Facebook Releases Updates to Groups, New “Send” Button Social Plugin for Private Sharing From Off-Site

Facebook has just released several new updates for its Groups product, including photo album sharing and Questions publishing, in-Group search, and admin approval for new members. Facebook says that over 50 million Groups have been created since the product’s launch in October 2010.

Some admins of old Facebook group — the new deprecated predecessor to Pages — will now also have the option to upgrade to the relatively new version of Groups, porting existing members and content. Facebook has also launched the new “Send” button social plugin that allows users to share third-party websites to Groups, specific friends, or email addresses.

The improvements will increase trust in the privacy of Groups, allow more content types to be shared, answer the requests of old group admins, and give third-party sites and brands a way capitalize on Facebook’s focus on sharing with relevant subsets of friends.

Facebook launched Groups to offer an alternative to sharing with all of one’s friends. Facebook determined that users would share more often if often if given an easy and reliable way to restrict the distribution of content that was more sensitive or only relevant to a few people such as planning an event with friends, splitting bills with roommates, sharing ideas with co-workers or discussing intimate family matters. The tag cloud below shows some of the words most commonly found in the names of Groups started by college students.

New Groups Features

One issue with Group membership, though, was that any existing member could add a new member or approve an admission application. This meant any member could expose sensitive information to those who weren’t meant to see it.

Now admins of Closed and Secret Groups can require all new member additions to be approved by an admin, increasing trust in the product’s privacy. Project Manager Peter Deng tell us that “early adopters have been savvy about learning [the utility of Groups], but we need to educate to make this use case more prominent.” Now, those who’ve never been in a Group before will be shown a tour outlining features and controls.

To help users query the preferences of their Groups, they can now publish Facebook Questions to a Group’s feed. For instance, a jogging Group could ask what the best time to meet up that week would be. New photo albums may also be uploaded to Groups, while previously only single photos could be uploaded. Users can import existing Facebook photo albums, too. A new Group search feature will help users quickly find specific pieces of content within a Group feed.

The Groups product launched in October is much different than the old groups product, which served more as forums for an interest similar to community Pages. Some users started old groups to solve use cases now addressed by the new Groups product, but there was previously no way to upgrade. Over the next few weeks, Deng tells us that admins of some active old groups that are sharing privately and don’t have too many members will see the option to upgrade, bringing all their members and content into the new interface.

The Send Button

Facebook Platform Product Manager Austin Haugen tells us that “Since we first launched Like button, it’s been a great tool for broadcasting, but it never nailed the use case to share something relevant to certain people.” Facebook’s new Send button social plugin for third-party websites solves this in a way that’s complementary to the Like button.

Starting today, users will see the Send button on over 50 websites, including The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Orbitz, 1-800 Flowers, People.com, Gilt Groupe, and Last.fm. When clicked, the button opens a Facebook post publisher pre-populated with the currently view content. Users can choose to publish to the feed of one of their Groups, to specific friends through Facebook Messages, or to email addresses.

The Send button create a big opportunity for web publishers of niche content users might not want to share with all their friends, or services that benefit from group planning such as travel or gifting. For instance, a user could share a Wall Street Journal article about corporate tax reform to a Group of Econ major classmates, Message a friend who works in corporate law, or email it to their financial advisor. Families could use the Send button to plan a 1-800 Flowers gift for Mother’s day by posting it to their family Group and emailing it to relatives who aren’t on Facebook.

Developers can add a standalone Send button to websites, or create a combined Like/Send button to show the two side-by-side by modifying the Send attribute in their Like button code or through the Like button configurator.

As the definition of a Facebook friend grows to more often include family members, professional colleagues, and others outside of one’s peers, Facebook needs to continue improving it microsharing options as it has today to ensure users are posting as much as possible. By giving websites an in-road to these smaller networks through the Send button, Facebook is unlocking the power of personal recommendations that don’t need to reach hundreds of people to help business.

Check back later today for an excerpt of our new Facebook Marketing Bible entry “How Websites Can Use the Facebook Send Button”.