Fidji Simo, Head of the Facebook App, On Stage At F8
When I think back on the year, one product stands out for having made the biggest difference in my life: Facebook Groups. The newly revamped feature has helped me connect with so many groups around the world (and, appropriately enough, was instrumental for writing a few pieces on Forbes).
As an example, in November, I set out for Amsterdam to explore how the emerging psychedelic industry in the U.S. may prosperous after regulatory changes similar to those in the Netherlands. I didn’t really know anyone in Amsterdam at the beginning of the year; Yet, finding a community related to ‘psychedelics’ and ‘Amsterdam’ was easy thanks to search results that found me communities of enthusiasts (even though ‘psychedelics’ was not in the title of the group that would eventually be most helpful to me).
Groups also took on a more prominent place on the mobile app and I could more easily keep up with comments and connect with the more active members of the group. The emphasis had a noticeable difference. At least in my experience, groups seem more active and responsive and this allowed me to quickly gain connections for an upcoming trip. When I posted a need, the community was eager to help out, meet me in town and explore my ideas. As well, I could search events related to groups, which helped me find where other members were gathering.
In the end, thanks to an active community, I came back from the experience with more friends and a much more robust network for future trips.
Last Spring, Mark Zuckerberg made a company-wide initiative for the social network to refocus on privacy and more curated communities, including the ‘groups’ feature. Zuckerberg has mentioned, more than once, the lackluster experience for users who don’t want to engage with politics and viral links. My preferences certainly fall into this category: I use Facebook to keep up with friends and find new ones; news and videos clutter my newsfeed.
There are so many groups it’s been almost trivially easy for me to find a niche no matter how eclectic, from Wim Hof breathing to intermittent fasting. And, some of these Facebook groups are extraordinarily active; I’m a big fan of health self-experiments. Working on handstands is one of them. Facebook’s hand-balancing group is filled with people offering tips to beginners or showing me inspiration videos of professionals strutting their advanced techniques.
Now, it’s true that there are plenty of other networks with similar groups. Reddit subreddits are plentiful and skill-specific forums dot the web. But, ease of use end up making a big difference for side projects and hobbies when I’m so busy with other things. Small tweaks to convenience can make all the difference. And, as a result of the improved Facebook Groups, it’s been easier for me to connect with the folks who improved my year.