Facebook is all about sociability, right? About connecting with friends, coming together, sharing things – sharing in the way you choose of course, and being in control of that.

Facebook groups are an excellent way of sharing with wider groups of people, whether they are amongst your friends lists or not. And most Facebook groups fall in to one of the two more popular categories, Open or Closed.

Open groups are a click away from anyone, and everything you post there should be regarded as completely public – it won’t normally be in the news feed of anyone not a member of the group themselves but anyone can take a look. Closed groups are a bit more confidential in that no one can see the content, but everyone can see that you are in a group of that name, and your name may appear next to the group in your friends’ news feed as a ‘suggested group’.

Can you keep a secret-

Secret groups take things to the next level, as nobody not in the group will see any trace of it, anywhere. It won’t show in the ticker, it won’t show on your profile as a group you are in, and the content will not be indexed by Google.  Even if you (or somebody else) send someone the URL of the group itself, they will get a ‘page not found’ unless they are already a member of the group. It does what it says on the tin, it is secret.

Incidentally like any group the default notifications setting is ‘on’ for all posts, so if you are added to a Secret Facebook group then you will see posts from members of that group in your newsfeed. Hang on, so how secret is that then? If this is your first reaction remember that your own newsfeed is completely unique to you – nobody else sees what you see, and mutual friends of you and the person posting will NOT see those posts, unless they are also members of the Secret group.

The only way anyone outside of the group could see it is if they were standing behind you reading over your shoulder – as with a Closed group there is no ‘share’ option on any of the posts.  If you right-click to grab a permalink to a post in a Closed group, non-members will be taken to the group’s About page where they can request to join, but try it with a link from a Secret group and any non-member clicking it will just get an error.

So, how can you use it and why would you?

Well, in business, many reasons.  Secret groups have the full functionality of other Facebook groups in that you can share chat, photos and files as well as the usual threaded group conversations, so effectively it’s a free conference room Facebook provides you with.  The beauty of bringing people together on Facebook is that very often they’re there anyway, so if you have to collaborate with a team of people who are not in a single location then why not put them all in a secret Facebook group to interact? They will see notifications whenever they log on and be able to respond and engage with each other from whatever devices and places they already use Facebook, it’s a very frictionless way to introduce co-working.

You can obviously do this with sub-groups within an existing and less secret affiliation – for example colleagues in an organisation might have an employees Facebook group for general natter, but a project-driven, location-based or perhaps crisis-management team might set up a secret sub-group to collaborate on something specific.

And it doesn’t have to be work-related of course.  The Writers and Bloggers about Spain group is Closed, and has over a hundred members, who share about all sorts of things – but we have had various one-off projects running at different times that have had their own secret groups, so that people can collaborate and disclose things about their business or activities in a completely safe and controlled way with very specific audiences.

Coaches and mentors can use private Facebook groups very effectively, to bring together groups of people to connect and support one another.  Knowing you are all definitively identified by Facebook, yet in an environment of sharing completely privately, can be very liberating and supportive.  Great for communities of interest that you might wish to keep private, for example Secret groups exist for sufferers of rare embarrassing illnesses – for which more public forums may well exist as well, but the secret option can be offered for those who want to disclose more to each other in a very private way.

Secret groups are also great for organising secrets!  Such the surprise birthday party I threw for my OH a few years ago, which involved bringing in guests from overseas, stashing them in generously-donated accommodation, co-ordinating lifts and cakes and everything else, as well as sharing photos and anecdotes for creating the ultimate embarrassing slideshow.  A Secret Facebook group was invaluable for this, and added a certain piquancy as well to organising it right under the nose of the intended recipient.

The only potential drawback to secret groups, and a reason they are not more widely used, is that adding people to them can me more difficult than usual.  One easy way of course if it’s not the big birthday party is to simply set up a Closed group, then change its status to Secret once everybody is in.

Otherwise only group admins can add people to the group directly, and they can only add their friends – so this can require ‘temporary friending’, or multiple admins, to facilitate.

How could you use Secret Facebook groups, in your business or real life? Share and let us know!

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, August 29th 2014

©Maya Middlemiss,  Casslar Consulting SL

 

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