Facebook Groups: How to Develop Engaging Communities
Are you looking for creative ways to develop a loyal community inside a Facebook group?
To explore how to develop an engaged and responsive community with Facebook groups, I interview Caitlin Bacher.
More About This Show
The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers, business owners, and creators discover what works with social media marketing.
In this episode, I interview Caitlin Bacher, a Facebook Groups expert who has helped many people start and grow successful Facebook groups. She hosts the Social Boss Facebook group, and her course is called The Fab Facebook Group System.
Caitlin explains how to choose a niche for your Facebook group that complements your business goals.
You’ll also discover tips for promoting engagement and moving group members into your marketing funnel.
Share your feedback, read the show notes, and get the links mentioned in this episode below.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Shortly after her daughter was born, Caitlin was looking to earn extra income for her family. She started freelancing as a social media manager because she loved social media and always had an affinity for building communities, whether they were on- or offline. By 2014, she had attracted a few steady clients and joined a couple of Facebook groups for social media managers.
These groups were a godsend to Caitlin, not only because they offered valuable information, but more importantly, they allowed her to connect with other social media managers in a meaningful way.
By the end of 2014, Caitlin had decided to switch to social media coaching and knew starting her own Facebook group would be an important component of this business. Caitlin started without an email list, social media following, or team. But she did have a really clear vision for the community that she wanted to create and a 100% commitment to making it happen.
Caitlin typically chooses the content she teaches based on her experience and uses the lessons she learned to make things easier for others. When she started coaching, she focused on Instagram so she had a big Facebook group geared toward talking about Instagram.
However, as her group evolved, Caitlin saw her Facebook group had more traction than her Instagram, where she sold her Instagram coaching and courses. People were obviously in the Facebook group to learn from Caitlin, but they were also there to connect and support each other.
Caitlin sensed a difference between her group and other groups. In groups that focused on facts or tips and tricks, people came in and out for content or help troubleshooting something specific. However, people visited Caitlin’s group to see what Caitlin and their friends were doing while having their morning coffee or after they dropped off the kids at school. It was an amazing shared experience.
Since then, Caitlin started coaching people on running Facebook groups.
Three years later, Caitlin’s attention and focus on her vision have paid off. She’s running a million-dollar business that fully supports her family and helps thousands of others grow communities to support their businesses.
Listen to the show to learn how Caitlin used Periscope in her group before Facebook Live existed.
How to Start a Facebook Group
When Facebook announced changes on January 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg himself said the news feed will prioritize posts from friends, families, and groups over pages. For those of us who value community, the news feed changes are a real opportunity to go all-in with Facebook groups.
If you’re thinking about starting a group, it’s important to understand that the group isn’t all about you. You’re building something bigger than yourself. Create a group only if you have a real desire to connect with people and make a difference in their lives. A group isn’t a quick hack to make a little money. You have to be invested in the group for the long haul.
Before you start a group, you also need a fairly clear idea of whom you want to attract. Maybe you to want to create a group for food bloggers, musicians, or parents of toddlers. You can’t create a successful group if you’re trying to appeal to everyone.
When you’re getting started, your group will require a higher time commitment until it gains momentum. Caitlin recommends spending around 30-45 minutes per day in a new group. After the group grows its membership, you can spend less time in it. You might set aside 15-20 minutes per day, commenting on a few threads, making a new post, and thanking someone.
Caitlin emphasizes that this 15-20 minutes is about connecting with people, not checking metrics. Having a clear purpose for why you started the group can help you focus. This time isn’t for checking how many people have joined the group or liked your posts. But if you truly devote 15 minutes to connecting with people, then that’s all the time you really need.
I ask whether a company whose Facebook page has a large community should create a group or more than one group. For example, I wonder whether it makes sense for a company like Social Media Examiner to create one big group around social media marketing or smaller groups focused on niche topics such as professional social media people who work for corporations.
