More than nineteen years since it launched, Facebook is still the largest social media platform, with three billion users in January 2023, according to DataReportal (https://datareportal.com/essential-facebook-stats). But organic reach on Facebook Pages is declining as paid traffic takes over user’s feeds. According to Hootsuite, the average organic Facebook Page post now sees engagement from 0.07 percent of followers. Having a Facebook Group could offer a better way to grow and maintain an engaged community and generate traffic in your favor.
A Facebook Group shouldn’t replace your business’ Page but can be an addendum for those who desire more exclusive access to a community centered on you and your brand. When creating and managing a Group, it’s important to begin with a strategy in mind. Hopefully, the tips below will give you some ideas and insight to get started.
- Ask Why, What, and When
Groups differ from Pages because you control who uses it and how. Once you’ve decided a Group will meet your business objectives, ask these questions to clarify its purpose and identity:
Why are you creating this Group? Are you an author creating a reader group for your fans? An editor, cover designer, formatter, or other service provider creating a space for your clients? Pinpointing the Group’s purpose is an important first step.
What kind of content will I share and/or allow to be shared? How much will you limit posting? Will you allow personal posts, self-promotion, or political or religious posts?
When will you post to the Group and engage with your audience? Consistency is important, as with any social media presence, but it’s completely up to you. Browse your favorite authors or service providers to see if they have private Groups and how they’re run for ideas.
- Velvet Rope or Open Access?
Have you ever tried to get into an exclusive club or party? Remember the feeling of elation when the bouncer lifted that velvet rope for you? This is the feeling your fans have when they ask for access to your private reader group, author group, review crew or street team group, or services group.
Facebook Groups allow you to manage privacy settings, meaning you can make them private. You also have the option to be public, in which anyone can find and join, or secret, where you won’t show up in searches and members join on an invite-only basis. This can be done via a link, such as something you might put at the back of your book, or by sending an invitation directly to someone’s Facebook profile.
In a public Group, comments, posts, and other engagements are, well, public. Anyone on the internet can view them. In a private Group, however, posts, comments, and anything within the Group are only visible to that Group’s members. And if you really want that velvet rope experience, or you want to limit who requests membership, the secret option might be for you.
Pro Tip: You can change your Group’s privacy settings at any time.
- Clarify with Your Name
If you make your Group private but discoverable, which means anyone can find your Group but not anyone can join, then your name is an important factor to consider.
If your name is Rachel Paige and you want to create a reader group, the simplest, most searchable choice would probably be Rachel Paige’s Reader Group, Fans of Rachel Paige Books, or Readers of Author Rachel Paige. Suppose you’re creating a private Group for clients or people interested in your work. In that case, you might use something like Rachel Paige Covers, Romance Covers by Rachel Paige, or Rachel Paige Editing Services.
When picking a name, think about the easiest thing someone can type into the search bar to get your Group to show up.
- Make Rules and Enforce Them
Generally, the rules for a public Group can be more lenient than those for a private Group, but in either case, if you make a rule, you must enforce it. Even if it means kicking your bestie out because they hit their three strikes, you’ve got to be willing to do it.
Think about Groups in which you’ve been a member. Do you feel more comfortable in a Group that’s lenient with rule enforcement? Or are you more comfortable knowing the rules aren’t negotiable?
- Use the Featured Section
Do you have a sale or promotion happening? Book signings for the holidays? Put it in the Featured section. This section allows you to make an initial post about a topic, then pin it where new members can continually see it when they join.
This section is also useful if you have regularly scheduled events. Members can interact with a post without having to scroll to find it. Just create one post that collects comments and mark it as featured. There isn’t a limit on the number of posts you can feature, but keep your members’ user experience in mind. Fewer featured posts makes searching for something important easier.
- Use Events Within Your Group
Create an “Event” within your Group if you’re having a meetup, webinar, flash sale, or going live. Like pinned posts, these help to highlight anything important that’s happening. It also allows you to reach more members because it automatically shows up in their news feeds. Events in Groups are set up just like on Pages. Find the tab at the top of your Group and follow the instructions to get started.
- Keep It Authentic and On-Brand
No matter how you use your Group, keep it authentic to you and your brand. Always be yourself—genuine passion and enthusiasm can be engaging and help people connect with you—but decide early on what and how much you will share. If you make rules such as no hate speech, political or religious posts, or bullying, you should also follow them. The downward spiral of online feuding can be ugly and get out of control fast. If you’re a professional nurturing a Group, it’s best to stay on-topic and on-brand at all times.
- Use Other Platforms to Drive Traffic to Your Group
Do you have a Facebook Page, Instagram, TikTok, website, newsletter, or other online presence? Use that space to drive traffic to your Group. Entice followers with exclusive content or events they can only access from your Facebook Group. Just make sure you give them an easy-to-follow call to action, such as “click here to join,” with a link that takes them straight to your Group.
Pro Tip: Use the access request for your Facebook Group to collect email addresses. Facebook allows you to create a series of questions that anyone requesting to join your Group must answer before they’re granted access. Here, include one such as: “If you want to receive promotional material and more exclusive goodies from Rachel Paige, enter your email here.” Phrasing it like this counts as an opt-in, so you can add this person to your newsletter list. Here’s the catch: Whoever is approving memberships has to record that email address before approving the member. Once you hit the Approve button, that email address disappears.
- Use an Administrator (or Two!)
Managing a Facebook Group can be time intensive, especially in a large Group with members communicating and sharing through different time zones. Having administrators to monitor incoming posts and comments can be a salvation.
Admins can monitor incoming posts, post on your behalf, answer members’ questions, and more. They can be active members who want to volunteer some time to your cause; paid positions, like a virtual assistant; or friends or family members who want to support you. Who you pick is completely up to you. Just make sure the person, or people, you choose understand the rules of the Group and are consistent and reliable.
- Use Your Group to Sell
Further your Group’s velvet-rope experience by inviting members to purchase special, member-exclusive merchandise. These could be signed book copies for holiday gifts, bookmarks, pens, author merchandise, or anything else your most loyal fans would love. Post about it in your Group and link to a Google Doc where members can fill out an order form. Collect payment through your preferred provider, and voila! You’re taking orders without spending a dime of your own money.
You don’t have to “spam” your members, but they’re there because they love what you have to offer. When you use your Facebook Group to create a meaningful, engaged community, you have the opportunity to take your audience from fans to superfans.