Grow Your Audience & Boost Your Authority with Facebook Groups
Facebook is the top social media platform in the world. It is also one of the 5 most visited websites in the world. With more than 2 billion active users, many of them spending 45 minutes per day on the site, Facebook gives you the potential to reach out to a huge global audience in order to market your business.
But with 2 billion users, how can you ever stand out in the crowd? More importantly, how can you connect with the people most likely to be interested in your products and services? And to establish your brand as one worthy paying attention to? A Facebook Group might be just the solution you are looking for.
What is a Facebook Group?
As the name suggests, groups have been allowed by Facebook to gather people together who are interested in the same topic, niche or industry. From cooking to cocker spaniels, there is a large number of groups on Facebook you can join so you can connect with like-minded people.
You can certainly join any existing group you wish and market yourself subtly there whenever there is an opportunity. However, starting and running your own Facebook group gives you an online space to broadcast your message and interact with your market on a more personal and targeted level. It gives you almost complete control over the messaging and activities in the group. As the administrator, you can decide who has access to your group. You can also appoint moderators who can help you manage the group and ensure it is not taken over by spammers.
There are many features in groups that can help you build a really impressive and authoritative presence on Facebook. You can share photos, documents, and files with group members. You can create polls, quizzes, and events. You can allow them to share content with the group on a moderated basis, that is, with your reviewing it to make sure it is acceptable. And you can block anyone who is not following the rules.
Facebook groups can be an invaluable marketing tool, and best of all, they are free to use and simple to set up. They are ideal for establishing relationships with your target audience, and for lead generation, that is, traffic and getting people onto your email marketing list. Through the content you will be publishing regularly, you can position yourself as an authority figure in your niche or industry and build your brand. All the content created is mobile-friendly, thanks to the Facebook interface.
You can get likes, shares, and comments, with these forms of engagement signaling to Facebook that your content is worth paying attention to. You can also automate your publishing through Facebook’s calendar, or a third-party tool like Hootsuite, so you and/or your moderators don’t need to be glued to Facebook 24 hours a day to market your business well. You can administer your group efficiently in around 30 minutes a day once you get organized.
Best of all, Facebook will market your group for you. Whenever anyone searches for certain keywords in the search box, they will get a list of results. One of them could be your group.
Let’s start by looking at how to create a group.
Planning a Facebook Group
There are several steps involved in planning and setting up what you hope will be a successful Facebook group.
First, consider your goals and audience size. There are 3 different types of Facebook groups:
- Public – Any Facebook member can join. All members can invite and add anyone.
- Closed – Facebook users can ask to join and must be approved. Members can add or invite any Facebook users.
- Secret – Members must be invited and approved. No one can see any information shared in a secret group except other group members.
The public will help you gain the widest exposure, but it can also garner you unwanted attention from spammers and people who behave badly online due to the relative anonymity of the Internet. A closed group will be more manageable and prevent the group from being taken over by people who love to express their own opinions and attack others.
The type of Facebook group you create will depend on your type of business. You should also consider your marketing goals. For example, a Facebook group can be a valuable add-on to a product you are selling if the group is secret and exclusive, and you promise access to yourself for anyone who signs up and participates. You would just need a proof of purchase to approve them or send them an invitation to join.
Whatever marketing approach you take, remember that Facebook is a social community. This means interacting with real people, not trying to sell all the time.
Most businesses prefer to create a closed Facebook group to have more control over what is going on in the group. A closed group also gives you an air of authority and exclusivity that a public group might not. Those in your niche will appreciate your expertise and be willing to tell others about it. A closed group can help build brand loyalty, which in turn can mean more subscribers and sales.
Note that you can always change your settings if you need to, provided that you are under 250 members. Once you are over that number, you can only make the privacy settings more restricted, not less so. This means you could not turn a closed or secret group to an open one.
In general, closed will be your best option for marketing your business on Facebook.
Planning the content for your group
Take the time to look at any existing Facebook groups related to your niche or industry. How many members do they have? How recently has fresh content been posted?
Join a couple of the best groups. Observe the amount of engagement, number of members, and so on. Gradually start to interact with others, answering questions to the best of your ability.
