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

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.36.18 AMSome 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!

Why Now?

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.

 

Welcome to Social Media Camp Blog 2.0

That's me on the left.

That’s me on the left.

Welcome!

Welcome to the New and Improved, Twice as Awesome, Feature Full, Raucously Fun, Information Infused, Social Media Savvy, Social Media Camp Blog 2.0!

Um. Yeah. OK. That may be just a little over the top. Actually, the only thing that is really new is me. Your Friendly Neighbourhood SMCamp Blog Editor.

Where We Have Come From

When the SMCamp Blog went live a few years ago, it quickly grew a following of Camp attendees and Social Media curious. In it’s second year, an editor was taken on and stable of authors approached to create readable and engaging content. I was pleased to be a part of that original group of authors and it was great to see how the blog was able to create an online buzz about the event. Last year, however, the focus changed a bit and the blog took a place on the back burner, gone, but certainly not forgotten.

In the post conference review, the organizers decided that the blog should return, to not only help add to the conversation online, but to generate a buzz around the annual Social Media Camp event, itself. Not a small task. To revive a dormant blog is never easy, but reviving it in a world where there are so many great blogs with some even greater content, is daunting. So what’s a rookie editor to do.

Where We Are Going

Well, we are going to focus on making sure that we are supplying content from some of the best people in the Social Media industry, not to mention content from rookie writers, looking for a space that can help them launch their scribblings into the InterWebs. We are going to add dynamic content, such as working with the Victoria based podcast “John, Paul & Mic” to further discuss featured posts on the blog. We are working with some of the incredible writers in the steamfeed.com stable of authors. Most important, we are going to have content from some of the many great speakers that have done Keynotes and Workshops at Social Media Camp, sharing some of their knowledge and insights on what makes Social Media work!

Finally, we want to hear from you, our soon to be loyal readers! We want to know what you would like to see in our posts. Tips and tricks, explanations on new features in existing platforms or new platforms. Marketing strategies, engagement strategies, lead generation or customer service techniques. Ask and we will look to find an author with that expertise! We also want to hear from bloggers interested in guest posting on our blog. We are only too happy to help launch the newest blogging sensation!

Social Media Camp is the largest Social Media Conference in Canada. My job is to help make a blog that matches that prestigious status. LET’S GO!

Sean Smith
Editor
The Social Media Camp Blog

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Expecting More from Traditional Media

At a recent Chamber of Commerce event in my town, I had a chat with the Operations and Sales Manager for a local radio station. As we talked about Social Media, it was completely obvious that he really didn’t care (and certainly didn’t understand) about the power of Social Media. In fact, when I gave an example of how Social Media improves the reach of their streaming Internet signal, being heard in markets as far away as Europe. He actually said “so what? Where the value for us being heard in Europe”. Honestly, I sat gob-smacked for a moment, as I wrapped my head around a sales manager not understanding the value to some of the businesses that contract to the station for advertising. “How about EVERY tourism based business that advertises on your station”. Suddenly, the light went on.

Doing it because the other guy is

Slowly, pretty well every form of traditional media (radio, TV, newspapers, etc), have jumped on the Social Media band wagon. Most, however, do it only because their competition is, without a strategy or focus, or even a goal. The Operations Manager I was speaking with was very pleased with the fact that their iPhone app had been downloaded over 12,000 times, but entirely missed the fact that this app was being downloaded to mobile devices. You know, those devices that have at least one Social Media app that a user can share what they are doing. Right now. Like listening to the radio station.

Their Websites feature Social Media links for people to access, yet there is little engagement or activity, mainly because their Social Media channels are managed by someone that has the task as a second or third hat. This one station has almost 2,400 “Likes” on their Facebook page, with virtually no conversation, or interaction with followers, on things they post, making you asks “why is this here?” Twitter is even worse, with fewer than 600 Followers and little in the way of interaction with those followers and, as I lead into the point of this post, virtually no discussion about the businesses that advertise with them.

