Facebook Groups aims to help South Africans navigate COVID-19, with 81% of Facebook users saying the most important group they are part of now operates online, says the platform.

The role of Facebook in creating communities that connect people to each other is highlighted in a recent YouGov survey. According to the report, 97% of South African respondents said they have given some form of support to others during the COVID-19 pandemic through their preferred Facebook group / community.

Additionally, 81% of people surveyed say the most important group they are part of now operates online (46% primarily online, with 36% both online and offline).

There are millions of active communities on Facebook, the platform says, with over 1.8 billion people using Facebook Groups every month and more than 70 million admins and moderators running Facebook groups active in the past month.

"As we continue to move through the COVID-19 crisis, we're reminded how online communities can be a lifeline while people practise social distancing," says Kiran Yoliswa, community partnerships lead at Facebook Middle East and Africa.

"More than 25 million people in South Africa are members of Facebook groups active in the past month, coming together to talk about their interests, learn new things, be entertained, support each other and make connections. With that in mind, we are excited to offer new features that will help admins and groups spark discussions," adds Yoliswa.

These features include:
  • branded content for public groups: use the 'Brand Collabs Manager' to make money from your Public groups by connecting with brands looking to promote their products and services.
  • admin assist: set rules so Facebook can help moderate posts in your group for you. For example, you can decline posts with certain keywords or from people who haven't been in the group long or whose posts have been reported in the past.
  • new topics: organise content by topic with hashtags and pin a topic to the top of the group to highlight it for everyone.
  • community management certifications: take an online course on how to build, grow and support your communities through a set curriculum and exam, and
  • new ways for you to engage and interact with your community: these include chats (create and join real-time conversations within a group), prompts (start conversations with a new type of collaborative post), Q&As (text-based question-and-answer sessions) and the ability to customise your profile for different groups.
Emmanuel Gamor, a certified manager, concludes , "From the online materials to the exclusive group of Certified Community Management Professionals, this programme has been incredibly helpful in delivering a wealth of wisdom for curating and managing a community. I feel validated in my career path as a community manager."

The YouGov research highlights how COVID-19 has brought out the best in many communities. According to the report:
  • 62% of South Africans received emotional support from Facebook groups during the pandemic and as many as 75% gave emotional support to others
  • over the next 12 months, 92% of people whose most important community group primarily online say they'll continue engaging with that group at the same level (30%) or even more frequently (62%)
  • 77% of respondents whose preferred group operates primarily online said that groups have become more important to them since the COVID-19 outbreak began, and
  • 100% of people whose preferred community group is primarily online say they feel a sense of belonging to that group, with 53% feeling 'a great sense' of belonging to that group.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com.