Facebook Pages used to be a lucrative way for brands to connect with customers on Facebook. However, pages have seen a decline in organic reach in recent years. One Facebook Engineering Director noted that organic reach rates for Pages could dip down to 2% on average. Ouch!
This doesn’t mean it’s time to pack up the team and move away from Facebook, though. There’s a new sheriff in town when it comes to connecting with audiences on Facebook: Community Groups.
What Community Groups Are, and Why You Want One
There are 400 new Facebook users every minute, and every user is no more than 3.5 degrees separated from anyone else. This means there’s a vast network of connected individuals that can set the growth of your group into motion.
First, it’s important to understand the different functions of “pages” vs. “groups.”
Facebook created Pages to establish authentic and verifiable accounts for public figures or companies. Groups were formed as a place for a individuals with similar interests to converge.
Here are a few benefits of starting a group instead of a Page:
Control: Establishing a group and acting as admin gives you control over who is in the group and what is being discussed.
More Organic Reach: Community groups are more likely to have more engaged and interested users, especially if you set it up as a closed group (more on that later). Facebook’s algorithm works to show users only the most relevant content on their news feed, and an active community will help boost that.
Notifications Sent to Members: Unlike with a company page, members of a group will receive notifications for member activity and posting in the group.
Interact with Customers: Community groups are a central location to interact with customers, hear feedback, and discover insights.
Deciding on Your Community Group Title and Purpose
The most successful groups are those that launch with both a clear purpose, and an understanding of their intended audience.
A great example is “Become a Social Media Manager – With Rachel Pedersen.”
The title alone makes evident what the group is and who it’s for. The succinct group description helps, too:
“This group is right for you if:
1. You’re a social media manager.
2. You’re just becoming a social media manager.
3. You’re looking for a way to generate income from home – and stumbled upon this group!”
“Blogging Newbs” also clearly describes itself as a resource for new bloggers – open to all, and free of judgment.
“This space is for bloggers who want to share, learn and grow!
This is meant to be a place of support. This group is full of bloggers at different stages so please be kind and helpful. In this group we want you to feel a sense of community, friendship and learning. Let’s all help each other out!”
Since having a clear purpose and community is a central aspect for Facebook Groups, the site lets admins choose the “Group Type.” These types include categories such as buy and sell, study group, travel, team, project, neighbors, and more.
Set the group type by clicking on the three dot icon in the top right of your group page, selecting “Edit Group Settings,” and choosing a group type.
Admins also need to choose the privacy level for each group they create, with the options being “closed,” “secret,” or “public.”
Facebook has an entire page and table dedicated to comparing all aspects of the three privacy levels, but these are the basics:
Closed Groups: Anyone can join closed groups, but they will have to ask to join or be invited/added by an admin.
Secret Groups: Only users who have been invited by an admin can view and join secret groups.
Public Groups: Open to anyone, and they don’t need approval from admins to join.
There are pros and cons to each, but in general, only allowing in those who ask to be invited or have to go through specific steps to join are more likely to be engaged. Strict privacy settings may lead to lower numbers of members, but the members will likely be more active overall.
Setting Up Your Facebook Community Group
With your group’s purpose and title created, it’s time to set it up in Facebook!
1. Create your group and enter basic info
First, click “Group” under the “Create” section at the very bottom of the left sidebar on your desktop Facebook home page.
Then, you’ll fill out the basic information in the popup box, including your new group’s name, people to include in the group (to start), and the privacy setting. You’ll even get to choose an icon to associate with your group.
2. Add more information about your group
After you’ve filled out the initial information in the popup, you’ll be taken to the home page of the group. Before you start posting, take a moment to click on the three-dot icon below the cover photo and select “Edit Group Settings.”
Here you’ll be able to change advanced settings, such as a description, tags to help Facebook users identify and find your group, linking business or brand pages, and more.
Once you’ve created the platform from which you’ll grow your community, it’s time to introduce it to the world.
How to Grow and Engage with your Group
Looking at a miniscule members list, just like staring at a blank page that needs to be filled, can be intimidating. You know you’re going to provide value to members, but how do you go about finding the people? Here are a few ways to start, and sustain, the growth of your group.
1. Add new members:
The best way to add members to your group is through a combination of efforts: tapping into your existing audience and reaching out to new ones.
Posting to your social media accounts and sending email broadcasts to your entire marketing list are both great ways to convert current followers to new group members. Announcements don’t have to be complicated, but they should define who the group is for and what benefits they’ll reap as a member.
Consider 3-4 bullet points of very specific take aways of membership. Do they have access to downloadables? Who will they get to meet through the group? How will they be able to contribute as a member?
AuthorityMarketing.com has the perfect boilerplate script for email messages and posts:
I’m happy to have you here on (website name).
I just launched a new Facebook community for (who your target audience is) and I’d love for you to join us.
