The Return of the Facebook Groups for Business
It was not so long ago that Facebook Groups were slowly being abandoned for the Facebook Page, as businesses discovered they could make “fans” of their business and market to a broader group of consumers. In time, Facebook Groups slowly disappeared into the realm of high school reunions, community garage sales, and the bottom of the business priority list.
However, as the Facebook Page environment grew, so did the attraction of those who’s sole purpose in life is to market and sell. Then Facebook discovered that there was some real money to be made in the advertising market. Suddenly, the “free” aspect of marketing via Facebook Pages began to disappear. Most importantly, the marketers of the world, unfamiliar with Social being anything more than the 3-martini lunch with a client, began to erode the Social out of Social Media. Connecting with their audience became impersonal, one-way, conversations. The “Fans” became more and more disengaged and less and less likely to share their love of a product or service.
Re-enter the Facebook Group
In a recent post on Steamfeed.com, Social Media Manager Keri Jaehnig (@kerijaehnig) wrote about the 10 Reasons to Use Facebook Groups for Business. In it she touched on the key advantages of have a Facebook Group, such as Nurturing Relationships with Brand Ambassadors and having Conversations for Membership Programs, but one point, in particular, catches the eye of the business owner who has watched his/her organic reach slowly disappear from the Facebook landscape; Easier to be Seen in the Facebook Newsfeed.
Haven’t you noticed? That Community Buy and Sell, that youare a part of, seems to always end up in your newsfeed. Same with the Lost Pets group, or the Star Wars Fanboy and Fangirl Group. These are groups that share your interest and you are more likely to see them roll through your feed than the Paid Ad for latest line of vacuum cleaners, especially if you engage in the groups posts and conversations, on a regular basis.
Meshfire and its Firestarters
Some companies, like Seattle based Meshfire, have used their Facebook Group to not only build up their supporters, but they have also been using the platform to bounce ideas and create new features via that select audience of users. For instance, the analytics data feature is a direct result of them asking the group “what would you like to see added to Meshfire?”. That is a powerful tool, when it comes to building brand loyalty and ambassadors. The company even has a name for their Facebook Group followers (full disclosure; I am one); Firestarters!
I asked Keri Jaehnig why she thought now was the time to write this post about Facebook Groups for Business. “I think businesses are getting frustrated by Facebook’s changes and the decline of organic reach”, she says. “They are looking for an alternative and this is a great one”. “What is great about Facebook Groups”, she continued, “is that it allows for a much more personal, one-to-one, interaction with the brand and other members who are part of the group. It is also easy to cross over conversations started on a Facebook Page, to a Facebook Group, in order to expand on the Pages content.
The difference between a person who Likes a Facebook Page and a person who Joins a Facebook Group, is also something to consider. Says Jaehnig “your ideal Facebook Group member is a person who wants to amp up their knowledge, who are, perhaps, involved in a niche that your brand or product fills, who are open to (and willing to share) new ideas and, most of all, are active participants in the conversations”. In marketing, the Holy Trinity of Consumer is the one who Uses, Shares and Talks about your product or brand. Imagine a large, focused, group of them doing just that!
Can a Facebook Group be a good marketing tool, though? Yes, says Jaehnig. For all the reasons mentioned, before. “You have a group of Ambassadors, who are engaged, even passionate, about your brand. By encouraging them to share your events or share their experiences / passions about your product or brand, you are tapping into their Social networks, even outside of the Facebook environment. It is the New Organic.”
What was really interesting about Jaehnig’s post was that it almost didn’t come to pass. “I was really nervous about posting it and I was hesitating about hitting the ‘publish’ button. I really wasn’t sure how it was going to be received”. That is understandable, considering every huckster in the stream is now showing people “How To Build A Facebook Ad Campaign That Will Guarantee Results”. Much to her surprise, it was not only well received, it was REALLY well received, being shared more than 5500 times since it was posted on September 29th, over 5x the number of shares on her other Steamfeed posts. “I was in shock,” she said. “When I saw that even the Social Media Examiner shared it, I was over the moon!”
Facebook Groups do still have a Con to go with all of its Pros; it is still Rented Space. This means that Facebook could change it’s mind about how its Groups are used, accessed or find their way into your Newsfeed. Until that time, however, businesses should look at Facebook Groups as a new way to re-engage those Fans that they worked so hard to get.