This is an edited version of a section in Econsultancy’s new Social Media Platforms Trends report, authored by Michelle Goodall, and reflects on changes to platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp, and their implications for brand community management.

A version of Econsultancy's Social Media Platforms report written two years ago highlighted the potential rise of brand Facebook Groups and a possible migration from brand pages as a key trend. We predicted that this would happen as a result of the algorithm change of January 2018 that promised a shift back to ‘people’ and ‘community’ based content in the feed. However, it appears that we were actually a little too far ahead of ourselves.

We suggested that migrating from Facebook pages to groups would require not just a mindset shift, but also an increase in effort and investment. However, we underestimated the relative inertia from brands in social. One of that report’s contributors commented: “This approach won’t work for any brand or organisation unless they are committed to running a community, rather than just pushing out branded content.”

It took further announcements from Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg at the network’s F8 conference in April 2019 to make brands and organisations start to genuinely question whether they should develop, or in some cases return to, smaller and more ‘passion-based’ communities. Stating that “the future is private”, Zuckerberg announced the focus for Facebook would be less on the newsfeed and more on events and groups as core elements of the app.

This focus meant changes to the app, including the introduction of a prominent groups tab and a personalised feed from the groups users join and events they engage with, which has replaced the newsfeed that before included updates from friends, a handful of branded page posts that managed to beat the algorithm and a slew of ads. Group interaction options also appear while users are browsing other parts of Facebook, not just the newsfeed and notifications.

So, the question arises again: do brands and businesses care about creating communities on social media or have the changes meant that the only option is to maintain a bare-bones brand presence and reach audiences with advertising to move them though the customer journey?

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