To hear Mark Zuckerberg tell it, the Facebook News Feed is dead.
In a rare blog post in early March, the CEO and founder of Facebook laid the groundwork for a flurry of changes set to take place across the platform in the coming months. “I think there needs to be the digital equivalent of both the town square and the living room,” he responded to one commenter. If the News Feed is the town square, a place where anyone can come to broadcast information – true or not – to large amounts of people, then Facebook Groups are the living room – more private, niche spaces for online conversations to take place. These types of changes have different implications for different types of content, and while you may be happy to see fewer selfies, political rants, and expired memes from your digital “nearest and dearest”, a change in the type of content being featured by the ever-elusive Facebook algorithm almost always means that businesses will need to evolve their own social media strategy to remain relevant and visible to their audiences.
So HOW can you continue to engage in the online conversation as a business, when it feels like your posts are reaching fewer users than ever before? The answer is in that virtual living room. By leveraging Facebook Groups as a place to connect with current and potential customers, collect data, and engage in conversations, business owners have a unique opportunity to create more value for their audiences than ever before!
Connect – Find the right groups to join.
- There’s a Facebook group for everyone. Nothing is too niche. For example, Dogspotting boasts 1.3 million members and counting, all dedicated to – you guessed it – spotting dogs.
- Finding groups that are relevant to your business is a great way to find an pre-qualified set of potential customers who have indicated by joining the group that they are interested in something you’re an expert in.
- Here’s the best piece of news we’ve heard in a while; business pages can now join, post, and comment in Facebook Groups!
- The Discover feature under the Groups tab allows you to search by categories such as “Hobbies & Interests” as well as recommended groups based on your local area, groups your friends have joined, and more. It’s a great place to start.
Observe – Use Facebook Groups for social listening.
- Consider this your own personal focus group. Pay attention to frequently asked questions, news and stories that start discussions, and users who seem to be active in the group. How can you use these insights to develop content that your audience will love?
- Look closer at those active members you’ve identified. What other groups are they in? Do other members seek out and take their advice? Think of these users as micro-influencers and work on building genuine relationships with them (this is NOT the time for the aggressive sales pitch. In fact, many groups have rules against promoting your business.)
Engage – Establish your business as an expert in the field.
- Leave the sales pitch at home and work on providing alternative value instead. Focus on genuinely connecting with your audience by answering their questions.
- Ask questions of your own! You’ve got a captive audience right at your fingertips – use it!
- Be a part of the conversation. Show off your industry knowledge by joining in on the discussions happening organically in the group.
Create – Start your own Facebook Group.
- Build your own community. Consider creating a group surrounding your brand that offers genuine value to your audience—value from experts (you) AND community members.
- Enthusiastic group members = Micro-influencers. This is your fan base, and a great starting point for a brand-ambassador program.
- Think outside of the box. A brand-driven Facebook Group doesn’t explicitly have to just be a fan club. Starbucks created the Leaf Raker’s Society, a private Facebook group for fans of Fall … and while it’s not immediately obvious that Starbucks is the driving force, plenty of conversations about Pumpkin Spice Lattes happen naturally. They even won a Shorty Award!
Is creating a Facebook Group the right call for your business? Here’s our rule of thumb: new features and changes aren’t for everyone, but if a platform is choosing to highlight those features, they’re worth investigating to see how they can benefit your business – they tend to be indicative of the way algorithms are ranking content. Start by exploring other groups and figuring out what they’re doing differently to drive business.
One final note: joining or creating a Facebook group isn’t a magic solution to all of your marketing woes. Establishing your reputation and fostering relationships doesn’t happen overnight, and requires time and energy, but when you choose to invest in your consumer’s experience—both on and offline—you create opportunities to turn customers into your biggest fans and advocates.
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