This January, Mark Zuckerberg dropped a bombshell for marketers on his Facebook page:
“[W]e’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other…” As a result, the company is “making a major change to how we build Facebook,” starting with the “News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
For most marketers, these changes weren’t necessarily a surprise. Facebook’s been doing this for years, slowly weeding out content from public pages in favor of posts from family and friends. What was notable about this announcement, however, was Facebook’s advocacy for groups, in addition to the usual suspects of family and friends.
The inclusion of groups got marketers thinking… are groups the new pages for Facebook?
Can you rely on Facebook Groups?
Even if you’re already eagerly visualizing your brand’s big debut into Facebook groups, you’re probably feeling at least a hint of trepidation along with your excitement. You’ve been beaten down over the years, with each algorithm bringing a new blow to your organic reach on Facebook. It only makes sense that you’d be wary about doubling-down on groups only for Facebook to change its tune later on.
While nothing can be guaranteed in the ever-changing social media landscape, there are some clear signs that you can trust Facebook’s making a serious investment in groups and they’re here to stay (at least for a little while).
Although it feels new, Facebook’s focus on groups has actually been brewing for a little while. In mid-2017, Facebook held its first Communities Summit for Group Admins in Chicago.
What precipitated this event? According to Zuckerberg, “We recently found that more than 100 million people on Facebook are members of what we call ‘very meaningful’ groups. These are groups that upon joining, quickly become the most important part of our social network experience and an important part of our physical support structure. For example, many new parents tell us that joining a parenting group after having a child fits this purpose.”
Then, this February, Facebook followed up with a Communities Summit in Europe that hosted over 300 group “power admins.” At the event, Facebook announced many of the initiatives they’ve launched based on feedback from the first summit, and continued gathering important feedback and ideas from the elite group for future releases.
What can you do with Facebook Groups?
If you haven’t paid attention to Facebook Groups in a while, you can do a lot more with them than you may realize. Facebook’s made strides to nurture engagement in groups and offer admins more advanced management tools on par with what you see with brand pages.
Last October, Facebook introduced two new features that enhance and personalize the community experience of groups.
- Welcome posts invite group admins to tag new members by name:
- Clicking on a member’s name heavily emphasizes their group activity, along with the normal things they have in common with the person who clicked (as opposed to the default search on Facebook, which shows the common interests alone):
Changes like these make group members feel closer than a random stranger on Facebook, inviting more engagement.
Facebook knows that both groups and their Facebook Live video feature boast spectacularly high engagement rates – so they decided to combine the two with their new Watch Party feature. Group admins can choose a public Facebook video for their group to watch at the same time. It’s like simultaneously watching a video together and commenting on it with your friends.
The first sign a social platform is starting to care about a demographic is when you see it adding analytics features that rival the ones they offer to paying advertisers. You’ve seen this most recently with Snapchat’s recent concessions for influencers. Facebook’s new suite of tools for group admins is more sophisticated than ever, and significantly streamlines group management.
Group admins can now easily manage everything from a central administrative dashboard, including viewing insights and approving new member requests. Up to 10 group announcements can be pinned to the top of the page. Group rules, similar to what you find on Reddit, now have a dedicated section.
Facebook also recently expanded their Group Insights tool to include “helpful personalized tips, like scheduling posts at times when members are most engaged.” If that sounds a lot like the insights available to Page owners, it’s because it is.Other, small changes reveal Facebook’s recognition of the importance of group identity when it comes to engagement. For example, admins can now personalize their group pages by selecting a color scheme. This feature isn’t even available to regular profiles!
Developing your brand’s strategy for Facebook groups
If you want to have any organic reach on Facebook as a brand, groups are the way to go. Here’s how to go about it the right way.
Posting in groups
It’s no coincidence that Facebook’s groups now share many similarities with Reddit. Group admins have a lot more power. Custom color schemes put the group’s identity first, before Facebook’s own blue branding.
As such, brands should expect group members to treat their Facebook groups with the same fierce loyalty and protection you see on Reddit.
In order to succeed with groups, it is absolutely essential that brands tread lightly. Engage first before promoting (if you promote at all), and always engage authentically. If you don’t, you won’t just risk low engagement. You’ll risk very public ridicule and shaming.
Brands can post in groups as a Page. This maintains your professionalism, but it also keeps your brand faceless. To add humanity to your brand, consider leveraging the personal brands of your employees. They can work in tandem with your Page account to share official announcements, answer FAQ, and participate in discussions related to your industry.
Creating your own branded groups
You can also create your own branded Facebook group via linked Groups. These help your fans stay connected to your company through Page-branded groups featured on your profile.
Plenty of branded Facebook groups have enjoyed success on Facebook, but there are just as many half-hearted efforts that failed. To make your branded group one of the former, consider the following three things before you create your group.
- Set your goals.
Is it sales? Then you’ll want a small group for prospects that’s highly cultivated by your sales reps who answer questions and make them feel like VIPs.
Maybe you have a team of brand ambassadors, and your email newsletter isn’t proving effective. A group just for them might work.
If you want a larger public group with the potential to grow, focus on a topic related to your industry. This will be about engagement, driving brand visibility and demonstrating thought leadership – not pushing your products. But, your efforts will result in higher group engagement, improved brand perception, and indirect boosts to your customer retention and sales.
- Define your audience.
Depending on the topic and size of your audience, it may make sense to have several groups for different goals. For example, if you’re trying to enter a new vertical, establishing your thought leadership through a branded Facebook group is a great choice.
If your brand speaks to multiple verticals, or widely variant types of users, consider creating multiple groups. The more personal and niche you can be, the better.
- Plan your logistics.
Assign the team members who will be responsible for managing the group and fostering engagement. Set up the rules. Develop a content calendar like you do for all your other channels.
For your group to succeed, you need to have a plan and keep it alive. Especially in the beginning, as the onus will be on you to make it worthwhile for fans to stick around.
Using group features
If you decide a branded group is right for you, leverage the tools at your disposal. Personalize your group with a color scheme, and make it friendly with Welcome Posts. Keep it lively with regular Group Announcements. Make the rules of engagement clear with Group Rules, and enforce them so it stays a safe space.
Group Insights provide many of the same insights you rely on to optimize your engagement on your brand Page. Use them to:
- Discover the best times to post for optimal engagement.
- Attract more members. Fully complete your profile to increase your chances of showing up in people’s searches for related keywords.
- Understand your audience better – both for the tone and content of your posts in the group itself, as well as broader market research applications.
- Find new potential groups to join. Recognize demographic interests among your most engaged users. Similar people might be interested in hearing from you but just haven’t heard of you quite yet. Search for groups related to those interests.
- Analyze your popular posts to give members more of what they like. Coordinate Watch Parties around topics your fans care about. Share exclusive content for group members..
Facebook groups: the path to meaningful interactions
In an increasingly pay-to-play social media landscape, Facebook Groups offer your brand the opportunity to interact with fans organically. Just make sure those interactions are meaningful.
Michael Quoc is the founder / CEO of Dealspotr, where brands, shoppers, and influencers can connect on the first social platform centered around today’s best promo codes. Previously, he was the Director of Product Management at Yahoo’s media lab, where he led the launch of several innovative services in the live video / mobile social networking areas. Michael has been awarded nine patents relating to mobile and social network applications and technology. Tweet him at @michaelquoc.
Matt Ramage is founder of Emarketed a web marketing agency located in Los Angeles. He loves coffee, good design, and helping businesses improve their look and getting found on the Internet.