The trick to making your Facebook group an overnight sensation

9/25/2013 12:00:00 AM

You may have noticed that there are some groups that appear to be popular or wildly successful after mysteriously acquiring hundreds or thousands of members overnight. Wow! You might be thinking. This group is really onto something to be able to get so popular so fast. You may even wish you were able to figure out how to do the same. You can! The way this happens is not a mystery. Sure, there might be some groups who have honestly earned their numbers, but it's usually not overnight. It’s good to know the difference between those groups who came by their numbers honestly and those who only merit the appearance of popularity. 


Read on and you’ll earn how anyone can start a Facebook group and gain thousands of members overnight. Once you learn, it’s your choice to decide how you feel about such practices.

We all know overnight sensations are rare.  The ones that appear to be are generally engaging in practices like those outlined in Ryan Holiday’s book, “Trust Me I’m Lying.”

Here’s the trick…

The group admins add ALL their friends, whether or not their friends asked to be there. They also ask members to help out with requests sharing how to recruit more people.  You’ll see things like, “If you haven't already done so please go through the "Suggested Members" at the right, click ‘see all suggestions’ and add everyone.” They’ll even have recruiting contests. Unlike real life recruitment, though, these folks don’t have to agree to join. If members follow along, they can quickly click away adding Facebook friends who have no idea they are being used in such a way.

Of course this goes against common sense, courtesy, and best practice recommendations which suggest you should inform someone you will be adding them to a group. Sure, clicking away adding all you know, may make you popular and create the impression that the group has grown like wildfire, but, consider if it is really ethical to add people to a group that never requested you do so.

Regardless, there are moderators who are focused on impressions. They know it is very easy to pop those numbers up.

Let’s do the math.

If 5 moderators have 2,000 friends each, and can click one friend a second they’ll have 1000 friends added in 16 minutes and 2,0000 friends added in about a half hour. That means they can have 10,000 members overnight! 10 moderators with 2000 friends means, 20,000 overnight. Does this mean there are 20,000 people who signed up to be there...or even know that they are there?  

Absolutely not.  

Users with just a little bit of social media savvy can save the 30 minutes and use some simple scripts (like this http://www.sivatechblog.com/2013/06/adding-all-friends-in-facebook-group.html) and automate the process. And, of course, its not just moderators who can do this. Members can too, but they generally don’t have as much incentive.

While group moderators may boast extreme pride at their clicking accomplishments, savvy social media users know exactly what they are doing.  They call it Slacktivism, a pejorative term that describes "feel-good" measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist.

Moderators use these numbers to show their broad support, and hope others are none the wiser.  That shouldn’t be you!

Here are a few easy ways to find out if the group you are following is a rare overnight sensation, or just knows how to manipulate social media to deceive folks into thinking they are as popular as their numbers represent.
  1. After the initial launch there is a huge surge in numbers, followed by a dramatic drop off in the number of  new members i.e. the group launches with 1,000 new members overnight or 25,000 in week one, but in the following months there numbers dwindle to only about 1000 new members a month.
  2. Their Twitter followers (who have to actively choose to follow) are substantially lower than their group numbers.
  3. Their “likes” on their Facebook page (where invites must be accepted by the person) are significantly lower than the group number.

So what do you think about this practice? It certainly gets the attention of those who may not understand how social media can be manipulated, but…

Is it effective?
Is it ethical?

Should Facebook allow master manipulators to add people who never asked to be there in the first place?

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.
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