Are they selling products in the group? What frustrations and problems do group members worry about? Do you have solutions to offer them?
Start creating content related to these topics
Create a range of content that answers the questions they are discussing and offers real solutions. It can be free content on your site or blog, or an ebook or special report. Or you can create an ebook or course to sell. The more products you have to sell at a reasonable price, the more sales and brand loyalty you can generate.
If you are a service provider, selling information products also boost your authority and makes prospective customers more willing to try your company.
Once you have created information products and/or have descriptions of the services your company has to offer, you will create promotional posts for them. But remember, social media is all about socializing. In general, the ratio of informational and interesting posts compared with promotional ones should be a ratio of 10 to 1. Otherwise, your group might just seem like a lot of spam.
Naming your group
Once you have determined your goals and carried out your research, start brainstorming names. Your group name should have one keyword related to your niche or industry. Keep it short and simple. Some people like to choose a name similar to one of the other successful groups in the niche. Narrow down your choice and pick one. Then you will be ready to create the group.
Creating a New Facebook Group
Start by logging in to your Facebook account. Click on the Home tab located at the top of any page. Scroll down and choose Create Group on the left sidebar.
Add your Group Name in the pop-up window, and then add a member. Note that Facebook will not allow you to create a Group without having at least one member, to begin with. It can be any of your Facebook friends or a family member. It doesn’t matter who you add, because you can always delete them later.
Choose Public, Closed, or Secret as your group type.
Check your work and then click on Create Group on the bottom right corner of your pop-up window. That window will close and another will appear which will allow you to choose an icon for your group. You could add a business logo, but why not try something related to your niche instead?
Once you have completed these steps, your group will be officially live on Facebook. Now it will be time to market it to your target audience.
- Add a group description – Look to the left of the page and click on the link that says Add a Description. Use keywords and enticing language to encourage people to join your group. Emphasize benefits, features and what they can expect if they join. This description is also important because the keywords will signal to Facebook searchers and Google users if your group is relevant to their interests.
Keep the headline short and to the point, no more than about 10 words. Make it catchy. Then add details about the group that will make it sound like a group they won’t want to miss out on joining.
- Add a cover image – A colorful graphic will grab attention, and also show that you have taken the time to customize your group page. Click on the tab that says Upload Photo or Choose Photo from the Personalize Your Group section at the top of the home page. Facebook changes the sizing of their images every so often. Currently, the optimum size is 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall.
Once your group page is looking its best, you can start posting content on it. And once you start posting content, it will be time to invite people to the group and start engaging with them.
- Invite people to your group – Start by inviting people you know will genuinely be interested in your group about X niche or topic. Invite all staff and colleagues. Consider allowing a couple of them to be moderators to help you run the group. As your group grows, it can be tough to try to do it all yourself, so it is a good idea to train people up from scratch who will grow as the group does.
Next, look through the groups you have joined. Which people stand out as being interesting, engaged with the group, and well-informed? Issue them an invitation to join the group. Which ones have been actively discussing the kinds of solutions you offer? Invite them as well.
- Creating questions – Facebook allows you to set questions for prospective group members to find out why they want to join. This can help you separate serious prospects from “tire-kickers” or potential problems. The questions should be easy enough for most people genuinely interested in your niche to answer. These questions can also help you establish your authority as someone who does not waste their time. The questions can also be a good source of information on what their most pressing needs and concerns are. You can also use this information to plan free and paid content to cater to their needs.
- Create an incentive to build your list – Once you have started inviting people, consider the best ways to convert them from Facebook group users to subscribers on your email marketing list. A free ebook or multi-part course can help you build a closer relationship with them and enable you to demonstrate your expertise. These sorts of items also tend to “go viral” on social media sites, that is, spread quickly. Your group members will tell their followers, who will tell theirs, and so on, in an ever-widening circle, connecting you with more and more people interested in your niche.
Use some of the ideas you got from the other groups you joined, or the information products you have created, to lure prospects onto your list. Once they are on your list, you can build an even closer relationship with them and hopefully convert them from prospects to customers.
Engage with Your Group
There are several ways to engage with your group.
Memes – Facebook has moved towards memes recently, short statements which can then be turned into images. These are attractive; however, they also mean there are no words in the post, specifically, keywords that would give people interested in your niche a chance to find you.
