If you’re looking to launch an online product, Facebook is an incredible resource. I know this from experience, I used Facebook at the start of my own journey, launching free communities and later creating my first ad campaigns. Facebook is where you can find your tribe and start to build a community.
Here are my top three takeaways from the day, as well as some top tips that you can start to use straight away.
Facebook groups aren’t dead
Despite the fact that I’ve used Facebook groups a lot in the past as communication tools (basically, as a way of getting people together in one place) I’d started to notice people in the industry increasingly closing down their groups. I’d started to think that Facebook groups were dead but something told me to keep my open and I'm glad I did because Facebook groups are very much alive. Every month, 1 million Facebook members are joining groups. Granted, there are more than a billion people on Facebook, so 1 million a month might not seem like many, but this number is increasing.
Facebook recognise the value of communities so are making active pushes in this direction, with teams employed specifically to look after groups. This will likely mean exciting new developments in this area in the near future that will make groups into an even more useful tool for you.
So what’s the best way to use Facebook groups?
Don’t use groups as a broadcasting tool
First and foremost, your group should be a community: a place where people can support each other and have discussions. Don’t just think of your group as a place to dump messages and content – that’s what a Facebook page is for.
If you notice that you’re the only one who posts in your group, or if members of your group don’t seem to be talking to one another, there’s something very simple you should check first. What is your group’s mission? This needs to be very clear. What are you all trying to achieve, together? By being clear on this you’re creating a space that encourages people to get involved, offer questions, advice and content that they think will help towards that mission.
Also, keep in mind that your mission for your group does not need to be the same as the mission for your business, or even the mission of other digital platforms you may have (like your website or even your Facebook page).
For example: if your business is a gym, your Facebook group is a place for people to meet other people who like to get fit, to find new strategies, to offer and receive support and to share experiences. It is not a place to get new gym members (although this is a side effect that will happen!). Remember that customers and community can be separate. Some members of your community will become customers, which is fantastic. But both have value. A strong online community, even if they aren’t all customers of your business, will help your business to grow.
You go to events for the connections, not the content!
If you’re going to industry events (and you should) don’t go for the content, go for the people. You can learn so much and generate so many cool ideas by just chatting to people who are doing similar things to you (and from people who are doing very different things as well!) Especially in the industry of digital products and marketing, chances are you’re working from home, or within a small group. Get out there! Meet people, leave your house. Nothing beats human interaction. You can find great content online, in the form of articles (like this one!) and online tutorials, but it can be so valuable to find groups and events where you can network. If you’re an introvert and hate the idea of networking – just force yourself. I always try to find excuses not to go to events, but I never regret going to great events and meeting people.
What are Facebook doing now for communities?
When it comes to new tools and features for groups there’s loads in the pipeline. Big news: a mass message button is coming. So, finally, you’ll be able to send a message to your whole group. With visibility and engagement on posts down, this is a really important tool for making sure your community are engaged with what you’re doing and stay in the know.
Lots more admin features are on the way too, so you’ll have better control over the group. A particularly useful addition is that soon, if you need to remove a post, you’ll be able to explain why to the person who created that post. This is especially important in community maintenance within a group since a person having their post removed might feel ostracised unless you can clearly communicate with them. You’ll also be able to pre-approve posts. So if you have an amazing member in your group that posts great content, you can give them the ability to post on your group by pre-approving.
Keep an eye on Facebook’s newsroom as Facebook are paying loads of attention to communities right now – you can get their latest announcements for communitities here.