The Ad Puzzle is Incomplete

Some of my personal business clients have virtually abandoned traditional media in favour of Social Media. I don’t recommend it, but they have obviously seen the value of their own engagement on Social Media, over the ROI on what they spend on traditional advertizing. While I suggest ways that they can leverage that traditional advertising with Social Media features, they decide against it. Why? Because those traditional media outlets are not helping them with that aspect of their promotion. It is an opportunity lost, because traditional media players cannot understand their place in Social Media, especially in smaller markets. Without a Social Media marketing plan or strategy of their own, it is nearly impossible for traditional media outlets to help their clients integrate Social Media into the advertizing package. Without traditional media understanding how Social Media helps create brand advocates through shared conversations, the chances of them adding it into their advertizing packages becomes even more unlikely.

The Field is Wide Open. RUN!

Social Media being used by traditional media is still relatively new, with the only real hurdle being the convincing of the old school owners, managers and talent. What is needed is to make sure that the old school does feel that their way of doing things isn’t being replaced, but rather being enhanced. Larger market traditional media has always fared better than smaller market, but now the field is being leveled by all outlets being able to reach the same numbers, globally. Here are a few ideas to explore, in order for traditional media outlets to leverage Social Media, rather than to simply use it.

  1. Feature Ads on Facebook Pages. Local radio and newspapers can feature their advertising clients, by simply adding images and links of their clients brands into the daily Social Media conversations.
  2. Tweet “Today’s Morning Drive/Show Time sponsored by @brandx in #mytown. Listen Live at www.ourstation.com”
  3. Engage with users that are WAY outside the traditional reach of signal. A conversation with a listener / reader on another continent generates interest that supports clients that want to access that market.
  4. Dedicate a staff member to working the Social Media channels, in conjunction with on air talent, reporters and sales people. They manage the conversations created by others and add the appropriate advertising client when the opportunity presents.
  5. Create a Social Media policy and marketing strategy that INCLUDES the advertising clients, and live by it!

Social Media is the best way to create new audiences for traditional media companies, as well as enhancing the experience for those who already follow. Make the effort to share that exposure and experience with your advertising clients and a whole new market opens up.

 

Politics in Social Media

Where I live (British Columbia, Canada) it is that time again. The silly season, when my door, my phone, my mailbox, my email and, now, my social media has the face of some politician saying, “Vote for Me!”. It’s OK though. I am a bit of a political junkie, so I follow all of it with some gusto. What bothers me, however, is that pretty well every party in the field and every politician in it, is doing their Social Media wrong. They, like so many businesses, miss the “Social” and focus on the “Media”. I find this odd. When is the last time you saw a politician go to a social function and just stand in the middle of the room, with a sign above his or her head, that said “Vote for Me!”? Never, right? Well, that’s what they are all doing.

They are starting to pop up like spring wild flowers. @ElectMe Twitter accounts. Facebook pages that sport the name “Elect So-and-So for This Place”. Streams full of promises, platforms and pandering, but very, very, few conversations with the unconverted.

Be Prepared for the Conversation

I have actually seen where one party was deleting posts that pointed out that party’s mistakes or was an opposite opinion, in an attempt to “moderate” the conversation. They even posted, 4 times, links to their Social Media policy, to emphasizes the point. Needless to say, that just makes matter worse.

Unlike traditional media, you cannot control the conversation. It’s not a sign that you replace when it gets defaced, or a flyer that layout your platform without the worry of having to answer questions about the content. Here, in the Social Media sphere, if you out it out there, you had better be ready to talk about it.

Not Your Granddad’s Media

Some in the political landscape understand there is power in reach with Social Media. In Rapid City, South Dakota, a young political upstart decided to take on that City’s two-term Mayor in the 2011 City election. While the incumbent spent $40,000 in traditional media, the rookie spent $3,000 on target Facebook ads, pointed at young voters, public servants, labour unions, seniors; and won. He engaged people where they were, speaking directly to them about their concerns and then continued that conversation after the election was over.

Think Beyond

If there was ever something that Social Media was designed for, it’s politics. If you follow hashtags like #bcpoli, you would see how passionate people are about their politics. So why have something that is only focused on getting to Election Day? If those in the political arena thought like business people, then they would look at an election campaign like a new product campaign. A chance to have maximum focus and eyeballs on your brand, as part of a launch, to build new followers and new brand advocates. Then, when it is over, carry on that interest and engagement, hopefully to the next election.

