Okay, this information may prove a little shocking… but did you know that there are over 1 billion groups on Facebook, and that the number keeps growing?
It almost brings a new meaning to the term ‘groupie’.
If you haven’t yet jumped on this bandwagon (unintentional pun, I swear), there’s never been a better time to change that.
Facebook groups are essentially discussion forums within Facebook’s platform that allow specific sets of people to share links, photos, videos, gifs, memes and more.
They’ve been around since the early days of Facebook – in fact, they were one of the earliest features back when the site was known as TheFacebook.com.
While initially Facebook groups weren’t taken particularly seriously (they were usually utterly pointless interest-based communities like When I Walk Into A Spider Web I Immediately Go Psycho and Why Yes, I Do Frequently Burst Out In Song), in today’s world they encompass a lot more than simply having something in common with other people.
They offer a fantastic way to market a business, service or idea. They can be useful and convenient for both personal and professional life, and because users can’t hide behind anonymous profiles, trolling is generally a lot less common than on platforms like Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter.
Plus, they’re super easy to set up, super easy to monitor, and still fulfill their original purpose of helping Facebook users socialize around any topic or activity.
In this post, I’m going to talk about how you can use Facebook groups to create highly-engaged collectives that expand your business network, enrich your content marketing and extend the reach of your customer base.
I’ve crowdsourced ideas from Facebook marketing experts that will help you quickly grow your group’s following so that you can spread your message far and wide, and engage with more people.
So whether you already run a group or are keen to start one, or if you’re simply keen to know – hypothetically – what the best practices involved are, strap in.
Facebook groups at their finest can create significant and meaningful forums for discussion, debate and collaboration. But there are a few things that you need to know so that you don’t start a group that only has 39 members and *cue the sound of crickets*.
1. Post a diverse range of content
Haley Lynn Gray, the founder of Leadership Girl, believes in posting frequently in Facebook groups to retain and engage existing members, as well as attract new ones. But there’s a catch.The content needs to be fresh and varied.
“Post in the group five times a day, sometimes more.You will absolutely find yourself talking to the walls at certain points.That’s OK and to be expected. In fact, you may find yourself talking to the walls for a couple of months. Post a variety of content and be creative about it. There are a number of places online where you can look for ideas for posting on social media to get people to interact, and then use those ideas to make the group more interesting and engaging.”
Obviously, the advice to post five times a day (or more) should be taken with a grain of salt as it’s completely contextual. You don’t want to overwhelm members with too many posts if the goal of your group isn’t to share breaking news or high-priority information. But the key takeaway from Haley’s advice is to vary your content and mix up the format of your posts.
You could include a useful link in one, a funny photo in another, an event promotion in the next, or a YouTube video in another.
When you post frequently in a Facebook group, you offer members more chances to engage with your content. And when you post diversely in a Facebook group, you give your members more incentive to keep returning to the page to see what’s new.
You know that old saying, variety is the spice of life? Try reapplying it as, variety is the bid price of Facebook groups.
2. Rally up some group leaders and page admins
Writer, teacher and blogger Daniela Uslan believes in encouraging your most active group members to take on admin or leadership roles in order to promote conversation and growth within topical posts on the group page.
“It kind of sucks when you’re the only one posting in your Facebook group. That’s why it’s so important to recruit a few group leaders to get the ball rolling. Reach out to a few members and ask them what they’re looking for in a Facebook group… then invite them to become group leaders. Encourage them to ask questions and start conversations. When other members see that you’re not the only one in there, they will come out of the woodwork as well.”
By empowering trusted members of your Facebook group to take on admin responsibilities, you’ll find it much easier to keep the group under control and monitor interactions. They can also approve membership requests and add their own content to the group which will help keep it looking fresh.
As a bonus, you’ll incentivize these group leaders or page admins to share your group’s content across their own social media pages and invite people from their personal networks to join. They’ll feel like they’re part of something, not just an incomer.
After all, everyone needs a good wingman or wingwoman.
3. Motivate existing members to promote the group
Leading online influencer and Facebook marketer Neil Patel believes that with the right actions you can rouse existing group members to help you grow your Facebook group organically.
“You can use your group’s existing members to help attract new ones. Exactly how you do this is going to vary depending on what your group’s about and how many members you currently have. As a good first step, you can simply make a post in your group asking people to share it. Let them know you want to make this group the best and most popular one for your topic, and you need their help to do it. People like to feel helpful.
Appeal to your group members’ emotions by letting them know how much their sharing helps grow the group, and how much you appreciate it. Another option to get your members to share the group is to run a contest. Contests are very effective, for obvious reasons. Everyone likes to win!”
Neil goes on to suggest that the contest winner could be the member who gets the most new members to join the group, or that alternatively, you could run competitions for each member milestone that your group reaches.
A lot of businesses thrive because of personal or professional referrals. Your Facebook Group can similarly gain in popularity due to a good social media referral system.
As long as you are conversing and producing engaging content, your existing group members should be happy to help you out.
