Facebook Groups have been in the news lately as powerful tools for political and social organizing. Since they are connected with all of the other services Facebook offers, you can utilize them as an organizing and activism platform without needing to keep track of multiple communication channels. Setting up a Facebook Group is easy, and it can be a very powerful tool to spread your message on social media.
Setting Up a Group
A primer on setting up a Facebook Group can be found here. I will skip the step-by-step instructions and give suggested settings for a Group to engage in political organizing and activism.
- Create a Closed Group with a clear purpose in the title, like “Colin’s Group to End Police Violence.”
- Link your Facebook Page to the Group. Create a Page if you don’t already have one.
- Write a detailed description of your group in the bio section, and upload an image for your group’s cover photo.
- Tag the Group with related interests. These will make your Group more visible to category searches.
- Make an easy-to-remember “address” URL such as facebook.com/groups/EndPoliceViolence.
- Require admin or moderator approval for new members, and appoint trusted friends as moderators to help out. A FAQ on running a group can be found here
- Allow all members to post to the Group without admin or moderator approval.
- Encourage everyone to leave their Notifications turned on, so they see all content that gets posted to the Group
Recruiting Group Members
If your goal is to grow your Group to include people outside of your friends, you will have to do some recruitment. The easiest way is to encourage Group members to add their friends, and for those friends to add friends. Facebook will suggest Groups and Events to people who have peripheral connections to members of your Group, so you will get free advertising from the platform as your Group grows.
Sharing posts from your Page to your Group, and vice-versa, is another way to increase interest in membership. People visiting your Page will see your Group, and people from the Group can share Page posts to their personal newsfeed, which will reach their friends who may not be involved.
Encourage Group members to share articles and other postings from the Group to their personal news feeds, which will dramatically increase the number of people who see them. People who visit the source Page will see the Group attached to it and be more likely to join.
Managing Your Group
Facebook offers tips on how to engage with members of your Group, but the best practices will vary by the makeup of your Group and your goals. The Resistance Manual offers a long list of methods you can use to advocate for or against issues of importance to your Group. Choose a list of actions you want to take collectively, and then talk with your Group members about how to best achieve these goals.
Utilize the various tools Facebook offers you as a platform. You can create in-Group Events or Events on your Page to organize around. You can amplify your Group’s message by posting to your personal News Feed and sharing links from other members. Everything can be discussed and planned within the Group’s feed, making coordination easier.
Inevitably there may be personality conflicts within the Group, at which point you can use moderation tools to try to keep the peace. Try to keep your Group focused on shared goals and keep the bickering to a minimum. Appointing multiple moderators is a good idea as your Group grows, so you can best keep control of the membership in the event of uncivil disagreements.
Activating Your Group
When you’ve reached critical mass, getting your Group to take action is the next step. As Group leader you can coordinate with other organizations to throw your support behind their efforts, and you can organize your own activism via Events on Facebook. Some ideas:
- Phone and E-mail bank for causes in your area. Coordinate Group members sending messages and calling on the same day to amplify the effect.
- Create “public” Events in your area and have everyone in the Group RSVP to them. Some examples would be calling elected reps about an issue, attending a rally or town hall, or carpooling to polling places. RSVP drives will cause Events to have a wide reach as they become suggested to locals.
- Advise members to write “public” posts on their personal Facebook accounts as opposed to sharing links from other Pages, because Facebook weighs personal posts more heavily than shared links when it decides what to show on the Newsfeeds of friends and family outside of your Group.
- Encourage members to join other Groups to help coordinate actions and share resources.
- Utilize Facebook Live to get more eyeballs. Facebook is prioritizing their Live product at the moment, so as your Group members use it to document their activities, their friends will be prompted to watch.
- Record and publicly share video content produced by your Group, whether it’s from rallies or Events or members talking about their activities. Facebook’s News Feed prioritizes video content because it generates more post engagement. Use that engagement to publicize your Group.
- Facebook’s Town Hall feature can give your members a way to directly communicate with their local politicians. Encourage them to apply pressure on issues that matter to your Group.
You can create Pages to give your Group visibility. You can utilize Groups to coordinate with other organizers, to ensure everyone stays current with your activities. Your Group can set up Events to organize or engage in activism. Facebook is a platform tailor made for these sorts of activities. In 2018, engagement wins debates. You can change things, and you can do it on Facebook.
If you have thoughts, stories, or strategies for organizing on Facebook, email me. I want to hear how people are using the platform to engage.
Update: BuzzFeed has published a piece about how Facebook Groups can be used for bad things, and how trolls and malignant actors can try to hijack Groups. I’d suggest reading it if you’re a Group admin or moderator, so you know what you’re in for if you attract the wrong sort of attention. Warning: it contains some disturbing content.