Are Closed (and Secret) Facebook Groups the Future of Social Media?

Ryan Holmes
5 min readNov 14, 2018

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Back in March of last year, Condé Nast Traveler did something a little unusual in the social media universe. They played hard to get.

Instead of courting new followers with clickbait and promo codes, the company required that interested people apply to get into their closed Facebook Group, focused on female travelers. To be considered for membership, applicants had to explain why the Group was important to them, and show an understanding of the community guidelines.

Today, the Women Who Travel Facebook Group counts more than 50,000 members. And it boasts a level of activity many brands could only dream of — three-quarters of users are active on a daily basis. The initiative has been so successful, in fact, that Conde Nast has since extended Facebook Groups across eight of its brands, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Allure, BRIDES, Golf Digest, SELF and Teen Vogue.

The Facebook Group is nothing new. Spaces for like-minded people to congregate and discuss specific subjects — from hobbies to pets and celebrities — date in one form or another to the platform’s earliest days. These Groups have long been segmented into three classes: open (or general admission), closed (requiring admin approval for new members) and secret (invisible to outside search and accessible only with a direct link).

But for a combination of technical and cultural reasons, Groups are suddenly having their moment. (Apart from Facebook, LinkedIn revamped its own Groups offering this fall for its 500-plus million users, adding the ability to share pics and videos, as well as receive comment notifications.)

In the past year alone, Facebook Group membership is up 40 percent, with 1.4 billion people — more than half of Facebook’s massive user base — now using Groups every month. Of those, 200 million people belong to so-called “meaningful Groups,” considered a vital part of users’ daily lives. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he’d like to see 1 billion users in “meaningful” Groups within five years.

Behind Groups’ hypergrowth

This hockey-stick growth is explained in part by Facebook’s own algorithm shifts and platform tweaks. Even before the Cambridge Analytica…

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Ryan Holmes

Entrepreneur, investor, future enthusiast, inventor, hacker. Lover of dogs, owls and outdoor pursuits. Best-known as the founder and CEO of Hootsuite.