Facebook is evolving to concentrate more on building communities, and groups are the natural tools to help forge new kinds of connections. One billion people already belong to FB groups. About 10% of those belong to groups that FB has identified as “very meaningful”—communities that “quickly become the most necessary part of someone’s experience on FB.”
Since people who love a brand want chances to get more interactive than is possible through a FB Page, FB has recently made it easier for businesses to create their own FB groups. Groups for Pages allows businesses to set up “fan clubs & groups centered around your super-fans.”
“Super-fans” are a group any business could be keen to target. By giving those extra-keen brand loyalists an opportunity to interact with each other as well as with the brand itself, groups create a powerful ecosystem in which members forge meaningful connections with the business.
Those connections among customers & fans are more important than ever. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that people are far more likely to trust someone like themselves (60%) for company information that they’re the company CEO (37%).
Facebook groups vs. Facebook Pages
Groups, on the other hand, “let people come together around a common cause, issue/activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos & share related content.”
Anyone can create a group, which means that even if you haven’t created a FB group yourself, there might be a group related to your brand. For example, fans of Hallmark movies created & manage the group called “Fans of Hallmark Channel”, “Hallmark Movies & Mysteries” and “Hallmark Drama”, which currently has more than 21,000 members.
If groups related to your business exist, you should definitely get involved to keep an eye on the conversation, learn from what people are saying about you& help provide the brand’s perspective. You might even uncover some potential ideas for the product development. But you should also create your own official group as the brand-endorsed meeting place for fans on FB so that you could grow those relationships in a context that gives you greater control.
How to create a FB group
Open the Create a group window
Log into your brand’s Facebook Page & click the more icon (…) at the far right of the menu bar under your cover photo, then select Create group.
Choose a name for your group
You will want this to be something that’s easily recognizable as connected to your business & conveys what group members will get from the group that they cannot get by following your Facebook Page.
Keep in mind that you could create multiple groups to cover different aspects of your business/different customer groups, so you do not need to try to make your first group a catch-all. For instance, HBO has a group specifically for fans of its Big Little Liars series.
Invite some members
Just like no one wants to be first to arrive at a party, no one wants to be the first person to join a Facebook group. Invite some employees, colleagues, or friends to get the ball rolling. You may want to reach out to some of the more active participants on your Facebook Page & let them know you are creating a group you would love them to be a part of.
You can choose to customize your invitation with a note—this is a great way to let people know why you are inviting them to the group, and how they could expect to benefit from participating.
Select the privacy level for your group
You have 3 privacy options: public, closed, or secret.
A public group is exactly what it sounds like. It is fully visible to everyone, and anyone could join without being approved. All members’ posts are fully visible to all other FB users, so this type of group does not offer the sense of privacy & security that comes with the more restricted group types. However, it’s the easiest group type for users to join, and could, therefore, grow quickly.
In a closed group, posts are only visible to members, so there is a sense of being involved in an exclusive community. The group itself appears in FB searches, and the description & member list are visible to anyone on Facebook. It does not offer complete privacy, but members could feel comfortable knowing that the posts they share are visible to members of the group.
There is no right type of group for all businesses. If you want to encourage lots of public discussions, a public group could be your best bet. If your business deals with an area of life that people consider to be personal or private, you could want to consider a closed group so that people feel comfortable sharing thoughts that they could not want to be publicly visible. A secret group could even be a fit, if your aim is to offer a super-exclusive online meeting place—for premium members of the subscription site, for example.
Personalize your group
Your FB group is now up and running, but it is pretty bare bones. You will need to do some customizing to make it an appealing place for potential group members to gather online, to give it some credibility. Here is how:
Add a cover photo: Choose something that highlights the unique goal of this specific group, rather than a generic image for your business. And make sure you are using the recommended image size dimensions.
Add a description: Make a catchy explanation of what the group is all about. Remember that this information is publicly visible for public & closed groups.
Add some tags: These tags function as keywords that could help your group appear in search.
Add locations: If your group is tied to a specific geographic area, you can indicate so here. If not, you can select to mark your group as “global.”
Get the discussion started with some posts of your own, encourage your colleagues, employees, and friends to post as well. Once the discussion gets rolling, conversations start to happen more organically.
You could wish to pin a post to the top of the group to provide additional information that you do not want to include in the public description.
How to find and join relevant Facebook groups
In addition to communicating with potential clients & customers, FB groups can be a great source of professional connections & networking opportunities. Getting to know fellow entrepreneurs in your local area or niche topic of expertise, for example, can help create growth opportunities for all group members. You can share information and ideas within a safe shared space, which can be particularly valuable if you work from home or within a small company.
A simple Facebook search will help you uncover existing Facebook groups that are relevant to your business goals. The process of finding these groups is easy. The tougher part is deciding which types of groups will be most useful to your professional development and help you grow your business.
If you join too many groups, you will be overwhelmed with posts and won’t be able to participate in regular discussions. Facebook allows you to join up to 6,000 groups, but this would be an impossible number of communities to keep up with, so it’s important to zero in on the groups that offer the most benefits. Here are three ways to find them.
Method 1: Use the Discover groups tab
- Log into your personal FB profile
- In the left column, under the Explore heading, click on Groups. If you have already joined some groups, you will see them listed on this page.
- Click on the Discover tab at the top of the page. FB will bring up some recommended groups based on Pages you have likes, your location, groups your friends belong to, and other clues from your activities on FB. You can also scroll through various topics and to find relevant groups for each subject.FB groups
- Once you find a group that looks interesting, click on the name of the group to view the publicly available information, or click Join to become a member of the group. Depending on the privacy settings, you may become a group member automatically, or you may have to wait for your membership request to be approved.
