Are Facebook Groups the next growth tool for your brand?
This blogpost is a transcription of a talk I gave at the #DCMC2017 online conference in October 2017.
You can still download the free ebook on Marketing BRANDS with Facebook Groups!
It is safe to assume that most of you, reading this today, are using Facebook to market their business – no matter what kind of business it is. Thanks to Facebook Pages, all kinds of brands and companies, whether they are B2B or B2C, have been using Facebook these past years to grow their businesses. And there is a good reason for that: we want to be where our customers pay attention. And nowadays they pay a lot of attention to social media and to Facebook.
Just a small reminder for you on the use of Facebook in Belgium :
- 6,5 million users, equally male and female
- 21 min/day
- Also you might not know this but the age group that is on the internet the most is not the Millenials, but rather Generation X (35-49) people. They spend around 7 hours per week on social media. (Nielsen) And that time is increasing every year.
But of course, as Facebook Pages have become a popular communication channel to reach out to customers, businesses are facing a new problem: their reach is going down. For larger pages, it can go as low as 1% or less.
Why is that?
Well it’s actually a math problem. Even though people spend a lot of time on Facebook every day, the time spent there is finite. But the amount of content created keeps growing at a very fast pace, so it’s impossible to expose every Facebook user to all the content they have subscribed to. That is why the Facebook algorithm selects the content every one of us will see, based among other things on our previous interests and interactions.
This loss of reach is probably the biggest frustration I hear companies complaining about these days, and it’s getting worse every year. So how do we solve that problem?
The first obvious solution is to pay for eyeballs: you promote your content through the advertising platform, and more people will see it. And after all, it’s not that bad of a solution because :
- you can work with very small budgets, especially compared to traditional media;
- you can target very precisely who is going to see your content, so you are not wasting money on people who aren’t interested in your company
Unfortunately, the same issue is happening here as well: more advertisers mean less reach and higher prices per view! Sooner than later we will be back to square 1. So what is our next step?
There is one Facebook feature that brands and businesses have mostly been ignoring so far: Facebook groups. That is ironic because it’s one of the oldest features on the platform, yet even Facebook neglected it for the longest time. Until this year.
In June this year, Facebook changed their mission statement “make the world more open and connected” to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”.
Building communities, that is what you do within groups, and Facebook wants 1 billion people (half or their user base) to be part of those communities.
At the same time, Facebook has released new features to help with group management:
- Post scheduling
- But also the possibility to link a group to a Page, and to interact in the group as the Page – which was previously impossible
And that is basically everything businesses needed to start using groups as a marketing tool.
So how do groups work, and more importantly, why should your business run one?
The one thing we can say about Pages, is that they work in a very vertical way. The owners post, the followers see the content and comment or react, but can’t post their own content.
While many companies refer to the followers of their Page as “their community”, I think this is a misuse of the term, simply because people cannot really interact much on a Page.
Groups are a completely different thing. The Groups have one or several administrators, but anyone in the group can start a conversation or reply to one.
This means that Groups work in a much more horizontal way. They actually look a lot like the old style forums or message boards: anyone can start a thread, anyone can reply, and Admins make sure that everything is running smoothly, and that everyone respects the rules.
Groups are where communities are built because people can develop relationships and have conversations.
Why is this interesting for a business?
- First of all because all the people joining the group are interested in the brand or company. These are the people who are highly ready to engage with you, and to purchase from you. Many of them will be brand ambassadors and by developing a direct relationship with them, you will leverage their influence even more.
- Secondly, your reach is consistently better in a group than it will be on a page. Group posts will show in member’s newsfeed, and they will also come and visit the group spontaneously to browse new discussions. That doesn’t happen with Pages.
- Thirdly, engagement will consistently be better in a group than on a page. This is not only due to the algorithm but also to the community feel within a group, that is much more inviting.
In short, Groups are giving you what Pages cannot give you anymore. And if you promote them well, and post interesting content in your group, you will attract a bigger and bigger audience. Some businesses now have more people in their group than they have followers on their page.
Now I hear you asking me: aren’t those groups much more work than a page? The answer is: not necessarily. There might be a little bit more moderation work to do, such as letting new members in. But thanks to the new tools that Facebook has recently added, you can now schedule posts in advance and moderate groups quite easily. The amount of work involved is very similar to what you would do on a Page – with a better impact.
To summarize: businesses have a reach and engagement problem with Facebook pages, and they know it. Facebook is where our customers are, so we need to be there as well. Groups have the potential to be our next growth tool, as they solve the issues inherent to pages.