While new social networks launch regularly (hello Clubhouse) and brands scramble to understand the audiences, uses and algorithms for each, one of the original players (we’re not talking about Myspace, sorry Tom) continues to promote connection and conversation to around 2.85 billion monthly active users. That’s a lot of cat memes.
Not only that, but it may surprise you to know that 1.8 billion people are interacting with Facebook Groups (as of Oct 2020), strengthened by the global pandemic and our search for creating new ways of connecting.
So how do we use groups to our competitive business advantage, as part of our wider social strategy? Here are five ways to help you do just that:
1. Stay ahead of the algorithm
Facebook itself has gone through something of a stage of puberty after deep criticism about its social and political influence in 2018. As a result, it changed its algorithm, publicly announcing that it would be adjusting our feeds to focus on “meaningful interactions”, with Big Daddy Zuckerberg himself confirming we’d be seeing more posts from “friends, family and groups”. That meant a big change for businesses, who – let’s face it – were bankrolling the social behemoth.
The key clue in Facebook’s announcement was its focus on community and their explicit mention of groups, and it didn’t take long for that algorithm adjustment to start playing out on our feeds. You will have noticed if you’re a Facebook user, that you almost never miss a post from the groups you follow: your local town page; buy, sell and swap pages; niche interest pages – all the posts seem to be readily available to view from your home feed. This represented an opportunity for businesses, and if we’re honest, a chance to connect more meaningfully with our audience, rather than rely on the older tactics of ‘engagement bait’ – posts encouraging passive likes, follows and shares without any further conversation or context.
2. Join and be active in Facebook groups that are relevant to your business
It’s undeniably a marketing long game, but no one can deny that your positive contribution in relevant groups (think of your local area, business sector, mentoring groups etc) will build your reputation and visibility. I launched my business in Chicago largely based on my participation in a Facebook group called ‘Moms in Business Chicago’. I used to go to their monthly networking events and comment/interact on content in the group until one day I was being recommended all the time! While it may not show instant conversions, the lifetime value of your contribution will prove invaluable.
3. Create a business group and let the User-Generated Content (UGC) roll
User-Generated Content is really like hitting the social jackpot. Akin to your child being old enough to make you a cup of tea (parenting win!), when your own users are communicating about your product, service or industry, promoting further conversation, the organic mileage is far more than what you could achieve alone. Let’s face it – creating content for socials takes time and money, but by creating a space for customers to discuss your brand and surrounding topics, they create engaging content for you. And because of the group format, any post can become a discussion. Post things that will spark interaction between group members and watch the conversation flow. Your very own Facebook group will build community, support and ultimate brand loyalty.
4. Build your tribe
Private Facebook groups can represent a meaningful connection with your audience, and make them feel listened to and prioritised. We all understand the importance supermarkets place on their loyalty schemes, and it’s for good reason. And while I can’t give you 10p off your petrol, I have a private FB group for each of my course cohorts, which gives them added value, direct access to me, and an opportunity to feedback and strengthen our relationship.
5. Gather insight about your customers
Either having or being part of a Facebook Group provides you with insight into its members, who are potent customers. Whilst you may have to informally collate the data yourself, even a cursory look at the values and behaviours of the group members will give you new findings to pore over. And, if you’re the owner of a group with more than 50 members, Facebook opens its world of Group Insights to you, which will take care of the number crunching for you. Gimme the data!
Here’s a challenge for you: either identify a group to be part of (search for a local community or business sector as a start) or create one yourself and report back to me on what your engagement from others was like. I can’t wait to hear what you do.