Method 2: Search for relevant groups
- Log into your FB profile.
- Enter a relevant keyword in the search box at the top left of the page.
- Click the Groups tab to see a list of groups related to your search term.
- As above, click on the name of the group to learn more, or click Join to become a member of the group.
Method 3: Uncover secret FB groups
The thing about secret groups is, well, they are secret. That means you can not find them using either of the methods above. The only way to find & join a secret group is to be invited by an existing member.
Talk to your contacts to learn whether they belong to any secret groups they might be willing to invite you to. When asking for an invite, be sure to mention ways you could bring value to the group, rather than simply seeking out benefits for yourself.
Facebook groups strategies for business
The ways in which you use Facebook groups for business will vary depending on your industry, the size of your business, and your social networking goals. Let’s look at two examples of very different businesses using FB groups to build strong communities on-line.
1. Major publisher: Connecting with super-fans
Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, cited the Washington Post’s wildly successful PostThis Facebook group as one of the motivations for launching groups for Pages. 2 reporters from the Washington Post started the group from their personal profiles before it was possible for Pages to create their own groups.
The goal of the group is to allow reporters to connect with the newspaper’s most dedicated readers, sharing information about how they do their work, where story ideas come from, and the way the job of political reporting gets done. While the group has fewer than 4,000 members (compared to the more than 6 million followers of The Washington Post’s Facebook Page), it’s very active, with multiple posts per day.
Rather than simply Liking or commenting on stories, group members can engage in active discussions with the people who work in the Post’s newsroom, giving them an inside look at the work that goes into modern journalism. They can also connect with other readers, sharing opinions & information among themselves.
2. Online entrepreneur: Building a community and establishing expertise
In April of 2016, Shirley Weir of Menopause Chicks posted an on-line survey asking women what topics they wanted to learn more about. She had planned to use the answers to inform the content she would develop for her web-site, but when she learned that 70 percent of respondents said they did not have anybody to talk to about perimenopause or menopause (or that they would never talk about it with anyone), she decided it was high time to create a safe place for those discussions to happen.
She launched her Menopause Chicks Private Community Facebook group that same week.
“Creating a private online Facebook group seemed like the most natural thing to do,” Shirley said. “It was quick & easy to set up, and my tribe ‘lives’ on FB. It was the perfect launch into creating two-way & group conversations about the perimenopause-to-menopause transition that enable women to get informed, know their options, and then make the health decision that’s best for them.”
More than 80 percent of the 3,500 members are active in any given month, and the conversations are personal, vulnerable, and highly valuable to those women who felt they’d nowhere else to turn. Shirley gets involved in the conversations, highlighting her own value as an expert in her niche, delivering important information and resources to group members, and building her brand—all at the same time.
“It’s the age-old ‘if you’re happy, tell others’ mantra,” Shirley said. “Women love to share with other women, so we hope to continually move women along the I’ve a question > I received a thoughtful and meaningful reply > I want to tell all my friends spectrum. Every single day we get notes of gratitude—usually within the same theme: I was suffering in silence & now I realize I’m not alone and I can get through this.”
Bonus: Down-load a free guide that teaches you how to turn FB traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
Tips for using Facebook groups for business
1. Engage consistently
Once your group reaches critical mass, it’ll take on a life of its own as members start conversations amongst themselves. But to get the most value from your group, it’s important for you to engage regularly with members, whether by starting conversations or jumping into ones that are already underway.
One key benefit of having your own FB group is the chance to showcase your expertise & establish yourself as the go-to resource in your niche, so make sure you do so regularly. Respond to questions, ask follow-up questions of your own, and generally keep the conversations going.
One easy way to engage & get new members involved is to post regular welcome messages. The built-in welcome message feature enables you to tag new members automatically, so you can introduce them to the group and let them know you are happy they’ve joined.
FB Groups for business
2. Keep things under control
Most people who join your group will likely do so with good intentions. But there are always some spoilsports out there. And things can sometimes take a negative turn. It’s up to you or your designated moderators and administrators to maintain a positive atmosphere that’s welcoming and safe for all group members.
Start by creating a clear code of conduct for your group & posting it in a prominent place (such as a pinned post) so that everyone understands what’s acceptable, and what’s not. You do not need to get too draconian, but be sure to lay out your expectations in a way that everybody can understand.
If things start to get heated within your group, you can use Facebook’s group administrator tools to temporarily black a member from posting or commenting, or permanently remove members who have violated your group’s rules. If one post in particular seems to be inspiring inappropriate comments, you can turn off commenting for that post, or delete it. If you have to remove a member, you can also choose to delete all of their past posts.
3. Learn from Group Insights
Once your group reaches 250 members or more, you will gain access to Group Insights, which can provide information about which posts are most engaging, and what times create the best engagement among members.
These analytics can help you refine your FB groups business strategy over time so you can focus on what works best.
4. Collect user-generated content
Since group members know they are in a safe and regulated space, they may be more willing to share than they would be on other social media channels. Try asking your group members to share their favorite relevant content or give you feedback, and make sure to comment on and like what they share.
You can also create & upload documents like text files & spreadsheets within a Facebook group. These can be a great resource for organizing information and keeping it in a consolidated, easy-to-find location.
FB group documents are also helpful for collaboration on projects, brainstorming, or anything else, which can help establish your group as a place where ideas can flourish and connections can be made.
5. Gain customer insight
Your FB group is essentially a focus group of your best customers & potential customers, so it can be an important source of valuable opinions & insight that can help you identify pain points, hone in on what your customers like best, and even come up with new product ideas.
Use social listening techniques to get a sense of what matters most to group members. If you are seeking specific information or opinions on one topic, try posting a poll within the group to measure responses numerically.