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The Power Behind Facebook’s “New”​ Secret Weapon

Ed.’s note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

Recently, brands have been questioning Facebook’s legitimacy as a viable marketing platform. It’s easy to see why: it has been mired with post data breaches that have audiences abandoning the platform, nearly non-existent organic reach, and a massive reduction of targeting capabilities.

In typical Facebook fashion, they are fighting back, but with an unexpected secret weapon: Facebook Groups.

Following the 2016 election, polarizing opinions have engulfed our feeds. In the process, we saw news sides of our friends, family and colleagues — the good, the bad and the occasionally very ugly. Our comfort with an open, unfiltered version of Facebook has subsided. Audiences now prefer to engage in niche, protected subgroups that offer peace of mind that you won’t get roasted for expressing your opinion.

Groups reflects Facebook foreseeing that writing on the wall. For months, Facebook has been broadcasting Groups as a feature that will allow brands to effectively connect with audiences. However, social media’s evolution into a pay-to-play marketplace may find brands reluctant to fully invest in the approach. That hasn’t stopped Facebook from doubling down: they are encouraging brands to link their Pages to Groups, issuing not-so-subtle reminders on the main feed to join one, allowing the engagement of Group audiences as a brand (which was previously discouraged), and spending TV ad dollars to promote it.

Facebook has made several questionable decisions recently, but reinvesting in Groups isn’t one of them. It never sat well with me that, due to its limited organic reach, Facebook was being treated like SEM or display advertising instead of a place to converse and create relationships. Facebook is now reverting back to its roots by focusing on what made it great to begin with: community building.

Everyone is also talking about how Facebook users skew toward Gen X and Baby Boomers, even though — news flash! — these audiences created America’s neighborhood culture. Gen X are particularly influential: they are the most socially-active generation, tout the most disposable income, and are caring for Gen Z and Baby Boomers alike. Why wouldn’t you want to connect with such an important audience on a deeper level, using the tactics they value the most?

In case you need further convincing that Groups are a good idea: Facebook added an icon to the app and website’s primary navigation panel, and every group member is notified with every new post or update. Essentially, Groups now offers 100% organic reach.

I’ll take 100% organic reach any day.

Matt Arnhols is Senior Account Director and head of KWT Global’s digital and design team. He is a seasoned creative thinker whose approach to client campaigns unifies traditional and digital programming to ensure that brands are best positioned to embrace their full potential.