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An Introduction to Facebook’s Secret Groups

Hidden from cyber trolls, spammers and contrarians, Facebook secret groups offer members a space for like-minded individuals to seek advice, share opinions, and organize. Find out how to set one up.

Katie Sehl August 1, 2018
facebook secret groups
Image via Nik MacMillan under CC0

Psst. It’s time we let you in on a little secret. Facebook Groups are gaining in popularity, and not just among users. Changes made this year to the almighty news feed algorithm have given priority to groups over pages, prompting brands to shift their strategy to include groups.

Groups are hubs of engagement. More than 1.4 billion of Facebook’s 2.2 billion monthly active users check groups every month. But only 200 million users are in what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg calls “meaningful groups.” In the near future Zuckerberg expects that number to rise to one billion.

Many of these “meaningful groups” are secret groups. Hidden from cyber trolls, spammers and contrarians, secret groups offer members a space for like-minded individuals to seek advice, share opinions, and organize. Because secret groups offer more privacy, members are often more candid and more active.

Here’s the scoop on everything you need to know about Facebook’s secret groups.

Bonus: Start crafting your own Facebook group policy with one of our 3 customizable templates. Save time on admin tasks today by providing your group members with clear instructions.

What is a Facebook secret group?

There are three types of groups on Facebook: public, closed, and secret. Public groups are basically general admission. Everyone can find and view the group without needing approval to join.

Closed groups are more exclusive. Like public groups, everyone can search for and view the name, description and member list of a closed group. But users can’t view the group’s content until they become a member. To join a closed group you have to be approved by an administrator or invited by a current member.

Secret groups offer the same level of privacy as closed groups under a cloak of invisibility. No one can search for secret groups or request to join them. The only way to get in is to know someone who can invite you. Everything shared in a secret group is visible only to its members.

How to join a Facebook secret group

Since secret groups are unsearchable and secretive by definition, you have to know someone who’s in the know to get you in. Here’s how to go about joining a secret group:

Step 1: Ask a current member to invite you. For this to work, you need to be friends on Facebook, too.
Step 2: Check your notifications or your inbox for the invitation.
Step 3: Read the group guidelines. Most often you’ll find group guidelines pinned to the top of the page, in the group’s description, or in a shared document.
Step 4: Look out for a new member post. Some administrators will ask new members to acknowledge that they’ve read and agree with the guidelines.

How private are Facebook secret groups?

It’s no secret that nothing is ever really private on the Internet. Facebook, of course, has access to all content on its platforms and could put the content of a secret group under review for various reasons.

Secret groups may have their own guidelines, but they also need to adhere to Facebook’s Community Standards. Groups or users reported for violations of these standards such as hate speech, harassment, violence or nudity may be investigated and taken down. Facebook may also be obliged to handover secret group information if requested by the government.

Following the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, Facebook announced plans to restrict third-party data access to groups. Currently, third-party apps need permission from an administrator to access group content for secret groups.

Group settings can change, too. In 2017 Hulu created a secret group for fans of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In anticipation of the launch of the second season, the group’s administrators decided to make the group public to reach a wider audience. The decision upset many members who did not intend for their previous posts to be publicly available. Facebook currently does not allow groups with more than 5,000 members to switch to less restrictive privacy settings.

Why use a Facebook secret group?

There are plenty of reasons to use a secret group.

During the 2016 US Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton supporter Libby Chamberlain created the secret group Pantsuit Nation for like-minded progressives. According to Chamberlain, the group—which grew to 3.9 million members in a few months —includes members who don’t necessarily want to broadcast their political views to their personal Facebook community. Of course, respite from Pepe trolls and Russian bots probably doesn’t hurt, too.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then why not create a secret virtual village, especially for dads who may feel awkward reaching out for help. Or, maybe you’re just a really hardcore potato chip lover who founded Gettin’ Chippy With It because you only have time for people who love potato chips as much as you.

The cat may be out of the bag on these secret Facebook groups, but don’t forget, you still need to know an insider to get an invite.