If you are going to use memes, create them from scratch yourself. Upload them and add some descriptive content related to your niche.
- Images – High-quality images are a must for all aspects of Facebook marketing. Add keywords in the description and tag with keywords as needed.
- Video – The head of Facebook has predicted that all Facebook will be video by 2020. We don’t think this will be quite the case, but it does show the importance they are placing on this medium. The videos should be short and interesting. Use keywords in the title, description, and tags you will upload when you add the video.
Note that you are allowed to upload a custom thumbnail, that is, an introductory slide that will show before the play button is pressed. Take the time to create one that is keyworded and gives your audience an idea of what they can expect to see or learn. You can create them easily using the presentation software in Open Office, which is similar to PowerPoint. Save your slide as a JPG and upload it.
- Live video – Live video is becoming increasingly popular on Facebook as well. Consider offering a webinar or discussion online and broadcast it. Announce it as an Event on your group page.
- Files – You can also share files with members. This could be something as simple as the basic rules of the group, or a useful free item such as a checklist or cheat sheet. These types of bonuses add to your authority as well.
- Sticky posts – You can make one post sticky, that is, remain at the top no matter how many other posts you publish. This is also a good place to put the rules of the group, so people are clear about them. This spot can also be used to showcase any special offers, especially time-sensitive ones.
- Events – Events can help stimulate participation in the group. Schedule a discussion, for example, or a Question and Answer session. Think of the kind of activities your target audience will appreciate most, and which can generate the kind of buzz that will encourage them to tell others to join in.
- Polls – Polls are another great way to dig deeper to learn more about your target audience and what they want/need.
Engaging with your Facebook group members in a meaningful way
Once you have started your group and have members, you need to establish a routine for staying in touch with them, building your authority, and generating brand loyalty. You need to set an editorial and promotional calendar, so they will hear from you regularly, such as once a day.
But remember, communication is a two-way street. You have to show that you value the engagement that you are getting from your members. Each time you are on the group page, do the following:
- Scan the comments – Read what people are saying. Delete anything inappropriate. Reply to ones you think are useful, or which can help you demonstrate your expertise. Like the ones you feel are useful. Remember that they will see you interacting with their content, and will be more likely to come back to engage with you again.
- Post – Post your content for the day. Try to vary it, such as memes, videos, polls and so on. Informational posts will position you as an authority. If you are going to post promotional material, give it a context, such as current events, a holiday, a special offer, or, “A lot of people have been asking us about X, so we thought we would mention Y product.”
- Add and approve members – If you have a closed or private group, you need to manually invite, add and approve members. Try to check this part of the page more often, or get moderators to do so, so those who wish to join don’t have to wait for ages to gain access to the group.
- Ban and remove members – You don’t want to be too heavy-handed, but you do not want spammers or disruptive members to wrecking the group you are working so hard to build. Keep things polite and respectful. You can also remind them that freedom of speech does not protect hate speech.
Some members will post a lot more than others. Encourage them if their information is useful. Discourage them if they don’t seem to know what they are talking about or are spammers.
Studying your insights
Once you have a routine for managing your group, you should set up a regular routine for studying your insights, or metrics on the account, to determine who your audience is and what content is proving most popular.
Check the days and times when you get the most group visits and try to plan to publish your content then.
Recycling your best content – When you are first starting, you will need to publish content regularly, but have only a small following. However, over time, your group will grow. Use your insights to see which content gets the most response, and publish it again in the future, for example, in three months.
You will also most likely create seasonal and holiday-related content. At the end of each period, evaluate which content received the most engagement and file those posts away for next year.
Also create what is termed evergreen content, which won’t go out of date too quickly. A post titled, “The 7 Main Puppy Training Problems, and How to Solve Them,” is a sure winner.
Let your expertise shine through
When you are crafting your content, be real. Show you are an expert and not just creating ‘me too’ content, or content just for the sake of it. Give real-life examples, and what you learned from them. You don’t have to be perfect, or fake, to get an avid following. You just need to be helpful and willing to interact with people, such as by calling them out by name if you have a piece of content you think they could use.
