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How Facebook is killing Facebook groups for artists Part 1

by Brian Sherwin on 12/5/2011 1:07:46 AM

This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

I've decided that Facebook groups have become annoying both for the admins who run their groups as well as for Facebook site users who are members of said groups. In fact, I'm finding it difficult to find anyone who is happy with the most recent changes to Facebook groups. The new Facebook group format is arguably better -- from a visual standpoint -- than previous versions. There is also a group chat window that can be helpful depending on how involved site users are with the group. However, the change came with a lot of unnecessary digital baggage. The two main problems: 1.) Facebook decided to turn all group notifications on by default. 2.) your Facebook 'friends' can add you to a Facebook group without your consent. In my opinion, these two problems have hurt artists because art groups on Facebook tend to be extremely active -- and thus are apt to suffer from the mentioned problems.


Facebook has long been a staple of marketing art online. From day one artists have used the site to promote their art -- I can remember the early days when the site was only open to college students. Art students took advantage of the sites capabilities in order to spotlight their art. That momentum continued when Facebook opened itself to a world beyond dormitory doors. Today there are thousands of art related groups on Facebook -- millions of artists use the site to promote their art... all posting with the hope that someone will like their art enough to comment. Things change -- and now those same posts are more likely to turn someone off. After all, you can't expect feedback about your art when so many Facebook users are annoyed by group notification changes. In a sense, the changes are 'killing' groups that are active... and art groups happen to be some of the most active groups on Facebook.


Let us take a look at Facebook problem #1 -- Facebook decided to turn all group notifications on by default.


The Problem: You might be asking yourself, "Why is that a problem?". Simple. It is a problem because for whatever reason Facebook decided that it was best to change your group settings for you (insiders have suggested that Facebook did this in order to improve interactions on groups for their own marketing needs). Thus, if you had selected not to receive group notifications in the past the choice you had made for your account is void. In other words, you will receive notifications for every Facebook group that you are a member of until you change your group settings again. Needless to say, the open notifications have annoyed many Facebook users -- and the problem has been amplified by the fact that Facebook did a shoddy job of informing site users of the change.


The problem with this change is that the average Facebook user is being bombarded with dozens of group notifications per day. By default a group member is notified every time a member from the same group posts on the group Wall. Those Facebook group Wall posts add up throughout the day -- especially if the group happens to be an art group. Unfortunately, many Facebook users don't understand why they are suddenly being 'hit' with notification after notification -- which has spurred some users to accuse other users of 'hacking'. Again, Facebook is the blame for the confusion... they should have done more to inform site users of the change OR simply turned all group notifications off by default. The unexpected change has made group admins a target for Facebook users who are confused as to why they are receiving group notifications in mass.


I've ran into this problem due to art-related groups I maintain on Facebook. Within the last two months I've been contacted by three individuals asking that I stop sending them notifications. I explained the situation to each individual... and offered them step-by-step instruction on how to change their Facebook group settings. Unfortunately, only one 'heard' me out. The other two went into hostility mode -- again, all because Facebook failed to adequately inform all site users of the group notification changes. Point blank -- I've been blamed for issues that Facebook caused AND have had to try my best to clean up their mess.


In dealing with my accusers I have had some interesting discussions. One went as far as to accuse me of "hacking" her account. I explained to her what to do in order to change her group settings -- she refused to do it claiming that I was going to further "infect her computer". She then informed me that she had reported me to Facebook for abusing group notifications. She claimed that I had turned her notifications on without her consent. You read that correctly -- she reported me for something that Facebook did. I'm certain that Facebook customer support had a few laughs that day.


Another angry Facebook user demanded that I remove her from the groups I maintain -- she was annoyed by notifications. She continued to make that demand even after I offered her a step-by-step on how to remove herself from the groups (it is not that difficult to figure out -- it just takes a 'click'). She threatened me with a "lawsuit" if I did not comply with her request. I informed her of Facebook group policy and reminded her that it is her responsibility to remove herself from a group. She responded with more 'lawyer talk'. By that point I was frustrated -- I told her that I'm not her secretary and informed her that if she is capable of logging on to Facebook one can assume that she is more than capable of removing herself from any Facebook group she is a member of. Point blank -- I had become just as annoyed as her... the only difference is that I knew who to blame. For whatever reason she refused to accept that Facebook had changed her group notification settings without her consent.


