Facebook is testing another bad idea.
This article first appeared in my column at Inc.com
Facebook's goal has always been the same: to get its users to spend as much time as possible on Facebook. That makes sense, the more time someone spends on Facebook, the more the social platform is able to use their activity to learn more about them. It also means there are more opportunities to show them relevant ads. That's not unique to Facebook by the way. Neither is it nefarious, at least, not on its face.
Back in 2020, Facebook -- which has since changed its name to Meta -- recognized that one way to increase engagement is to emphasize content shared within the Groups that users join. It also increased its recommendations to try and get more people connected to groups. The company even took out an ad during Super Bowl LIV that was all about Groups.
In the last few months, Facebook went a step further, adding a simple feature that seems super useful, but you should probably never use. That feature? You could tag @everyone and all group members would be notified.
To be clear, this feature is also available in group chats in Facebook Messenger, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm taking about tagging @everyone in a post in a Facebook Group.
That sounds great, right? If you manage a Facebook group and you have an announcement or an upcoming event that you want to be sure everyone sees, just tag @everyone and they'll get a notification. Except, and this is important, the notification feels dishonest.
When you use the @everyone tag, it sends a notification to each member of the group that "so and so mentioned you in a post." The problem is that isn't what actually happened -- the admin of the group simply tagged "everyone."
Any time you get a notification from Facebook that says you were mentioned in a post, there's like a 100 percent chance you're going to tap on it to find out what so-and-so had to say about you. That's just human nature.
On the other hand, if the notification said "so-and-so sent a message to everyone in the group," you might just go on with your day. It's far less compelling, and Facebook knows that.
"We've been testing this feature for the last few months and are still iterating on the experience," says Leonard Lam, a communications manager at Facebook. "This includes different variations to determine how it can be most helpful for both groups admins and their broader community, as well as making sure notifications are both transparent and understandable."
The feature is a lot like the @channel feature in Slack, which notifies every person in a channel, whether they're online or not. I've written before that you should absolutely never use that feature. My main reason is that I've been in far too many Slack channels where it's used far too often. Most things aren't that urgent and don't apply to everyone anyway.
On Facebook, I can certainly see why a feature that increases engagement in your group would seem useful. The reason you created a group in the first place was to bring together people with common interests to communicate with each other. You probably want people to spend more time interacting in the group. More engagement means more value to the group.
Facebook also wants you to spend more time on Facebook, so its incentive is to build its product in ways that encourage that. That's not necessarily nefarious -- every developer wants you to spend more time using their app, especially when there's a straight line between engaging with content and generating more advertising revenue.
Still, I'm pretty sure you shouldn't ever use this feature in your Facebook group, especially since the notification could be misleading. Sure, it might get attention and get your message across, but it's not worth it if it's at the cost of alienating the people you're trying to communicate with.
Another problem is that if you get a notification that you've been mentioned in a post, but then click your way through to read what it says, you won't see your name. You'll see the "@everyone" mention, but that can be confusing. Not everyone is as used to being tagged this way.
To be fair, unlike Slack, Facebook seems to be limiting use of the feature. When I tested the feature in a group I created, it said I could only use it once per day.
Still, I spoke with members of Facebook groups using the feature and the overwhelming reaction was that they feel dishonest. At least one member told me they had left groups when they get the notification.
Lam told me that Facebook has "worked extensively with both admin and members, and part of testing is to strike a mutually beneficial balance between admin needs to highlight important announcements while also giving members a useful community experience."
That's fair. Certainly, there are times when it can be useful. And Facebook Groups is genuinely one of the best features of the platform. It's up to everyone to keep it that way, which is why you should probably never tag @everyone.
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