Everything You Need to Know About Secret Facebook Groups (Visible vs Hidden)

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Facebook group for Facebook group admins

One of the first things you have to do when creating a Facebook Group is to choose your group privacy. And one option you’ll have is to create a Secret Facebook Group; one which doesn’t show up in search results, where only members can find it, and where joining requires being invited by another member.

There are two privacy options for Facebook Groups: public and private (formerly public and closed groups). If you’re creating a private group, you can then adjust the settings to then have it visible or hidden from Facebook search (formerly called secret groups). 

But what are the implications of creating a Secret Facebook Group? What are the pros and cons? How do members join a Secret Facebook Group? And how do you actually create one?

In this article you’ll learn what a Secret Facebook Group is, what it means when your group is set to hidden, and in which instances it would make sense to have a Secret Facebook Group. We’ll also show you how to create one.

Jump to: What is a Secret Facebook Group? I How Members Join I Benefits of a Secret Group I Creating a Secret Group I Moderating a Secret Facebook Group I FAQ

What is a Secret Facebook Group?

A Secret Facebook group is a private group which is not accessible to anybody other than its members. It does not appear in Facebook search, and the direct URL to the group won’t work for non members (as per the above screenshot).

‘Secret’ is actually an outdated term, and Facebook now calls these types of groups ‘hidden’. However this terminology was officially used for so long, that many people continue to use it (which is why we will in this article).

The first thing to know about a Secret Group is that your group must be set to private. Having a public group which is completely open and accessible to everyone on Facebook goes against the whole concept of secrecy. As such, if you create a public group, hiding it will not be an option.

Once you create a private group, you have the additional option of making it visible or hidden. Visible means that anybody can find the group and request to join, while hidden means that only members can find it.

The Difference Between Public and Private Groups

When you create a Facebook group, you’ll first need to choose your group name, and then your group privacy settings. You cannot create a group without making these choices.

A public group is completely open and accessible to everyone on Facebook; all content is visible without first having to join (anyone can see who’s in the group and what they post) and Facebook will start to show the content of a public group even outside of Facebook. 

That means members don’t have to ask for admission to read the content and, in future, admins will be able to choose if they want to allow non-members to contribute to discussions. 

A private group is one where only current members can see the content, and membership must be requested and approved before a user is able to join. Invited members to a private group can see a preview of content for 28 days after they have been invited, though they won’t have full access until they join (this is the same regardless of whether your group is visible or hidden, depending on your membership approval settings. More about that below).

Creating a secret Facebook Group (2)
Creating a secret Facebook Group

It’s important to really think about which settings will be best for the purpose of your group. While public groups can change to private after they’ve been created, you cannot change a private group to public. This rule is there to protect the privacy of group members who joined a private group, so if you’re creating a private group, this is a permanent decision.

Once you have created a private group you can however switch back and forth between visible and hidden as much as you like. So it doesn’t matter for instance, if you create a visible private group to begin with, and later decide to switch it to hidden (or vice versa).

The Difference Between a Hidden and Visible Facebook Group

The difference between a hidden and visible Facebook group is very simple: a hidden group cannot be found by anyone other than its members. It will not appear in Facebook search, recommendations, and it cannot be discovered. Even with a direct URL, the page that appears for non members will tell them that the content does not exist.

There is no trace of a hidden group to anybody other than its members.

On the other hand, a visible private group still retains its privacy, however the fact that it exists is public; ie, non members can find the group in Facebook search, discover it via Facebook’s recommended / similar groups feature and request to join, but will not be able to see any content or access information about members until they become a member.

VisibleHidden
Who can see the group’s name?AnyoneCurrent and invited members
Who can see the group description?AnyoneCurrent and invited members
Who can find the group in search and other places on Facebook?People on FacebookCurrent and invited members
Who can request to join?People on FacebookNobody. You have to be invited to join

Notably, on Facebook’s Help Page for visible vs hidden groups, it states that former members can find, see, and request to join secret groups. However we tested this, and this is not the case. If a member leaves a secret group, they are no longer able to access, see, find, or request to join it. As such, the above table is a more up to date version that you’ll currently find on the Facebook Help Page.

When a member goes to leave a secret group, they are presented with a pop-up which warns them that they will not be able to find the group again unless another member invites them. They also have the option to prevent people from inviting them to join the group again. Once they leave the group, it no longer exists for their access.

Leaving a secret group

Pro tip: If a former member is trying to re-join a Secret Facebook Group, and you are having trouble inviting them to join, they may have previously clicked the option to prevent being invited again in the future. If this is the case, the only way they will be able to rejoin is if you change your group settings to visible, and provide them with the URL to request to join.

