Facebook Groups, and online communities in general, are becoming more prevalent in peoples’ lives according to data from a new research study.
A report from NYU’s The Governance Lab examines how Facebook Groups allow people to form meaningful communities they often wouldn’t have the opportunity to offline.
Of those involved in the study, 77% say the most important group they’re part of now operates online.
The study contains a number of up-to-date statistics on Facebook Groups, such as:
- More than 1.8 billion people use Facebook Groups every month.
- There’s over 70 million admins and moderators running active Facebook groups.
- More than half of all users are in five or more groups.
- The median number for respondents’ most important group — online or offline — ranges from 25 to 100 people.
- Groups with ties to local communities and cities generate the greatest sense of belonging.
- Over 50% of respondents who named an online group as their most important had belonged to that group for more than a year.
Those are the quantitative results. The study also gathers qualitative data about what motivates people to participate in online groups and the benefits they receive from doing so.
Here are some additional findings from the study, which offer a deeper understanding of peoples’ relationships with online groups.
The Power of Virtual Communities: Additional Findings
This is where it’s worth mentioning how the study was conducted. All research included in the report is derived from interviews with 50 Facebook community leaders and dozens of global community experts.
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The study also includes data from Facebook internal research, a literature review, and a 15,000 respondent global survey conducted by YouGov of people who are currently members of online and in-person communities.
These are some of the study’s more noteworthy findings:
- It’s possible to experience a strong sense of community in a virtual group even when members are physically far apart.
- Online groups tend to attract members and leaders who are marginalized in everyday society.
- Virtual communities have enabled new kinds of leaders to emerge with skills that can involve moderating divisive dialogue among millions of members.
- Facebook Groups are largely ran for free as a labor of love.
- Though some online groups have huge memberships, they remain mostly unrecognized offline.
The study concludes more research is needed to understand how online groups will operate over the long term. It’s not known whether peoples’ feeling of connection and sense of belonging is sustainable in an online space.