In all my years of utilizing Facebook I never thought that I would be working as customer support for free. Don't get me wrong -- I'm more than happy to help someone out. That said, my appreciation for Facebook has greatly decreased due to the fact that I've had to clean up their mess. True, I have only experienced a few issues like this -- but what if it were to become a daily hassle? What if everyday I had to explain to a fellow Facebook user how Facebook works and the changes Facebook has made? True, I could ignore them -- but that only leads to further accusations against me from Facebook users who don't understand that they should be taking their aggression out on Facebook... not me. Case in point -- one of the angry Facebook users I dealt with felt that I did not respond to her request in a timely manner... thus she took it upon herself to publicly accuse me of 'hacking' her account. She posted on the group and on my personal Wall. Again, Facebook group admins are becoming targets due to the choices of Facebook.


Facebook needs to be careful when making major decisions like this. After all, I know that I introduced thousands of artists to Facebook during the early years. Furthermore, I have stated that Facebook can be a powerful tool for exposure -- and have advocated that for several years now. That said, why should I promote Facebook if Facebook is going to slap me in the face by implementing changes that turn me into a target for ridiculous accusations? Is it my fault that some Facebook users are confused about the situation? No. Facebook needs to do more to inform users of these changes. Period.


In my opinion these recent changes will 'kill' Facebook groups for many Facebook users -- groups that are active will be hurt the most... and art groups on Facebook tend to be extremely active. After all, if I'm being accused of 'hacking' I can only assume that other Facebook group admins are as well. Your average Facebook group admin does not want to deal with this confusion. The accusations are ridiculous -- but not as ridiculous as a website implementing major changes with little to no explanation. The problem could have been prevented had Facebook been more clear to site users overall... or if they had simply chosen not to turn all notifications on. Facebook groups for artists will all face these problems if they have not already.


More to come...


Take care, Stay true,


Brian Sherwin


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Related Posts:

Social Media and Art -- What can Facebook tell us about Art and Public Opinion?

Clintavo's Position on Marketing Art via Facebook and Twitter

Facebook Like Button Count Inaccuracies

6 Reasons Why I'm Not Going to Use FaceBook

The Lesson for Artists in the Killing of Facebook Deals

Please, Don't Forget All the Non-Facebookers

Facebook Reality is a Myth

Topics: Brian Sherwin | Facebook | FineArtViews | social networking 

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Phil Kendall
Easy? Stay clear of joining groups.

They are not about people. They are only extensions of the group leader's ego. Its their thrust to get their opinion in front of you...just don't follow them like a mindless sheep.

Susan Holland
I quit Facebook about seven months ago because of these changes. I lost a good art friend because I tried to trouble shoot email that was blitzing all her friends by using her account to spam. She got all huffy that I was accusing her of spamming. It's not worth it. It has "Peter Principle"d itself out of usefulness.

A more manageable community can be set up on LinkedIn. It's the only group I am in, and I reserve it for professional contacts.

Brian Sherwin
Phil -- that depends on the group. True, there are some art groups on Facebook that are ran like a dictatorship -- but most, at least in my experience, are not.

I do have some issues with pages on Facebook. For example, pages that focus on an interest -- painting for example -- are sometimes created and used to promote a business rather than focus on the interest itself. Yep... I do know of one 'painting' interest page that is nothing more than promotion for an artist service website. In my opinion that is unethical... that is just my opinion though.

Susan -- can you explain how you utilize LinkedIn and why you feel it is of more value to you than Facebook?

Susan Holland
I use LinkedIn for special access to certain groups, much like facebook. But I have much more control on who does or does not see/communicate with me. It is possible to make a closed group that focuses on a particular location, issue, or relationship.

My experience has only been with specifically art related issues in my location, and for the time being the group admin screens members accordingly.