Make it fun and interesting, too
Groups are places where people can socialize and mingle, so don’t be afraid to step away from your business goals sometimes and just have fun. Ask for content from your followers, such as their cutest pet holiday photos. Run contests, caption contests and more. Don’t be too bossy or intense. Try to think of the kinds of content people like engaging with most and provide it. Just make sure that anything you might try to post as ‘funny’ is not politically incorrect or rude.
Growing your Facebook group each week
Set aside sometime each week to grow your Facebook group. There are several ways to do this. Encourage those in the group to invite others who might find it of interest. Look for the top bloggers and media representatives, such as journalists who cover your niche and invite them to join you. Use the Facebook interface, or email them.
Add friends and new connections strategically, only if you think they are the kind of person who would be truly interested in the group.
Keep a spreadsheet of your growth each week. It is easy to keep track when you are first starting because you will have 1 member only. Over time, however, it is important to track the growth by trying to determine what might be triggering it. It could be a great free giveaway or special discounted offer. You won’t know unless you try to track this.
You could add new subscribers to an existing mailing list, but it is usually a good idea to start an all-new list to track the conversions from the Facebook group to your email marketing list. Create more than one list, each with a different offer, and also track which one gains the most subscribers.
Watch the lists you have joined as well, to see how their numbers night be going up or down. If up, what sort of things are they doing that might account for the boost? Imitate what seems to be successful and track your results.
Invite members through other social media sites
Facebook may be the top social media site, but there are other sites with millions of active users, including Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If someone is a member of Facebook, there’s a good chance they also spend time on some other socially-oriented sites.
Instagram is now owned by Facebook, so it might also be a good site to try.
LinkedIn has its groups. Consider becoming a member of one and participating. In this way, you can build your authority and it will seem logical, not spammy if you choose to invite certain group members to your Facebook group.
Here are a few more suggestions on how to grow your group.
- Drive memberships via your website or blog. – Make sure everyone knows how to connect with you on Facebook, and via your Facebook group. Tell them the benefits of joining, such as access to your expertise.
- Discussion boards – Find discussion boards related to your niche. Participate in them and use your Facebook group URL in your signature file.
- Your email marketing lists – As soon as you have created your group, announce it to your lists. Again, tell them all the benefits they will get if they choose to join.
- On all your marketing material – Include your website URL and your Facebook group URL. People understand the value of groups and might be more interested in your group than in a regular Facebook page.
- In all your free giveaways – Brand your free ebooks and courses with your Facebook group URL. Encourage people to share the URL so their followers can get this great content, too.
- Using paid advertising on Facebook – Facebook ads are just about the most cost-effective ads online. They are much more targeted than Google AdWords ads, and less expensive, too. You can turn your best content into an ad, a sponsored post, as it is called, or create an ad of your own from scratch.
If you create an ad, you will need an image to go with it that will capture what you are trying to offer. Then write a description and add the URL of your Facebook group. A budget of as little as $5 per day could grow your group rapidly, leading to more members, traffic, subscribers and sales.
Selling on your group
Facebook is primarily a social site, but you can sell strategically if you are not too pushy and your content is not overly promotional to the point where your group just looks like spam. All your information should be genuinely useful and show off your authority and expertise.
Creating special offers once a month, not every week, will also make this content stand out, not seem the same old stuff.
If you are going to create offers more often than once a month, be sure there is a context, like a holiday, something in the news, the 12 Days of Christmas, and so on.
In terms of the special offers, you do not necessarily have to offer a rock-bottom price. Consider adding several attractive bonuses to an existing product to increase its perceived value. Checklists, templates, cheat sheets and other items that save your target audience time and money will always be in high demand and boost your authority in your niche.
With more than 2 billion users monthly on Facebook, if you are not already marketing there, you should start today. If you already have a personal and/or business page, great. If you don’t already have a Facebook group, you are leaving money on the table. Facebook offers numerous opportunities to market your business for free, but groups are one of the best ways to build a community and position yourself as an authority in your niche. It only takes a few minutes to set up a group. The preparation and research you do before and the content you get ready for your target audience will be key to people joining your group and coming back regularly for more. Interact with them regularly, and see what Facebook groups can do for your traffic, subscribers, and sales.
To your success!