Facebook is putting a big push on Facebook Groups by making them more of a core part of the platform and giving them more exposure on the homepage. In order for you to stand out, you need to create a great, engaging, and informative community. Here are nine tips to get started.
1. Define Your Why
Before you get started, it’s important to ask some important questions about the goals of the group and what you’re willing to put in to get it there. The reason why the group exists will be more important to people than what it’s doing.
- What do you want to accomplish with the group?
- What will you consider a success?
- How will you contribute to the group and how much time will you put into it?
- How do you want members to benefit from their participation?
- What return are you expecting to get for your time investment?
- Why might you decide to shut it down?
Asking yourself these questions in advance will help lay the groundwork for your group and help you avoid pitfalls. It’s important to set goals for the group because “What gets measured gets managed,” and measuring your progress toward those goals will keep you going in the right direction. No one would want their group to shut down, so outlining the reasons why it might fail will help you avoid them. Lastly, it’ll be difficult to define the intangible stuff, like what success or member benefits look like, but it’s still important to define these things to set a goal, and you can ask group members later how they feel about the group after some time.
The reason why you should start a community will vary, but the underlying problem is the same; there isn’t currently a place for people with a particular common interest to come together. These commonalities can be any of the following:
- Common interest
- Common pain point or frustration
- Desire to build up a niche
- Desire to connect on a deeper level
- Desire to foster a larger sense of purpose
A community needs leaders and leaders want to create something bigger than themselves, something that can benefit a lot of people. Is this why you’re creating a community?
If you’re going to start a group around a particular industry, topic, or niche, it’s important for you to have at least one foot in that area so that you can inform others and carry on a conversation about it. On top of that, you want to conduct more research about it so that you’re the most informed person in the group and can provide value to your members.
It’s also important to research other groups so that you can be prepared to run one yourself. Join other groups and observe what they’re doing. Join groups around your field but also ones outside of it so that you know what it’s like to be a non-expert participant. You’ll learn a few different things:
- What you like and what you don’t like
- What to strive for and what to avoid
- Content ideas
- Engagement strategies
- Group policies and member approvals
Don’t just consume… contribute. Practice participating, interacting, and engaging with group members so that you can know what to expect. You will establish your own style and vibe within your new community but you can learn a lot about do’s & don’ts, challenges, and expectations if you do your research in advance.
Your Facebook group name should be both compelling and descriptive. When someone is searching for groups to join or when Facebook recommends your group, you want your name to stand out as interesting and relevant to the right people. It’s okay, or even encouraged, to brand the group if it’s related to your business, but the top priority should be to make it clear what the group is about.
Your group description should be intriguing and informative as well so that people feel like they need to be on the inside. Also, prioritize graphics, like an icon and header image that align with your brand, because these are the first things that people will see when visiting the group and you want to make a good first impression.
You’ll need to recruit members to grow your group. It will be beneficial to have a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and levels of experience to contribute different things to the group. Here are some things to avoid:
- Don’t spam people with invites
- Don’t invite friends who won’t be interested
- Don’t add members without their consent
- Don’t try to poach members from other groups
These are all faux-pas that will rub people the wrong way and may hurt your chances of getting members, especially the right ones.
Membership will develop and evolve naturally over time, but you can start by inviting your friends, and announcing it on your personal page, business page, other social media accounts, or to your email list.
5. Set Guidelines
It’s your job to set expectations and rules for group members. The first thing that a lot of groups do is to ask questions to potential members in an effort to filter out people who aren’t really interested.
Once they’re in, members should be able to clearly tell what you do and don’t want in the group. A lot of groups outline this in a Rules & Regulations post or in the About section. Otherwise, you want to encourage people to engage; contribute, participate, answer questions, and provide feedback & input. Let members know that their participation is appreciated and that you welcome them as valued members of the community.
Right from the start, establish a positive environment for everyone by discouraging spamming, self-promoting, and mean comments. State that unacceptable behavior will get them banned from the group. Some may think strict rules are harsh or off-putting but it’s important to protect your group from getting overrun by negative behaviour.
These policies can evolve and change over time and, if you don’t feel like writing everything out, you can state it all in a video. This would be a good reminder that there are human beings behind these avatars and not a faceless organization telling people what they can and can’t to do.
6. Provide Strong Leadership
Managing a Facebook group successfully can sometimes be more work than you anticipate. It’s important that you have the time and resources to dedicate to providing strong leadership within the group. Aim to keep discussions lively, focused, and fun. Otherwise, conversations can go off the rails, grow stale, or dwindle down. Spam and inappropriate behavior can get out of hand more quickly than you think. People are not going to stick around in a boring or drama-filled environment.
Commit to participating in your group regularly and be willing to moderate it; and as it grows, you may need to recruit members or hire a team to help you moderate.
7. Engage Members
When new members join the group, welcome them by tagging them in a post, asking them to introduce themselves, and share something about how they hope to benefit from joining. This will be beneficial for you to get more engagement and a sense of community in the group and it will be beneficial for them by giving them and/or their business/page/website some exposure.
As you get to know the people in the group, you can start to interact with them personally, such as by tagging people who are most active in the group or have some more experience in a particular area. Ask for their input, recommend their expertise, or use them as examples (all with permission, of course). Again, you’re building a community, where the members should feel welcome and are encouraged to participate and talk amongst each other.
8. Keep the Conversation Going
A successful Facebook group is lively and active, and people actually want to participate in the community. The best strategy for a group owner/admin to do this is by creating a content calendar and planning content in advance. You don’t want all of your posts to be of the same subject or the same type, so mix up posts with polls, GIFs, pictures & videos, and asking for recommendations. You should develop a consistent posting schedule so that people will come to know what to expect. Also, by planning your content in advance, you can worry less about creating content every day and can focus more on engaging with your members.
There likely won’t be a lot of activity in the beginning but as more members join, pay attention to which posts get what kind of attention and adjust your content strategy.
Encourage engagement by asking thought-provoking questions. Don’t just ask “Your thoughts?” after each post, but get them to give their opinions and ask that they explain why they think of feel that way. That will lead to better conversation because one-word answers don’t help anybody.
We said earlier that people shouldn’t promote themselves in the group. This is true because it can get out of hand and the group and look like one big series of ads, but don’t write it off completely. By starting this group and being an expert in the field, you do bring something more to the table and there’s nothing wrong with talking about it. Make sure that you’re still providing value through doing this.
Don’t let these self-promotions turn into bragging or begging people to sign up for something. You can announce webinars, events, sales, new products, special promotions, latest blog posts, or whatever you have to offer, but make sure that you’re doing it for your members’ benefit and not just your own. You still have to be providing value to them because they are still community members, not customers. If you’ve built a good group and audience around your niche, these things should be of interest to them and they’ll be grateful for the heads-up.
In order to give your group the best chance of success and your members the most amount of value, there are questions that you should ask before starting your Facebook group:
- Identify why you’re starting the group
- Research other groups to see what you like & what you don’t
- Describe your group well in its name, description, and graphics
- Reach out to grow your membership
- Set terms for your members to follow that will discourage bad behaviour
- Lead by example by getting involved in the group
- Use your platform to promote yourself (but only if it provides more value to the group).
Follow these tips, and you should be well on your way to creating a strong online community.