So if non members can’t find a Secret Facebook Group, how do they join one?

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How Members Join a Secret Facebook Group

Inviting friends to join a secret Facebook group

Joining a secret / hidden Facebook group is by invitation only.

Within secret groups, all members have the ability to invite their friends to join the group. This is the same for admins, moderators, and general members, and is the only way someone can join a hidden group (currently there is no way to restrict the invite feature to admins and moderators only).

Keep in mind that Facebook only allows you to extend invitations to those within your friends list. This means that if you’re an admin, and let’s say you have an exclusive community for those who have purchased a product, you need to be Facebook friends with the person you’re adding in order to send them an invitation. There are a couple of ways you could handle this:

  1. You could switch your group to visible when you need to onboard a new member, and send them the link to the group to join, switching the settings back to hidden after you’ve added them (there is no limit on the number of times you can switch back and forth between hidden and visible). However note that every-time you do this, Facebook will publish a post to the group feed alerting your members of the change in settings, and there’s no way to delete this post. If you’re changing these settings often it could become quite tiring and they may switch off notifications.
Hidden facebook groups vs visible
  1. You can invite them to add you as a friend so they can be added to the group, and if you value the privacy of your personal profile, could remove them as a friend once they’re in.
  1. Have a Page you manage added as an admin of your group, and have the prospective member like that Page. Once they have liked your page, you can log into your group as the page, and then when you hit the ‘invite’ button it will allow you to invite those who have recently liked your page. This is our preferred method for inviting members you’re not personally connected with to join your group.

Once invited to join a secret group, the process will work in one of two ways, depending on your membership approval settings. Within the settings of your Admin Tools panel, you have a section called ‘Manage Membership’, where you can choose who can approve member requests. This section is important, as it will dictate how the process works for new members being accepted to a Secret / Hidden Facebook Group.

Manage membership Facebook groups
  1. If your settings allow anyone in the group to approve member requests, this means that any member can invite their friends to join a secret group, and the person receiving the invitation will have access to a 28 day preview of the group content before deciding to join. If they choose to join, they are automatically added into the group, and can bypass having to answer any membership questions.
  1. If your settings only allow admins and moderators to approve members to the group, any person invited by another member will first have to answer your membership questions, will then sit in the pending queue for admin approval, and notably, will not be able to access a preview of the group before they are approved. The below screenshots are first, what an inviting member sees when inviting their friends, and second, what the invited member sees in place of a group preview.
Inviting members to join secret FB groups
Secret Facebook group invite

The option you choose in this instance will depend on your purpose and the level of exclusivity you wish for the group. If you have strict membership guidelines, ie our above example of an exclusive community for those who have purchased a product, you’ll want full admin control over who joins the group.

Where-as if you have a topic focused community where you want a little more exclusivity than that of a visible private group, but you’re happy for it to grow through word of mouth and friends of friends recommendations, you may choose to allow members to add their friends without having to go through you (though remember that this option skips your membership questions, meaning you forgo the opportunity to collect email addresses – one of our biggest monetization tips for Facebook Groups).

Benefits of a Secret Facebook Group & How they Can Enhance Your Business

The most obvious disadvantage of a secret group on Facebook, is that you greatly limit your growth opportunities. The only way to grow this type of group is through direct word of mouth. It is highly exclusive, and takes many growth strategies off the table which would otherwise be available to you with a visible private group.

Much of the time the main aim of a group admin will be to grow your reach as wide as possible, however there’s always a place for exclusivity, and in some situations this can greatly benefit your business.

Hidden groups can come in handy if you have a small team you’re working on a project with, and you want an efficient and safe way of communicating with the group. For example, you could use a hidden group for planning a private event which shouldn’t be publicized.

They can also add value as an exclusive membership perk of either purchasing a product, subscription, training service, or work as a sub group of a larger free community, which could be a public group (ie you have a secret subgroup of your main, larger group). For instance, we sell women only tours via our Solo Female Travelers group, and while the main group is a private visible group, and open to accepting new members, those who book our tours may then find value from joining a secret group to connect with other women who they’ll be traveling with.

If you manage large communities (like these largest groups on Facebook), secret groups can be a great means of communicating with your team of admins or moderators. Most small moderators have Messenger or WhatsApp threads to discuss issues relating to the moderation of a group, however if you have a large team, a Facebook Group could offer more functionality than a private message thread.

You might also choose to do this if you want to make membership to your group only available for a certain period of time, or if you want to stall it for a while. For instance, once our We Travel We Blog group reached 1,500 members, we decided we would close the group to new members, and made it a Secret Group from 2016, until it recently opened up again to new membership in 2020. We built the community to the optimal membership numbers for our goals and purpose at the time, and then decided to preserve the atmosphere of a tight-knit support based community.

