contextual modes. Imagine Groups for shopping, entertainment recommendation and professional communications, for example. Groups could essentially offer federated authorization (among members) to different apps and services.
  • Unified communications and presence management. Groups could enable better presence management  — you’re available only to after-work friends, for example — than we’ve seen in email, IM and other applications.
  • App interaction and distribution. Facebook recently changed its social gaming policies to better direct relevant updates to gamers instead of non-gamers. Similarly, Groups could filter and enhance social commerce and other applications.

Marketers can’t make groups, just Pages. But don’t think that Facebook won’t develop appealing promotions and targeting techniques for its own advertising platform. I doubt advertisers will ever be able to target individual Groups, but the contextual information within them should offer keywords that would be highly relevant.

Read the full post here.

Image source: flickr user mararie