Facebook Communities Summit Europe: What We Learned

Facebook Communities Summit Europe

Facebook Communities Summit Europe Key Takeaways:

  • The introduction of Watch Party, a new tool that allows you to co-watch a video.
  • Facebook Community Leaders Programme
  • Facebook doubles its content review team to 20,000, while also expanding its tools team to combat fake news, bullying, harassment and hate speech on the site.
  • Four new updates to the Group interface, including the Admin Tools Hub, Group Announcements, Personalisation and Rules.

Estimated Read Time: 6.5 mins

“What is a community?” This was the question posed by Chief Product Officer Chris Cox during the recent Facebook Communities Summit Europe.

The answer to this question, which we’ll touch upon later, was the key pillar behind the Summit, which brought together admins from across Europe to learn from one another and become the first to hear about the latest tools, updates and initiatives from Facebook.

The Facebook Communities Summit Europe was kick-started by Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s Vice-President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and took place on February 9th in London,

Talking to an audience of leaders from all over Europe – identified by Chris Cox as “those who are important to more than 200 million people” – Nicola told the story of how a particular niche community within Facebook became her “most meaningful group” and “support system” after she was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in 2016.

“Connecting people and communities is really important to Facebook,” Nicola said, before describing how the group, for which she is now a co-admin alongside founder Nicky, has helped educate, innovate and connect sufferers from across the globe. The group now has 4,000 members from over 90 countries.

“Come and stay with me.”

Our day-to-day lives now exist both offline and online. The influence of Facebook in the offline world was showcased within Nicola and Nicky’s group during the hurricanes in 2017. A man called Barry Butler, who was residing in Miami at the time, posted:

I don’t think my home will withstand the winds of Irma, so I’ll be homeless and I don’t know when I will next be in contact, but I just want to say ‘thank you’ because you have been an amazing support to me.”

His emotional message prompted one man within this online community to offer to let Barry stay with him during the dangerous weather. “Come and stay with me,” Nicola recited as the room fell silent in awe of such community spirit.

“That’s why we’re here today,” said Nicola.

A Tough Year for Facebook

In the words of Chris Cox, Nicola’s successor on the stage, “2017 was a tough year for Facebook, social media and the internet”.

A tough year indeed, and there were difficult, pressing questions of the social network’s role in democracy, public discourse, journalism, and wellbeing. But what can Facebook do to combat these issues and continue to triumph both on and offline?

Two things: removing bad content from the platform – using both internal and external experts – and accentuating all of the good things that are happening. This brings us to Chris’s next point:

“How do we build tools in digital places to bring people together, on any device, in any language, in any country, for any kind of community to meet their unique needs?”

‘Community software’ is how Chris Cox defines the roots from which Facebook was created. What he means by this is, back in 2005 when he joined, the news feed did not exist, and there were no like buttons or commenting; Facebook was not actually a service for friends, but a “community service” for students and colleagues.

A Journey Through Time

One of the many indications we got from the Facebook Communities Summit is that Mark Zuckerberg and his team are aiming to harp back to such a time.

The Summit brought together an audience consisting of leaders from over 100 different communities across Europe – from Latvia to Ireland, Greece to Finland. These are the people Facebook has been listening to and learning from in order to maximise both its user experience and connections on and offline.

Again, tracing back to Facebook’s roots, when engineers began introducing features such as news feed and groups, Chris recalled the first group that gained over one million members within the social network; an impressive feat considering there were only 10 million Facebook users in the world at the time.

The name of that group? “Students Against News Feed”.

This, of course, prompted laughter from the audience. However, Chris went on to say that the second and third largest groups were based on raising awareness around humanitarian issues such as violence in West Sudan and raising money for breast cancer. This opened the developers’ eyes to “something special that could happen”.

And something special did happen. You only have to listen to Nicola’s story to realise the power of a network of people brought together around a specific idea or interest that “goes way beyond what we can imagine”.

This summarises everything Facebook is trying to achieve, with the Communities Summits both in London and 2017’s in Chicago.

