Over the past few years, running a Facebook Page has shown diminishing returns for many businesses. We are seeing the rise of Facebook groups as a platform for businesses to get their name out there and Facebook is paying serious attention to the shift, by rolling out analytics, the ability to link groups and pages and soon, serving ads to group members will be a feature.
Facebook Groups have, for a long time, been a bit of a hidden gem of Facebook. While some might say that Groups are a bit dorky, I’m finding more and more of my time is spent in groups than interacting with people I know in real life on Facebook. And there’s a lot that can be said for the business potential of creating your own Facebook Group for your business.
But first off, let’s explain how a group differs from a Page:
What is a Facebook Group?
A Facebook Page is a broadcast-style setup, albeit interactive. A brand will post updates and engagements relating to their key messages, and their fans will engage with theses posts.
However, a Group is a space where anyone in the group can post content and build discussions – not just the business owner. It is a community.
How does it work in practice? Let’s say you’re an accountant: you might have a Facebook Page for your business, but you may also have a group, too.
Your group could be to help small businesses with financial tips, or a group for accountants to connect. Make it something relevant to your industry, ensuring there are enough talking points and common culture to hold the group together.
Facebook groups are, of course, a different beast to Facebook Pages. But I think there’s a lot to be said for giving them a go. Here’s why.
Why you should build a Facebook Group:
When we post from business pages on Facebook, less than 10% of fans who like our page see it (some reports say this is closer to 1%!). However, in Groups, this rule does not apply, and those who subscribe to group updates see everything posted.
It’s worth considering a Group simply for this increased exposure: but the flipside of this exposure is that it’s not just your business that has exposure, but all your community members. You might find a message sent out by a community member isn’t always something you would post yourself. But that is the nature of a group – you are creating a community space, and that comes with that. (Of course, having a set of clear community guidelines will go a long way – but that is another post!)
Creating a Group not only creates a community of connected individuals who can share knowledge and experience, but you have the opportunity to show you’re a leader in your field by being the administrator in the group.
If you’re posting discussion topics daily and responding to tricky questions in a clear and detailed manner, people will get to know your name and recognise your expertise. If you’re lucky, this can result in business referrals inside and outside of the community.
One of the great things about Facebook Groups, especially closed groups, is that they’re private. This means that discussions can be a lot more in-depth, and a lot more personal in a Group. This intimacy can be a great way to build a strong community.
Creating a safe space and a community of trust is a great way to encourage potential customers because when they are looking for an expert they can confide in, they already know your name.
On top of this, we can imagine that if people join a group – as opposed to simply Liking a page – they might be a little more committed because they are joining a community, not just subscribing to updates.
I’ve seen several businesses, especially online-based businesses, offer access to their Groups as ‘add on’ feature for their product, only accessible to paying customers. They are seeing the closed nature of a group not just as private: but exclusive.
They frame it as ‘exclusive access’ to the community, with on-going peer support and mentoring. It’s not a bad way to keep the relationship going with clients by creating a space for customers to continue their experience with your brand.
If you’re worried about how long it takes to create conversations in your group, take advantage of the fact that you can scheduled content in Facebook Groups. A recent update allows scheduling of content and engagements in Groups, or you can consider third-party tools like Hootsuite. You can also plan content and conversations for your Facebook Group in advance if your discussions aren’t time-sensitive.
Of course, groups are communities: so the real time factor is important. And, some might argue that it is far more important to spend your time engaging in conversation than creating content. And while being active in your community is important, be mindful not to jump on every post. Here’s a great piece on why.
Does size matter?
There has been a lot said on the number of Likes on a Facebook Page being vanity metric. Do the number of Likes on your page transfer into business? Does it give your business more credibility? Consumers have shown that they don’t necessarily trust a business based on their number of fans. So if your group is small compared to the numbers on Facebook pages – does that matter? Some might say a smaller group leads to greater intimacy.
For several years, we’ve been seeing shifts in the digital space, where people are moving to smaller, private groups, with the popularity of Whatsapp.
But Facebook Groups aren’t the only way to take advantage of this private groups trend. Don’t forget that Google Plus still exists – even if just for SEO purposes! 😉
Running a group can be a very different thing to running a page – you need to focus on creating guidelines, culture, content and building community. While there are rewards for businesses in terms of increased brand exposure, thought leadership, and the opportunity to use it as an exclusive area for paying customers, it is a lot of work and very different to a Facebook page.
It’s a different approach, but it might be an approach that works for your business.
What do you think? Are you thinking of building a Facebook Group for your business? Let me know in the comments!
This post was originally posted Jun 30, 2016, updated in 2017.
Want to work with Rachel?Rachel Beaney, an Australian freelance social media specialist with over a decade in digital media.
She’s worked with global names like Microsoft, Samsung, News Corp and General Assembly, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping businesses solve their business needs with creative and data-driven solutions.
Want to work together? Rachel would love to help your business reach it’s goals! Get in touch today.