Group members will have exclusive access to strategies, tips, and training offers we have. You’ll also have a chance to ask us questions and network with other group members.
Here’s the group link: https://Facebook.com/Groupname
See you there!”
Influencers in your industry are another resource to turn to when it’s time to build up your group member list. Below is a template you can start with for outreach. You can spice up the language with your own personality, but keep the proposal simple. It’s important to lead with how the group will benefit this potential influencer: why should they care about being a part of your group?
My name is (your name) from (your company). I enjoy your (content) and think you do a great job at (action/compliment).
My company has just created a Facebook community for (audience), and I think it’s very relevant to you and your audience. Group members will have (access to offer, what they’ll receive, value) as well as the option to meet people in the industry.
Would you be willing to join the group and share it with your audience?
Our company can (send you a special offer, offer a discount to your audience, give you exclusive access, etc.).
Please let me know if you are interested.
2. Use Facebook’s Community-Building Features:
In June 2017, Facebook hosted their first Facebook Communities Summit, where they collected feedback from group admins that eventually led to new features. These new features and tools are created based on feedback and are perfect to use when building a Facebook group.
Welcome Posts: These pinned posts remain at the top of the home page no matter what. Use these welcome posts to offer special instructions, incentives, or rules to new group members.
Badges: Badges allow members to identify different types of members. Use badges for group admins, new members, or seasoned pros.
Member Profiles: Facebook groups are all about community and new connections, so it only makes sense that members can now easily explore the profiles of users they don’t know.
3. Engage Regularly
Consistency is key when building and maintaining a community group, and Facebook has tools to make it easier than ever. For example, Facebook allows you to create and schedule posts so that you can batch work and streamline your process. Try publishing at different times of the day since Facebook users check Facebook an average of 8 times a day.
4. Use Insight Tools
Facebook has expanded the Insights dashboard for groups, which means you have access to more information. Use insights to find popular days and times to post based on engagement levels or learn about who members are and where they’re from. The dashboard also makes it easy to stay on top of membership requests and monitor growth.
5. Post photos to grab members’ attention
Scheduled posts and insights help you post consistently when your members are most likely around, and using photos on posts is another way to grab a member’s attention. Below is a post example from the Bright Bloggers + Business group.
6. Set ground rules for the group
Just like with any large group of people, it can be hard to handle all of the personalities, opinions, and actions of the members. Setting ground rules, like the ones below, make it easier for admins to maintain order.
Promotion: The amount (and type) of promotion allowed in a group is up to the admin to set and enforce. While it may seem counterintuitive to let members promote work or offers that may take away from your business, the community is also meant to bring value from a variety of places.
A happy middle ground is allowing some promotion, with stipulations. In their article on Facebook communities, EnterpriseIrregulars.com lays out some great sample ground rules.
Inappropriate content: Just like with promotion, the definition of what’s “inappropriate” differs. For the most part, though, it’s best to make a note in the rules section of your welcome post that inappropriate content will be deleted. As an admin you also have the right to monitor and delete spam.
7. Create Polls for social listening
Facebook community groups are about two-way communication, and admins benefit from listening to the members. Asking the group what types of content they’d like to see, what questions they have, new topics they want to learn about, or what they like and dislike in the group can all lead to new ideas for admins and a better experience for members.
8. Go live within the group
Live streams are a relatively new addition to Facebook, and they’re a fun and useful way to connect with members. Benefit Cosmetics is an example of a company that is perfectly using live streams to interact with their group. Instead of random, one-off live streams, the makeup company creates “series” that air each week at the same time. These themed sessions also get the viewers involved, since they poll the audience at various points to ask them what they want to see next and give members the chance to control how the live stream plays out.
9. Engage with other types of events
Your community is virtual, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hold events! Question and answer sessions or expert panels provide value to members and insights for admins. The actual “event” can be a live stream, and HubSpot highlighted an interesting example from Grazia UK. The virtual panel held a Brexit Debate, but the topic of your virtual event can be tailored to your audience. Viewers can also place questions in the comments of the live stream, and your “panel” of experts can weigh in on the issues.
10. Keep the member list (and content) clean
Even though you set rules for inappropriate content, spam, and promotion, you’re bound to have a few rule breakers. Most situations can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but Facebook admins can now remove a member and all content they’ve posted with a single click if the issue persists.
11. Encourage participation with prompts and share user-generated content
Getting members to engage can be tricky, so consistent posting prompts are one way to encourage the audience to share their own user-generated content. One example is “Blog Post Thursday” from the Freelance to Freedom Project Community, Leah Kalamakis.
Creating, growing, and maintaining an engaged community group on Facebook is a real labor of love. The key to success is to start with a strong foundation and understanding of the group’s target audience and purpose, and then to build the community up with consistent engagement and creative ideas. Do you have any tips to add?