For many people, the starting point in “Facebook Marketing” is a “Fanpage”. The very use of the term “Fanpage” is evidence enough that most of them still have a lot to learn when it comes to developing a genuine, in-depth understanding of the the marketing potential of the world’s biggest social network. In addition to a personal business page, Facebook also offers another great option which is all too often neglected in marketing strategies. I’m referring here to “classic” Facebook groups – “classic” because they’ve been around for a while but, in my view, are still very much in the shadows when it comes to online marketing. This article aims to change that, and show you how much better your Facebook marketing can be with successful Facebook groups.
1. Brand your Facebook group with a title image
Facebook Groups and Facebook Pages have one thing in common: both can be equipped with a title image to make them instantly recognisable and memorable.
In the default settings, only a few group members’ profile pictures are displayed as a cover image. This might contribute to a nice feeling of group belonging, but isn’t very useful when it comes to making your group stand out from the crowd.
Give serious consideration to an individually tailored cover image for your Facebook group which is one professional on the one hand and informative on the other. You can also use this image for branding purposes, for example to promote your website. In this sense, your title image functions as a makeshift billboard.
2. Address the right Facebook audience
The biggest advantage of Facebook groups is the ability to target even the most specific of niches. You can ramble on about everything under the sun as much as you like, but experience has shown that Facebook groups are more successful when they are devoted to a single, clearly defined topic.
Which is a good thing for you, since it means your group will only attract members who are genuinely interested in the subject. Discussion within your group will not only increase but more importantly it will be of a higher quality and therefore lead to the exchange of more valuable and interesting information which, at the end of day, is what such groups are all about.
You have a few tools at your disposal to help you attract the right people to your group, the most important of which is your group name. The name should accurately reflect the content and purpose of the group. The same applies to the group description and tags. (You can ‘pin’ a little welcome note to the group ‘wall’ too, for the avoidance of any doubt).
3. Establish a set of easy to understand rules
Everyone knows that when lots of people come together it can create friction – and a Facebook group is no different. Group members will not always share the same opinion and of course there will also be people who only want to join the group to post advertising messages (or spam).
Spamming must be prevented at an price and cut off at the source. A simple way to ensure this is a set of simple, easily understandable rules for behaviour published in a special post. This can be ‘pinned’ to the wall, form part of the group description or be available via a link to an external PDF document. The latter allows for a more detailed explanation of the rules.
In this way you can it absolutely clear to group members what is allowed and what isn’t, and that anyone who doesn’t abide by the rules must leave the group. It might sound strict but it’s the only way to keep your group clean and maintain high quality content. If users think that spam is getting out of control they will quickly leave the group.
4. Check new members before allowing them access to the group
In addition to a set of rules, there is another very useful way of preventing spam, but this method requires more effort. Only admit new members to the group manually after you have checked out their profile!
Set up the group so that only the admin (you) decides who is allowed in. You will then receive notifications from Facebook when there are new applications to join. Open up the applicant’s profile in a new tab and have a look around – if there is even the slightest hint of spam advertising, block them immediately!
This may sound harsh but it is the best way to keep spammers at bay. Once a spammer has already found their way into your group, throw them out and clean up after them. A particularly annoying tactic is not just to post a single spam post but to place the offending message behind a whole list of comments in a conversation. All such content must be deleted manually.
5. Monitor all comments – no exceptions
Unfortunately there is no completely foolproof method for detecting spammers. At least one of them is always going to slip through the net. But once you’ve launch a Facebook group and gradually started attracting genuine members, you quickly learn what features to look out for in a spam account.
As well as controlling the membership itself, it is also important to keep a close eye on comments and posts. Some spammers will quietly gain access to a group and then remain passive and not post anything for a while. These ‘sleepers’ or ‘lurkers’ (real people rather than automated bots) will bide their time before posting spam messages which then need to be carefully deleted one by one.
So make sure you keep track of any new posts in the group, not just to control and prevent spam but also to be able to react to posts and comments yourself. The majority of content in a Facebook group isn’t spam and your members will be glad to see you getting involved with the discussion. It’s your group, so you presumably have some valid comments to make.
6. Offer group members exclusive content
Make users in your Facebook group feel valued by offering them something useful and exclusive. Remember, they are all there to exchange ideas and to access new information. They want to find solutions to various problems and expect the group to be able to help.
So it can pay dividends for you to provide content that users can’t find elsewhere. Of course this involves hard work but if you are in the position to share quality and most importantly useful content exclusively with your Facebook group, the members will quickly develop into a close-knit online community.
And at the same, you start to be seen as an authority in your area. Many people are grateful when other users take on the function of an information hub – searching for useful content before sharing it with the group.
7. Borrow and share content from third parties
Spoil the members of your Facebook group with exclusive content and show them that you care about them. People like useful things – so make yourself useful! This includes sharing content from third parties.
If it is genuinely valuable content which is useful, solves a problem, explains a complex issue etc etc, all the usual prerequisites – post it in your group! Add a short introduction yourself explaining what the content is worth a read, and perhaps single out specific group members for whom you believe the content could be particularly useful.
You don’t have to become an authority in a particular area just by producing your own content. People are often grateful when others act as a sort of hub for information, finding and sharing third party content with them so they don’t have to.
8. Promote posts on your Facebook page
Finally, a great tip which I don’t see being used much day to day. Which is surprising as it’s so easy. When a post in your group has generated a long, interesting, complex discussion, promote it. Tell people about it. Share it on your Facebook profile, in related groups and on other social media channels – so long as you have permission to do so.
This enables you to reach more users who could also be interested in your group. By posting a link to a specific post or discussion, and not just to your group itself, you demonstrate to people the quality of your group, encouraging potential new members to sign up.
To wrap up…
Facebook marketing is worth the effort because a group allows you to address a specific target audience directly and much more accurately than a regular Facebook page. The more a group specialises in a certain niche, the better.
This only works if content in the group is of high quality. Spammers and other troublemakers must be kicked out straight away. Make sure clear rules and guidelines are in place to govern behaviour and inform new members how they are expected to act within the group. It’s your group. Your house. Your rules.
Active members will be interested in new, quality content from third parties which you share. Don’t forget to promote particularly interesting discussions or debates by sharing posts on your Facebook profile or in other social channels. This attracts new members and helps your group to grow!