According to industry experts, private Facebook groups are expected to explode in 2016, even more so than they did last year. That’s because algorithms on Facebook continually change, making groups a great way to engage with your ideal audience without having to boost posts.
As someone who does much of her business online, and who was planning the launch of a new Facebook community, I recently spent a few weeks trolling exploring new Facebook groups. I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. I mean, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Facebook groups in the last few months, but never strategically looking at the content and the members of those groups. I wanted to know how people were interacting and how I could create a community that would be valuable to small business owners across the globe.
Needless to say, I learned a lot about what works—but even more so about what turns me off about some groups and their members. And to help anyone who is thinking about either starting an online community or becoming an active member in one, I invite you to read my personal insights.
At my peak, I was in about 45 online groups. These were both business- and fitness-related (because fitness is one of my passions). While my insights focus on the business side of Facebook groups, these ideas can be utilized in just about any group.
Choose Quality, Not Quantity
Yep, I was in 45 online groups. But I did that on purpose. During my holiday “vacation,” I searched for any online group that was designed for small business owners and online entrepreneurs. Once I upped my group memberships, I was immediately overwhelmed with the notifications on my Facebook feed. So much so that I was very unproductive my first week back to client work. I mean, what if I missed something, right? I’m convinced that I have adult-onset ADD anyway and being in so many groups meant that any time I logged into Facebook, I had 12, 15, 20 notifications (or more) waiting for me. I discovered that it doesn’t really matter how many Facebook groups I’m in because there’s no way I can effectively manage more than a handful of them. Instead, what matters is that I gain value from the groups I’m in and am able to give value to the other members.
My Tip: Limit the number of groups you’re in. Severely. How did I narrow my groups down to a manageable number? I created a spreadsheet to help me decide which groups I should stick with. My deciding factors included the number of people in the group (more members = more notifications but also more opportunities for value), how active the group moderator was, whether promotional posts were allowed (see below), whether my ideal client was in the group and a few other factors. Then I set myself a goal to narrow down my groups to 10 business and three health-related. In short, find the groups that resonate most with you and eliminate the fluff.
Be Careful What You Share
There are certain groups where I will share more than others. I’m a member of one very small, intimate group of women on Facebook and I typically go there first when I need to vent or want advice about something. In larger groups, I’ll ask more open-ended questions and word my posts more carefully. Here’s why: Because one group is so small, I’ve been able to really build relationships with those women. In larger groups, it’s more of a challenge. I want to start conversations to see who I resonate with. It’s impossible to engage with everyone.
My Tip: Before you share a ranting post or ask a question, first think about who is in the group. Could one of your clients (or ideal clients) be there? If so, it might be a turn-off if you vent about an annoying client. If you’re asking a question, search the group for similar questions first. You’ll save yourself some time and the hassle of weeding through notifications as the answers come in. Because I’ll be that someone else has already asked that question! (Don’t know how to search a Facebook group? Here’s how!)
Keep It Professional
Ah, the F-bombs. I noticed in several groups that some moderators regularly curse and others even will “loudly” remove group members who express that the profanity may not be the best way to grow your business. Personally, I’m not very shy about cursing, but I will rarely use it in a professional setting. It doesn’t resonate with me as “sassy” or “bold” and I don’t really like the way it rolls off the tongue, per se, in a Facebook group or in any online content—for the most part. That said, I’ve been known to drop a word or two (but rarely, if ever, an F-bomb). But because I curse so little (online), I think it has a bigger impact when I do.
My Tip: If profanity is the way you express yourself, that’s totally your prerogative. But follow the moderator’s lead. If she is an F-bomber, it behooves you to either keep quite if it bothers you or simply leave the group. If you’re not the moderator’s tribe, don’t make judgment calls about her or others publicly in the group.
Avoid the Spam Posts
I get that we’re all in multiple online communities in an effort to give and receive the most value from our time on social media. However, it’s just plain lazy (and annoying to others—okay, me) when you post the same content and images on three or four Facebook groups at once. It also dilutes the value of each group you’re posting in. Just like if the same show is on multiple television channels, fewer people will spend time on each channel because the message (show) is so spread out. Seeing the same post in multiple groups was one way I weeded out groups I removed myself from and it’s the last thing I want to see in my own Facebook community.
My Tip: Either change it up or schedule your posts for different days—different times of the day at the very least! As a moderator, you’re diluting the value of my group when you post the same thing in three separate groups. Be original. Please.
Groups are for Community, Not Selling
If your sole purpose for starting or joining a group is to sell your product or service, just don’t. If I want to be sold to, I will reach out to you. And so will everyone else. IF you provide value to me first. IF I think we’re a good fit. IF I want to know more about what you do. IF I grow to know, like and trust you. Posting multiple sales messages every day is sleazy and annoying. And it’s the perfect way to turn a prospect off—quickly.
My Tip: Spend time in each of your groups each day providing value. Answer questions that other members have and engage in conversations. If someone expresses interest, invite them to send you a private message. That’s where you can close your sale—or on a discovery call. If you’re a group moderator, offer a thread once a week where members can post about a great new product or service they offer. And stick to that once per week rule yourself too!
In the end, I’ve found Facebook groups to be a valuable part of my business growth. But it’s taken time to get there and it’ll take you time too. That’s okay! There are many lessons to learn along the way.