Obviously a really good reason to create a secret group is if you want to keep something a secret. Maybe you want to plan a surprise party for a friend or colleague. Make a pregnancy announcement with family and close friends. Create a support group for someone suffering from an illness. Or, as Facebook offers, gather participants of a reality show yet-to-be-launched. (If there’s a secret group for Queer Eye out there, let it be known that I want in.)

Secret groups for brands

Most of the time brands aim to reach as wide an audience as possible, but there can be advantages to going off the radar. Secret groups can be used to generate buzz and brand intrigue, be a safe fan forum, or offer exclusive access to content or promotions.

By creating an official and private environment, members can feel more comfortable to express their opinions. And, moderators won’t need to worry about spammers or encroaching third-party companies.

Last year Facebook launched Groups for Pages, so page owners could create branded groups without using personal profiles.

If you’re considering using a group for your business, here’s everything you need to know.

How to set up a Facebook secret group

Step 1: Get started.

Click the “Create” button, found in the upper right of the page header, and select “Group.”

Step 2: Fill in the essentials.

To create your group, add a name and a few members. For an extra touch, you can personalize invitations to members for an extra touch and to explain the group’s purpose if you like.

Step 3: Select privacy settings.

Choose “Secret Group” under the privacy dropdown.

Step 4: Personalize your group.

Start by adding a cover photo and description. You can also add tags and locations.

Step 5: Adjust your settings.

Under the cover photo click “More” then select “edit group settings.” Here you can pick your group type, control membership approvals, post approvals, and set different group permissions.

You can also set up links to pages, which is ideal for brands wanting to link with their brand page.

Pro tip: If you’re not sure what privacy level you’ve set for your group, go to the group’s page and look for the group name in the top left corner. Underneath it will read either public, closed, or secret.

Changing Your Group’s Privacy Settings

If your group is not set to secret and you’d like to change your settings, go to the “edit group settings” form. Scroll down to privacy and click “change privacy settings” and select “secret.”

Note: Once you’ve changed you group to secret, you have only 24 hours to change your group settings back. After that, if your group has more than 5,000 members, there’s no going back to closed or public settings. Facebook only allows administrators to change groups to more restrictive settings.

Whenever you change a group’s settings, members will receive a notification.

Tips for managing a Facebook secret group

Managing a secret group can be trickier than other types of Facebook groups or pages. Follow these steps to ensure best practices.

Step 1: Establish clear community guidelines

This is where you’ll let group members know the purpose of the group, community standards, and instructions.

You can pin guidelines in a post to the top of your page, put them in the group’s description, include them in a document, or all of the above.

Some things you may want to include in your guidelines are:

  • Who is eligible to join the group. You may also want to share instructions on how to add members.
  • Who to disclose and who not to disclose information about the group with. If you have a strict non-disclosure policy, you should also include repercussions for “outing” the group.
  • Policies on hate speech, racism, graphic content, harassment, and other unwanted behavior.
  • Do’s and Don’ts. Do’s help members understand the best ways to engage with the group. Don’ts clarify the group’s objectives and policies. For example, you may want to discourage solicitations, advertisements, memes, etc.
  • Frequently Asked Questions. If you find that members are repeatedly asking moderators the same questions, it may make sense to add an FAQ.
  • Where to find group resources and documents.

Step 2: Invite trustworthy moderators

This is especially important if you anticipate having a lot of members. Extra help moderating comments, approving new members, and responding to member inquiries will be key to running a successful group.

Step 3: Determine day-to-day responsibilities

Once you’ve identified trustworthy moderators, set up a schedule so it’s clear who’s expected to take care of responsibilities at given times. If it makes sense, make that schedule public so group members know who to contact on any given day.

Step 4: Review and update

Make sure you keep your guidelines fresh. Facebook policies may change, new questions may arise, or new developments may need to be addressed.

It’s always good to leave a timestamp, too, so members know when the guidelines have most recently been edited.

So, the secret’s out. Secret groups are awesome. Sure, they may require a little more moderation than a public or closed group, but members may be more inclined to engage more candidly and more often.

To see where groups might fit in to your company’s overall Facebook marketing plan, check out our definitive guide to Facebook groups.

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By Katie Sehl

Katie is a writer and photographer based in Toronto. She used to be indecisive, but now she's not sure.

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