We share info on art events in the area, invitations to exhibits, news about art related issues, art resources, available studio space, and such. Like a bulletin board. We also kick around ideas and give each other feedback.

I felt that Facebook was abusing my profile information and that their constantly changing policies regarding privacy, and the amount of malicious hacking was not something I wanted to be involved with.

Right now I am feeling much the same way about Google, to tell the truth. I just opened a new email account elsewhere and may just dump my google account! They change policy and format way too fast, and without any warning. If you do a lot of business or correspondence over the internet, it's just an insult to suddenly be slammed with a newly designed screen that Google thinks is better for you. Now I can't find anything on my google account without another learning curve, and I have to go back and adjust my settings to keep Google from showing a lot of info to the world of gremlins and advertisers. I don't like it.

(grumpily) Susan

Susan Holland
RE:"Phil depends on that group"

Brian, that is another reason I am steering away from Facebook. You can get a dependency on such things, and then, without much notice they can go "POOF". I am personally very much concerned about the dependency all our national and international social and business interactions have on internet connections. We are putting virtually all our eggs in the internet basket. I have my little wind-up radio and some water set aside for the day that no one can do anything because the internet is down. Really.

Brian Sherwin
Susan -- I see your point. Think of the corporations that spent thousands -- if not millions -- to build a presence on Myspace when it was the big thing. Now those groups have little to no value. Facebook is huge right now -- but what about next year? What about five years from now? You just never know -- back in the day people thought that Facebook had no chance of stacking up against Myspace... and we all know that history.

It goes further than that if you think about... take Ebay for example -- most will agree that it has strayed away from its roots... which has angered a lot of sellers... yet you will find artists who have structured their entire marketing strategy on the existence of Ebay. If you are going to go the online auction route I would def' suggest branching out to other services. Don't stop using Ebay -- but do be open to other platforms. The same goes with social networking.

Brian Sherwin
By the way, I'm still out on Google ... I have not used it enough to make an informed judgement on the service. That said, from what I have experienced it still seems rather 'dead' compared to Facebook and even lesser known social networking sites. I'm certain it can be useful... but I have yet to see what all the hype is about.

Ruby McMenemy-Taylor

My Name is Ruby McMenemy-Taylor.

I've been an artist for 30 years and due to being screwed over by my now ex boss I have decided to make a go of it in the art business.

Unfortunately Facebook is making things very difficult when it comes to free you can imagine, right now I do not have the money to advertise. I'm not into plugging myself with a sob story as we've all got our own problems to face in life.

That said I'd be awfully grateful if you would look at my links and share them...I have to make this work.

Can't do it without you all

Susan G Holland
Ruby, I've asked someone (right in the middle of publishing illustrated books) for a good source of info for breaking into the commercial illustration market. I'll get back to you when I have a response.

Ruby McMenemy-Taylor
Oh my goodness-thank you so much Susan!
Greatly appreciated.

Gail Daley
I find it interesting that you complain about doing Facebook customer service for free, since as far as I know they don't HAVE any customer service! All they seem to have is those ridiculous "group forums" (the blind leading the blind!). Your group members are fortunate that you are willing to explain how to do this stuff to them, since it is very difficult for the average user to find out how to do this stuff!

edgardo hajek
Very nice and informative article here. Thanks for the info, super helpful. Try PDFfiller to fill 2014 AU Form 1022 here form 1022 download. It allows you to to fill out PDF files.

Susan G Holland
Brian, I am working with as an alternative to FB. While they are still "small" their concept is large. They are offering ad-free, private social sites. With graphics and text and an attractive format. I have not tried to go "whole hog" yet, because people are still pretty attached to FB even though they have issues with it. I'm still on both. But I've made it clear that when (not if) FB crashes itself with its popular success and greed for money, I'll still be on WeMe for those who want to stay connected. Some have signed up. There are other similar set-ups that I have heard about. There is a free option, and a reasonable "pro" option that I will use if the virtue of FB keeps sliding away. Just thought you would be interested.
Susan Holland


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