How do you make a Secret Group on Facebook?

To create a Secret Group on Facebook, you can either do this from the very beginning when creating your group, or you can apply the change to an existing private group within your settings.

To create a new secret group, click on the + sign at the top of your Facebook feed, and choose the option to Create a Group. Fill in the applicable privacy settings, choosing ‘private’ group, and then choosing ‘hidden’ as per these three screenshots:

Creating a secret Facebook Group (2)
Creating a secret Facebook Group

Once you have your group name and privacy settings down, you’ll need to invite at least one friend to join the group before the Create button becomes clickable. We recommend inviting a close friend who you can tell in advance that you’re creating a new group, but holding off on inviting anyone else until you’ve completed the rest of your set-up. For a step-by-step guide with further information on creating a group, see our Create & Grow Your Group eBook.

To change an existing group to secret / hidden, navigate to your group settings within the Admin Tools panel. Within the ‘Set Up Group’ bubble, click on the pencil icon where it says ‘Hide Group’ and choose ‘Hidden’.

Create a secret Facebook group

If you are changing a public group to a hidden group, you will first have to change your privacy setting to that of a private group. The ‘Hide Group’ section will not be available until you to.

Understand that in doing this, this is a permanent decision, and you will never have the option to return to a public group again. Public groups can be changed to private. However private groups cannot be changed to public. Facebook only allows administrators to change groups to more restrictive settings. This is because the members of a private group expect their content will not be made public at any time in the future.

Secret group privacy

Moderating a Secret Facebook Group

The same rules and Community Standards apply to Secret Facebook Groups as to any other group or interaction on the platform, so from a moderation stand point, there’s no difference in the way we recommend approaching content and managing member behavior.

Bullying and harassment, hate speech, glorification of violence and cruel and insensitive posts, this is all still banned, and while Secret Groups may not have the element of being held accountable by the general public, they are still bound by Facebook Community Standards.

Just because your group is not visible to others on the platform, doesn’t mean that content is not visible to Facebook, and they moderate Secret / Hidden groups in exactly the same way in terms of removing inappropriate content, and algorithm policing.

Facebook has started taking a far more proactive role in removing content it deems inappropriate than they ever have before. If content has been removed from your group you will find this detailed in the Group Quality section of your Admin Tools – Group Quality lets you know if content in your group goes against Facebook policies, what they’ve done about it, and what you can do.

Secret Groups can still be reported by members for violations of these standards such as hate speech, harassment, violence or nudity, and a Secret Group can still be investigated by Facebook and taken down. Additionally, Facebook may also be legally required to handover secret group information if requested by the government.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Secret Facebook Groups

What is a Secret Facebook Group?


A Secret Facebook group is a private group which is completely hidden from non members. Only members of the group can find it, and new members can only be added at the invite of current members, admins, or moderators. Nobody outside the group will be aware of its existence, and nobody can apply to join. 

Did Facebook get rid of Secret Facebook Groups?


No. Facebook did not get rid of Secret Groups, they just changed the name of it. Secret Groups are now called ‘Hidden’. Hidden groups act in exactly the same way Secret Groups did. It’s simply a name change.

Can you find a Secret Group on Facebook?


You’ll only be able to find a Secret Group on Facebook if you are a member. Even if you have the direct URL of the group, if you’re not a member the page will say the content does not exist for you.

What’s the difference between a private and Secret Group on Facebook?


A Secret Group is one form of Private Group on Facebook. There are two privacy options for Facebook Groups: public and private (formerly public and closed groups). If you’re creating a private group, you can then adjust the settings to then have it visible or hidden from Facebook search (formerly called secret groups). 

How do you make a Secret Group on Facebook?


When you create a new group on Facebook, if you choose to make your group hidden, you have created a Secret Group. If you have an existing group, you can make it secret by changing your ‘Set Up Group’ settings in the Admin Tools dashboard to hidden.

Can my friends see if I join a closed group?


No. Your friends cannot see if you joined a secret / hidden Facebook group, and will only know it exists if you invite them to join.

Can you add non friends to a Secret Facebook Group?


You cannot add non friends to a Secret Facebook Group. You can only invite people to join who are already in your friends list. The way around this we suggest for admins who don’t wish to be friends with their members, is to have a Page you manage added as an admin of your group, and have the prospective member like that Page. Once they have liked your page, you can log into your group as the page, and then when you hit the ‘invite’ button it will allow you to invite those who have recently liked your page.

Facebook group for Facebook group admins

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