Caitlin says your approach depends on you and your bandwidth. Social Media Examiner might have a team that can start different groups in various verticals that would all feed into the Social Media Examiner podcast, Social Media Marketing World, and so on.
However, the average person should stick with one group. Choose a topic that connects directly to whatever you’re selling. You might like blogging, but if you sell products about how to make baskets, the topic of blogging isn’t a good match for your business.
Alternatively, you might start a group with a focus that’s related to a product you’re developing. The group might be a way to create a warm audience for your product, but Caitlin emphasizes that with this strategy, you don’t need to have the product entirely planned out. In reality, interacting with people in your group will provide insights that will inform the content of your final product.
Caitlin also recommends a group for anyone who already has a product. In this case, consider the pricing of your product and the size of your customer base. A large customer base might require a team member to interact with the group. However, a small business that makes less than $1 million per year will be fine; a small-scale group will be great for your product.
Groups are great for businesses that sell physical products, too, not just services like coaching and consulting. To illustrate, Caitlin’s friend sells handmade lingerie and created an amazing Facebook group focused on body positivity. Before the group, her community and sales were mostly based on Instagram, so she was nervous but excited about growing a community on Facebook.
The body positivity group had great results for the lingerie business. Within the first month of running the Facebook group, Caitlin’s friend made more sales than she had from Instagram during the holiday season, which was her busiest time of the year.
People crave community, and a specific niche helps build that community organically. People are often afraid that getting people to engage will be difficult. In reality, if you get 100 people interested in the exact same thing, they’re eager to talk to each other because they may be the only one in their town who has that specific interest.
Listen to the show to learn about Social Media Examiner’s success with private groups for social media marketers and conference speakers.
After you start a group, you need to get members to interact and engage. Often, you want people to open up inside your Facebook group and share more of their stories. But unless you make that first move by sharing a little story about your life, nobody else is going to do it. You don’t need to share your life story, but you can share stories that build relationships.
For instance, after noticing people in her Facebook group were struggling because they were too focused on competitors, Caitlin shared a story about macaroni and cheese. For the Thanksgiving potluck at her daughter’s preschool, Caitlin’s husband signed up to bring macaroni and cheese.
Caitlin was too busy to help with the dish, and she stressed about what other moms would think of her, especially after her husband said he’d make a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. When Caitlin shared her concerns with her husband, he pointed out that their daughter loves Kraft macaroni and cheese. And he was 100% right. Who cares what the other moms thought?
After the potluck, a lot of moms thanked Caitlin for making that dish because it was the only food their kids would eat.
In Caitlin’s Facebook group, this story received tons of engagement because she used it to make a point about business. Through the story, she helped people remember to focus on their customers, give them what they want, and not worry about what others do.
Caitlin thinks stories are important because people are hardwired to learn and communicate via storytelling. Even long ago, people who lived in caves illustrated stories on the cave walls. This human affinity makes stories the best way to share your message and make people feel comfortable in your group. Stories also help people get to know you as the host of the group.
In addition to stories, you also want to share helpful content. Finding this content can be really simple and easy. Your blog, Facebook pages, and old emails probably have lots of good-quality content. You can repurpose that content into short text pieces or quick videos so you have a library of helpful content you can share with your group, one post or video at a time.
When sharing this content, Caitlin recommends including key points from your post or video, and adding links to your original blog post, for instance. People on Facebook don’t necessarily want to leave Facebook. If they haven’t read your blog and don’t know much about you, some useful bite-sized content can encourage them to click a link to your blog.
When Caitlin is teaching, she shares two types of posts: text and video. The text posts walk members through specific steps of how to do something. The videos show Caitlin’s face. If you’re sharing a tech tutorial, video would be useful, too. Whatever your video is about, keep it short. Caitlin suggests limiting a video to no more than 5 minutes.
Caitlin also suggests giving other members an opportunity to answer questions. Often, if the host answers a group member’s question right away, other members might not feel comfortable answering, maybe because they don’t want to say something different from the host. The exception might be an established group in which everyone feels comfortable.