What is frustrating about the Election focused Twitter and Facebook accounts is the fact that the accounts have a shelf life that lasts as long as the final vote is counted, at which point they are about as useful as sticking your thumb out on a deserted road…..in the desert….in the dark.

Developing a long-term strategy for your Social Media, that goes beyond Election Day and into the days that really count. Here are a few things that politicians can do to build a successful Social Media environment:

  1. Create accounts that match. Having a Twitter account that says “@YouNameHere” and an FB account that says “facebook.com/YourNameHere” created name recognition
  2. Launch regular Twitter chats. Build a following and a conversation around your own Hashtag and a local political one.
  3. Connect with the Social Poli connectors, people that speak on or around politics in the Social Media sphere on a regular basis.
  4. Develop a targeted Social Media ad campaign that will reach specific demographics
  5. Prepare a post election strategy for your Social Media, which will allow you to carry on the conversation after the election and into the next.

What is key to a successful political Social Media strategy is the engagement online. Don’t be the person standing in the middle of the room, saying nothing, with your Vote for Me sign.

Social Media Doesn’t Fit Me.

I was recently sitting on a panel in my community, asking and answering questions from a bunch of students from a Lower Mainland university, working on a soci-economic project that compared the growth of 2 Vancouver Island communities hit by hard times. Now, before you say “what the heck does that have to do with Social Media?” let me assure you that you were not alone.

When I asked this group of 18 students, how many had Twitter accounts, I was surprised to see only 3 put up their hands. Really? Only three? I honestly thought that this generation of digital agers would have been significantly engaged, but I was wrong. So, when I went online to ask those who were on Social Media, if they had any idea why so few had that Twitter connection, I was struck by the answer that I am usually hit with when talking to a group of people in the business community; Social Media doesn’t fit with what they are doing.

It’s More than Marketing

Perhaps it is our fault. As Social Media promoters, advocates and mega-users, we have been working to raise the profile of Social Media as the ultimate marketing and customer service tool. We push hard the B2C and B2B potentials, perhaps to the point that those who are not part of, or interested in, the “business world” are looking at it and saying “there’s nothing for me here, so why bother”. As I pondered that question of “it doesn’t fit” this solely academic exercise by these students, it became abol we call Social Media, than arranging parties or promoting products to the masses. As I pointed out in the conversation, accessing Social Media as part of their project research would allow them to tap into a much broader range of information, directly from the source; the people in the communities.

Students Become Advocates

Educational institutions are businesses. Some are publically funded, other privately, but they all have the same goal: educate and prepare for the future. Some schools in Canada are adding Social Media into their circullum, but only specific to some programs. In the YouTube video “Social Media 2013” by Erik Qualman, it states that Generation Y & Z consider email passé and that some universities have stopped distributing e-mail account. This is strictly a communications strategy, with seeming little thought to helping the students use Social Media for far more than just letting them know what the next assignment is. Active conversations between the schools Social Media managers / faculty  and the student body creates a potential marketing stream just by the conversation existing, not to mention helping address issues that arise amongst the student, demonstrating the value of customer service as a marketing strategy. If students have their questions answered in the public forum of Social Media, they are more likely to promote the school as a great place for an education.

Social Media as a Research Tool.

As I went through the list of course available at one Univestity, I found that there wasn’t a single course available that could not benefit from having Social Media involved. From Arts to the Sciences to Business and Commerce, there is some facet to which learning how to leverage Social Media can benefit the learning process. A Poli-Sci student can engage in the process of following and creating discussions on Twitter (#BCpoli is one of the most active hashtags in British Columbia, right now, with less than 2 months before a provincial election). An ocean biology student can follow the entire track of whale migration on the west coast, just by following the Facebook posts by Whale Watching outfits. An art student can get their work seen and comment on via Pintrest or Flickr. A Commerce or Marketing student could spend days in the world of Social Media analytics, see what works and what doesn’t. The added benefit of helping a student learn to use Social Media as more than just a communications tool is that you are letting loose a new type of employee into the job market; one that truly is Social Media savvy.

