The updated Facebook algorithm favors community and conversation-building over passive consumption. This forces many brands to make a fundamental shift in how they craft campaigns and content, so that their brand will show up in user feeds.
One way to connect with your audience on Facebook in 2018 without increasing ad budget is to create and participate regularly in Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups offer your fans a place to rally around your brand and/or topics that are near and dear to their hearts. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Set Your Goal
Before you do anything, set a goal for your group. What do you want to get out of starting and maintaining a Facebook Group? How will your brand benefit? Think about this through the funnel concept:
- Brand Awareness: Are you trying to draw in people who are not aware of your brand and/or the products you offer?
- Consideration: Are you trying to deepen your connection with people who are aware of your brand and the products you offer, but haven’t converted or taken the next step yet?
- Advocacy: Are you trying to deepen your connection with people who are already customers, to encourage them to bring in their own friends, interact more with your brand, and buy more from your brand?
As you set your goal, keep the SMART framework in mind.
Your goals should be:
- Specific: Not “Increase Facebook engagement,” but “Increase Facebook engagement by 10%.”
- Measurable: Make sure you have a measurement system and cadence in place so you can track how you’re progressing towards your goal.
- Attainable: Your goals should make you stretch and hustle, but should not be so far out of reach that they discourage you. You also need to make sure you have the resources in place to attain your goal with Facebook Groups. More on that later.
- Relevant: Your goal needs to be relevant to your business. Dig deep here. Why do you want to increase engagement on Facebook? What does this really do for your brand?
- Timely (or Time-Bound): Not “Increase Facebook engagement by 10%,” but “Increase Facebook engagement by 10% by EOQ.”
2. Provide Real Value
How will members of your Facebook Group benefit? Why would they want to join in the first place? You must provide real, ongoing value to members of your Facebook Group. Here are some examples:
- Support from your brand re: a specific topic
- Support from other members re: a specific topic
- Exclusive deals and/or reveals (you can track exclusive codes with UTMs to understand your Facebook Group conversion rates)
- Influencer Q&A’s
- Exclusive video content
You may gain a lot of members at first, but you will lose them quickly if you don’t give them a reason to stay, or if you are constantly spamming members with self-serving branded content.
3. Public, Closed, or Secret?
Next, it’s time to choose if you want your Facebook Group to be public, closed, or secret.
I recommend choosing either a Closed or Secret setting. This may seem counterintuitive, especially if your goal is to increase brand awareness, but choosing one of these settings ensures a level of exclusivity and admin-level control that will make your group more enticing to users who do become members.
4. It’s Not a Sales Forum
Your Facebook Group is not a sales forum. The minute you get overly salesy is the minute you will lose members. Your Facebook Group is a place for members to ask questions, and communicate with one another and with you.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever promote yourself in your Facebook Group. Just go about it in a way that is:
- Serves up the benefits clearly and casually
- Offers to help alleviate a pain point or address a need
- Emits no pressure.
5. Let Them Talk
You do not (and should not) get involved in every conversation in your group. Let people talk about the topic they’re passionate about.
If the conversation is going strong and doesn’t include a question you can immediately answer, stand back.
6. Start with a Challenge
Start your Facebook Group with a challenge.
Publicize this challenge via email, social, and in-store channels if you have them. A time-bound challenge will get people to immediately join and participate voraciously, especially if there is a prize or personal achievement attached.
7. Offer Exclusive Rewards
And speaking of prizes…Host a monthly giveaway or share a discount code in your Facebook Group. This will drive engagement and also give people extra incentive to join and check back.
8. Build Online and Offline Events
Use your Facebook Group to build awareness about offline events, and vice versa.
You can also host weekly or monthly conversations and topic starters in your Facebook Group to keep momentum going. Brand these with a name of your own, and crowd-source future topics to generate more engagement.
9. Pin a Post
Pin a post to the top of your Facebook Group to keep members new and old aware of your guidelines, important links, and who your admins are. This is a fantastic example from the Group Seattle Twitterati, a closed Facebook Group for social media marketers in the Seattle area.
Notice that this pinned post does several things:
- It welcomes members
- It tells members what to expect
- It tells members what will be tolerated and what will not be tolerated
- It links to external resources
- It names the admins and explains who they are
- It thanks members for participating
10. Have Dedicated Admins
And speaking of admins…Make sure you have dedicated admins who contribute and respond regularly. You can have various employees rotate through on an monthly basis.
It is imperative that there is regular management and love given to your Facebook Group.
Here’s bonus tip #11: Keep at it. Think of your Facebook Group as a garden that needs to be slowly seeded and tended regularly, rather than a tree you can plant once and let grow wild in the elements. The more people interact with content and one another in your Facebook Group, the more likely they are to see this content in their normal Facebook feeds, and the greater rewards your brand will reap.