Facebook Communities Summit Europe Updates

So, what are the exciting new features and developments in the world of Facebook? Chris Cox began by announcing three areas in which Facebook recognises it needs to improve upon:

  1. Safety and Integrity

    Increasing the work and resources towards protecting the integrity and safety of users, Facebook’s 2018 plan consists of doubling the size of the network’s content review team from 10,000 to 20,000. This will help combat the spreading of fake news, bullying, harassment, fake accounts, and hate speech.

    This development will also be helped by Facebook’s tools team expanding to double its size in order to monitor content and maintain the safety of groups and communities.

  2. More features to help groups interact – Watch Party

    One of the new features Facebook will roll out is Watch Party, which allows you to co-watch a video in a similar yet digital way of inviting people to your house to enjoy a film.

    Group members will be able to watch the same frame of video at the exact same time on any device, and then have a conversation about it in real-time. This could be anything from a cooking show to a conference or Q+A and will shift media from a passive experience to an engaging, inclusive community.

  3. The Leader

    Described as “the difference between the most successful group and a baron one”, leaders need unique tools so that they can spend more of their time attending to the people and less time on what Chris Cox labels the “ins and outs of the group”.

    “The most important ingredient is you, the leader,” he concluded before moving on to the two major announcements of London’s Facebook Communities Summit.

Facebook Communities Summit Europe: Major Announcements

  1. The Facebook Community Leaders Programme

    “Helping fund, find, identify and grow community leaders worldwide”, the Facebook Community Leaders Programme will give out five $1million rewards to what Facebook views as the highest impact communities from around the world.

    The five winners will be flown out to meet Facebook’s product teams to help continue improving the tools they need.

    The second part of this new scheme consists of one hundred $150,000 prizes to leaders focusing on unique initiatives. Therefore, Facebook will be injecting millions of dollars to supplying “training, support, and tools for the next generation of leaders.”

  2. Four New Features

    Having spoken to and met with a variety of leaders from all around the world, Facebook is now in an excellent position to further expand, enhance and revert back to this idea of it being a community service, while still maintaining its presence as ‘social’ media.

  • Admin Tools Hub – This will bring together the six or seven key things a leader needs to maintain membership numbers and keep the sense of community strong within their group. Bringing these tools together in one place will streamline the admin’s workflow.
  • Group Announcements – Enabling admins to organise particularly important posts at the top of the group, with the option to schedule at certain times on any device. “This will help you tell the story you need to tell at the top of your group,” Chris said.
  • Personalisation – Giving admins the chance to set a theme and colour(s) to groups to further the connection felt by members. ‘Human touches’ such as the option for full cover images and member lists at the top of groups will also help to enhance the sense of belonging from members.
  • Rules – “We’ve heard from so many of you that most of your job is setting the rules and keeping them maintained,” said Chris. “So, to honour this, we’re giving rules a special space inside of the group’s experience, so you can host them in a structured way and show them to members on their way into the group.”

These new announcements, tools, and updates are all part of the conversations Facebook is having with its users. Whether that’s actively going out to meet them in person, or simply listening to the thoughts and musings expressed within its online community.

What is a community?

If we’ve learned one thing from the opening speeches of the Facebook Communities Summit Europe, it is that Facebook is asking the right questions, at the right time. So, what is a community? According to the researchers and academics who were asked the very same question by Facebook, a community is…

“A collection of people who give trust and investment over time; receive a sense of belonging, meaning it’s a place they feel at home; connection, meaning it’s connected to their own identity; and a feeling of safety, which is often provided and seen when people can say things in a place they can’t say elsewhere.”

When it comes to Facebook, the mission is clear, “to keep building roadmaps for our product teams that are coming from the most important needs from you.”

Did you miss the live broadcast or want a re-cap? You can re-watch the Facebook Communities Summit Europe video on the Event page.

Oliver Wilkinson
Content Marketing Executive
Knapton Wright Ltd.