 

If you are an educator in a post-secondary institution, here are some things you can do to get your students more active in using Social Media;

1)      Make it YOUR preferred method of communicating. If students know that this is the best way to get a hold of you, they will use it.

2)      Invite your student to join you in Social Media conversations, whether those conversations are started by you or simply involve you.

3)      Encourage your students to make use of Social Media as a component of all of their research and work. A couple of extra marks never hurt the old GPA.

4)      Connect your students with alumni who also use Social Media. Not only does it help build their networks, it also connects them with potential mentors and thought leaders in their fields

Social Media is not a fad and it is not going away. Perhaps we should ensure that those entering the workforce of the future are ready for it.

Mannequins Are Not Customers

For quite a while, the issue of buying Likes and Followers, has been a debated topic. It came more into the public eye when Social Media author and speaker Dave Kerpen debated BJ Medelson at the WOMMA summit regarding his status as a NYT Best Sellers list writer, creating the question of whether buying your way to the following you want has value.

It got me to thinking about it. If I walked into a room with 500 mannequins and 500 real people, am I really networking with 1000 people? If the answer seems obvious, then you are on the opposite side from a lot of people in the Social Media sphere.

Numbers vs. Content

For many, Social Media is a numbers game. They believe that it’s solely the Likes and Follows you have that give you the bigger and broader reach. Some businesses, wanting that “look how many people follow/like me” image, will go out and buy the Followers and Likes that make them look popular. In a lot of these cases you will see huge numbers and VERY little conversation or comment around their content. Why? Because it’s not engaging, relevant or even interesting. If it’s not interesting to the people that actually took the time to Like or Follow you, you can imagine how engaging it is for the mannequin in that group.

If you look into the world of Social Media, you will find some people that have huge numbers with a ton of interesting and well engaged content. In all likelihood, this person has paid attention to their analytics and metrics and has spent time watching trends and engaging influencers online. It is also very likely that this person has not come by these numbers overnight, but has earned them over time and with a lot of hard work. The short cut costs money and rarely produces real results.

But, aren’t they seeing my stuff?

One of the myths of buying Likes and Followers is that those accounts are actual people. While some are “real people” most are spam or ghost accounts, with no real engagement potential. Thus, you may actually have great content, but no living, breathing person is actually looking at it. Without that interaction, it is about as wasted an effort as walking up to a store mannequin and asking what it thinks of your new look.

Of course, connecting with a couple of thousand spam accounts does open the door one way: you are now on their radar. Many people are finding that their purchase has led to a sudden flood of spam coming into their accounts, eventually leading them to un-follow the accounts that they had recently paid to have follow them. The value of that purchase diminishes with each click of the un-follow button.

Don’t buy it. Earn it!

In the list of Tips and Tricks that you can find with only a few keystrokes in Google, none of them will show you a viable “short cut” to getting followers. There is no magic pill that will make you a Social Media Rock Star overnight. Some are able to make an impact faster than others, but that is often due to whom they already were, rather than what Social Media made them to be. No, the only way that you become a REAL Social Media presence is by time and effort. By connecting and engaging with influencers, opening up conversations with people that connect with you and sharing relevant content that is interesting and not “push the message” oriented, your business will start to stand out in the crowd. Throw in tools that help you focus and leverage your presence online, as well as paying attention to trends, and you can be sure that those earned follows and likes will be yours.

Here are some tips to help you build your following, without having to buy your way into one.

  1. Find a platform. Play a little with everything (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pintrest, etc.). Find the one YOU enjoy the most and are willing to spend time on.
  2. Connect with the connectors. Find the people that are on that platform that connect the most AND engage the most. Strike up conversations, share their content and get feedback form them on yours.
  3. Be positive and relevant. Nothing turns a follower off more than a stream of negativity or content that is all over the map.
  4. Become the “go-to” person. Work at establishing yourself as being knowledgeable on a subject, product, service or region. Share all that you know about it and be seen as the person that others can go to for that knowledge.

In the end, you want to be targeting a single goal: engagement. A conversation with 500 people is always going to be more valuable than one with 1000 mannequins.