Caitlin also loves asking questions that, like ice breakers, get people to loosen up. For example, “If you could use only one social media platform, what would it be?” or “If you had to post every single day on one social media channel for the rest of your life, would you rather it be Instagram or Twitter?” These “would you rather” questions are entertaining and people can share a quick response.
Listen to the show to hear how a Social Media Marketing World volunteer inspired other volunteers to share video within a group.
Do’s and Don’ts of Selling
Caitlin says the first rule is that you should never sell inside your free Facebook group. Although this approach seems counterintuitive (and there are a few exceptions Caitlin discusses a little later), it’s necessary. Constantly sharing links to your sales page or products will kill the environment in your group.
As the group host and business owner, your goal is to move people from your Facebook group to your email list, webinar, or what-have-you so that you can sell behind the scenes.
If you use video to create targeted audiences for ads, note that at the time of this podcast recording, people in the U.S. can’t target an audience of Facebook group members. (However, Facebook has tested this feature.) As a workaround, Caitlin goes live via her Facebook page and then as soon as she goes live, she shares the live video from her page to her group.
When you share a video (recorded or live) from your page to your group, you can grow an audience for that video with Ads Manager. Later, if you want to target a webinar ad to everyone who watched the video, that audience will include people who are in your Facebook group.
Although you have this workaround for creating an audience, Group Insights, at least for Caitlin, doesn’t tell you who did or didn’t watch a video. All she can see is how many people watched a video or looked at a post. (Caitlin adds that it’s hard to talk about Group Insights because Facebook is rolling out many new group features and the rollout can be different for each person.)
One exception to the no selling rule is a pop-up Facebook group that’s open for only a limited time for the purpose of promoting a certain product. If the group is for your book launch, sharing your book link in that group is completely fine because people joined the group knowing they want to learn more about and buy the product.
Otherwise, people in your free community want to get to know you and the community. The group is like a public service that your company sponsors because it’s the quickest way to turn a cold lead into a hot lead. For instance, instead of a product or sales page, you might share a free webinar or ebook that will then move people into your sales pipeline.
I then ask Caitlin about using bots in groups. Although Caitlin uses bots for her Facebook page, she hasn’t experimented much with bots in groups.
Caitlin is curious about how using bots might affect posts because Facebook said it will downgrade or somehow reduce engagement on posts where everyone comments the same word (this happens when you use a bot to deliver an item and people opt in by commenting “yes”).
Listen to the show to hear Caitlin and me discuss the future possibilities for advertising in Facebook groups.
Discovery of the Week
Dribbble is an online community for designers that’s also like a living, breathing online swipe file.
A swipe file is a collection of designs you use as inspiration for your own work. So, you might see a design element that you’d like to use for a future project. On Dribbble, web designers, graphic designers, illustrators, animators, and other design professionals share their portfolios. In addition to using the site to generate ideas, you can also look for designers whose work you like.
The site can be especially helpful if you’re redesigning your website, creating a logo, or finding a new approach to some aspect of design.
Dribbble also has iOS and Android apps, which enable you to scroll through designs on your mobile device. After you sign up for the service, which is free, you can browse designs and choose to follow designers whose work you like.
Listen to the show and let us know how Dribbble works for you.
Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:
- Check out the resources for building a profitable Facebook group on Caitlin’s website.
- Download Caitlin’s free roadmap for Facebook group posts.
- Join Caitlin’s Social Boss Facebook group.
- Learn about Caitlin’s course, The Fab Facebook Group System.
- Read Mark Zuckerberg’s post about changes to the Facebook news feed.
- Learn the basics of starting a group.
- Discover more about testing targeted ads for Facebook groups.
- Browse design ideas with Dribbble in a browser, or via the iOS or Android app.
- Watch our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show on Fridays at 10 AM Pacific on Crowdcast or tune in on Facebook Live.
What do you think? What are your thoughts on hosting a community with a Facebook group? Please share your comments below.