Groups have been a part of Facebook since the beginning. Initially a way to congregate virtually with your friends and fellow students, Groups quickly expanded into something much more complex.
Today there are millions of Facebook Groups, allowing people to discuss everything from pets to politics. Many small businesses, authors, and other public figures create groups for their fans or customers to discuss topics related to the business. If you’re trying to build a fanbase or community for your business, a Group may be the way to go, and it can also help establish other types of business as reputable and trustworthy.
At the same time, Groups, when run well, can represent a significant investment of time. Let’s look at what Facebook Groups offer so you can decide whether or not to set up a group for your own product, service, or community.
Why Use a Facebook Group for Business?
Facebook Groups are a great way to promote your business without being too salesy.
They’re also an effective alternative (or addition!) to Facebook Pages, which don’t see as much traffic as they used to. In fact, research suggests that Groups experience considerably more engagement than Pages because they allow for a lot more interaction on the part of your customers.
Groups can be on nearly any topic and can offer your audience insight into your brand or product. For example, a musician might have a fans-only community, where a software company or app developer can use a group for questions or support. You could set up a group as part of a conference, webinar, or other event.
However, many successful groups aren’t directly tied to a brand or product but instead focus on a broader concept that’s related to the creator’s interests or profession. A freelance web designer might set up a group to help others get freelance gigs, or an author might set up a group to support fellow writers. Or create an opportunity to go deeper into a topic that underpins your business.
In other words, if you step just outside of the narrow brand confines of your business, you can provide a service and foster a community that comes together around that idea. In return, you’ll establish yourself as an expert or leader within that community while gaining respect and visibility. The best part is that you don’t even have to pitch your product or service, as people will come to know what you’re about as they interact with you.
How to Get Started with Facebook Groups
One of the first things you will need to decide when creating a Facebook Group is its privacy or visibility. You have three options:
- Open – the group itself, who the members are, and all group posts are publicly viewable by anyone. This is a great way to build a fanbase or serve as an information source.
- Closed – the group and members are publicly viewable, but no one can view the posts unless they join. This option forces people to commit to your group to view and participate, which can help you build a stronger community but may not be as good for marketing purposes.
- Secret – the group itself, its members, and all posts are invisible unless the group owner or a member invites someone to join. This is a great option for special “insider” groups you create after someone purchases your product or service, for conferences, or for events.
As you can see, none of the options is inherently better than another, and it really comes down to how you plan to use your group.
For more help with the nitty-gritty of setting up a group, Facebook offers documentation on how to administer Groups, including how to set up and customize a Group, as well as how to manage membership. It even offers a few tips on member engagement. Also, you can check out Hootsuite’s extensive article to learn more of the process for getting a group off the ground.
Fostering a Healthy and Productive Atmosphere
Here are some helpful tips for running a successful Facebook group:
- Post regularly. Ask questions, post humorous memes or stories, share helpful tips, highlight a member’s success, provide updates, etc.
- Don’t focus just on your business. Consider your audience’s interests and needs. If you’re running a group focused on software, think about what other products your members might find useful. Are there books that could be interesting? TED Talks? Be creative.
- Limit sales pitches or product promotion to a small fraction of your overall posts.
- When in doubt, post something humorous. A meme or comic can be a great way to get people involved.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Remove spammers immediately.
- Post a (brief!) code of conduct and be consistent (and where necessary, transparent) when enforcing the rules.
- Avoid contributing to drama. Never argue with members in public and don’t “feed the trolls.” If someone is causing trouble, take the discussions to private messages.
- Be genuine. At the end of the day, being yourself will go a long way.
- Don’t hide. The whole point of joining a group run by a professional is to interact with the owner. So don’t just post things or approve members—comment on other people’s posts and be friendly and welcoming to all.
Will a Facebook Group Benefit Your Brand?
Running a Facebook Group isn’t for everyone. Before jumping in with both feet, here are a few considerations:
- How much time do you have? If you’re going to set a Group up, you will need to commit to a certain amount of time per day to be active and involved. While you can have co-administrators, part of the value of a Group is that the membership gets to see and interact with you. Depending on their size and amount of interaction, Facebook groups can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours a day to manage. Can you check in at least once every day for requests to add, monitor comments, remove abusive or spammy members, etc.
- Does running a Facebook Group fit your personality? To be a good leader, you need to be part cheerleader, part disciplinarian, and part teacher. If something goes badly you need to be able to remain calm and not take the interactions personally (or at least not react online).
- Is a Facebook Group right for your target audience? This is an important consideration. Are your customers even on Facebook? What are they looking for from you? Do they want to be entertained, helped, or be part of a community? Do you offer a product or service people will want to discuss, or is there a larger topic (e.g. productivity, cooking, etc.) that will draw people in?
- How will you measure success? Are you looking for increased sales? Better brand awareness? Mailing list signups? Be sure you “know your why” before making this commitment. It’s also important to be able to identify the signs of failure. It’s better to pull the plug cleanly and close the group rather than let it just drift off unmonitored, which could end up hurting your brand.
Having a plan before you start will ensure your Group fits well into your business strategies instead of being a drag on your time and resources.
If you’re thinking of using Facebook or other social media platforms for your business, here’s a few other articles that can get you started.
And be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any tips we’ve missed for running a great Facebook Group. We’d love to hear from you!