4. Research other groups your members have joined
Andrea Vahl of Facebook Advertising Secrets uses Facebook searches in order to see which other groups her existing members have joined.
By posting in these groups and linking back to her own, she can share inside knowledge and accrue new members.
“To keep in touch with your Facebook fans, you can find out which groups they’ve joined, then meet them there. To do that, go to Facebook Graph Search and search the phrase, “Groups joined by people who like (your page name),” and once again filter by groups.”
Posting regular content in groups that your followers engage with will help to attract people with similar interests back to your group page. You can also browse your friends’ groups, local groups and new groups to see if they’re somewhere else you can potentially amass new members.
On that note, it never hurts to belong to a few other Facebook groups to see how they’re run, what sort of content performs well, and how members interact with one another.
Participating in groups regularly besides your own, particularly those related to your industry that may contain influencers in your niche, presents a myriad of opportunities. You never know where certain conversations might lead you or who you might come across when you cast your net wide.
Hot tip: Make friends with other group admins to exchange cross promotion posts.
5. Take advantage of redirect links
Online marketing expert Katherine Sullivan of Marketing Solved swears by creating redirect links after clients have opted to download something from her website. These redirects take web traffic directly to her Facebook group to help increase engagement and boost conversion.
“Use a redirect page. This is my top secret and highest converting strategy. When someone opts in for a discount or a webinar, you can set your redirect page and automatically send them to your Facebook group where they can join.”
As well as being a great way of turning your web traffic and existing customers into group members, using redirect links also helps create a highly engaged community that’s focused on the problems your business solves, as members are often coming straight from making a purchase or signing up to a service. It also helps you strategically reach new audiences without actually spending any money.
Another way around promoting your group through redirect links is to create a URL on your website that redirects to your group; one which sits neatly beside your social icons.
Think of redirect links as the red velvet rope that you lift to let people into your inner circle.
6. Use ‘gated’ content to entice people to join
Ryan Stewart, a writer for Search Engine Journal, believes in using gated content to quickly grow your group membership. Gated content is only accessible when people join your group, thus the privileged inner circle gain access to special members-only content. And this is endlessly appealing to people.
“It’s not uncommon to create a great piece of content to entice email opt-ins (aka ‘gated content’). Instead of asking for emails, you can drive people to your Facebook group. For example, I wrote a post about how to create an SEO proposal. I also took the time to create a free proposal template for visitors to download for their own use. I hosted the proposal template within the ‘Files’ section of the group. To download it, they had to join the group.”
This is an extremely effective method to ensure you only gain quality members, and little to no spam. To use the gated content concept to its full effect, try to target it to areas of your website where visitors and customers spend the most time.
If you have a service or product that is sold on your website, giving people ‘exclusive’ content in your Facebook group is a nice extra perk for customers that will definitely be appreciated. Once again, it creates the inner circle effect where members get a kick out of having access to insights, information and discussions that are unavailable outside of the group.
Be sure to share pre-order opportunities or tease out future gated content to keep them coming back.
7. Create a pinned post so people know how to engage
One of the main reasons why people stay quiet or don’t interact in a group environment is because they don’t know how to behave. A Facebook group is no different.
As the founder and main admin of the group, you need to set some house rules. Write a post describing what kind of content is welcome and what is against your group’s rules or policies. For instance, you may not want people posting links to their own blog or website if the group exists to purely find leads for freelance photographers.
Suzi Nelson, the community manager at Digital Marketer, says that when you lay down the law in a clear, visible way, then there’s no excuse for people not knowing how to behave in your group.
“It’s important to give your group some sort of direction on what types of conversation are encouraged (or discouraged) in order to maintain a thriving community. Expectations of behavior provide a safe space for people to ask questions, offer support and build relationships… While it can be tempting to create a list of what members can and can’t do, I suggest creating guidelines that describe how members can work together to create a healthy environment.”
Take the goals and culture of your group into account when creating your house rules and pin them to the top of the page so that new members can easily find them. You can even mention them in your group description.
You obviously don’t need to act dogmatic, however, creating behavioral expectations is essential for creating an engaged group that has a real community feel.
There are many ways beyond the above to build and grow your Facebook group, and really engage with your followers, however, these tips will help you get started. From market research to content promotion, the visibility and networking offered by Facebook groups is staggering, plus they offer far more organic reach than Facebook pages.
Once your Facebook group gains numbers and momentum, it will also essentially start to run itself as more and more content is crowdsourced from members. You or another page admin will just need to drop in to make sure everybody’s playing nice and to respond to comments.
When you set up your Facebook group, don’t forget to make the group ‘closed’ so that you can maintain control over who joins, and stop floods of drive-by spammers from annoying your group. There’s even a feature where you can write a question (or series of questions) for would-be members to automatically be presented with when they click ‘join group’.
Try mixing up your marketing efforts using the above tips, and do let us know what’s worked best for you. Also, feel free to post any of your own growth hacks that we may have left out!