For many brands, Facebook Pages are seen as a channel through which a community of fans and customers can be built and engaged.
To facilitate engagement, Facebook provides a number of tools, ranging from the Wall to Photos to Discussions.
Discussions, which function like a threaded message board, may not be the most popular tool used on Pages currently, but nearly 22m Facebook users interact with Discussions each month, and nearly 1m interact with Discussions on a daily basis.
That makes it an interesting tool for brands, but brands using Discussions will soon have to find an alternative means of creating a discussion space as Facebook has decided to eliminate the Discussions functionality.
As noted by Inside Facebook, The Facebook Help Center states:
We’ve found that the best way to encourage conversation and feedback is through posts and comments on your Wall. We’ve removed these tabs for now as we work on tools to help you moderate and filter content. Our goal is to help you can manage everything from one powerful place. Stay tuned.
While many brands don’t make use of this functionality, some, like Tesco, do, and its removal does highlight one of the challenges of building a community on Facebook: Facebook thinks Facebook knows best.
That means that the tools you have today could be gone tomorrow if Facebook decides to ditch them. As Inside Facebook notes, it recently removed its ‘Send an Update‘ functionality for Pages as well.
Needless to say, the removal of functionality is usually frustrating to those who use it. While there’s a strong argument to be made that Facebook shouldn’t keep functionality that isn’t effective simply because it doesn’t want to frustrate users, the removal of functionality so crucial to so many online communities over the years (threaded discussions) serves as a reminder that it isn’t exactly the easiest platform on which to build a community.
Driving meaningful engagement using Facebook Pages is hard enough without Facebook constantly rethinking what tools it offers. Given that, brands would be wise to consider that for certain kinds of community tools, relying on homegrown and/or hosted platforms may be a better, more reliable approach.