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Is a Facebook Group Right for Your Local Business?

Curious about all things Facebook Groups? This is the post for you. Over the last six months, it has become very clear how hard it is to gain momentum on Facebook Business Pages unless you’re a paying customer.

Organic posting alone simply cannot be how you expect to bring in new customers to your business. While it’s absolutely worthwhile to keep content fresh on your Business Page (it shows your brand has a heartbeat), it’s very hard to rely on to generate business, even if you have hundreds or thousands of people who “like” your Page.

In many of my chats with business owners interested in Local Business School, it’s evident how frustrated they are at the amount of time they spend posting on social media with very little return. They might get a few likes and maybe a comment from their most loyal customer, but otherwise it feels like most activity on social media falls flat.

A few of the clients we work with and local businesses we see in Des Moines strategically use Facebook Groups to pour into their customers and build a really strong group of leads that likely will turn to customers.

With Facebook announcing that they’re going to focus more on groups by both supporting and promoting them, creating your very own may be advantageous.

If you’re new to Facebook Groups, you can think of them as smaller communities within Facebook. Sometimes there are local groups focused on broad topics like “vegan food in Kansas City” or “moms of Chicago” (I’m making these up btw). And then we see groups related to buying and selling items, fitness challenges, education programs and institutions… the list goes on and on.

When someone joins a Facebook Group, they are typically very interested in the topic or group focus and actively engage in conversation.

MY PERSONAL SUCCESS STORY + ANOTHER LOCAL SUCCESS EXAMPLE

In 2018, I revamped a local women’s networking group called FemCity Des Moines. The number one way we grew business membership and drove traffic to our events was our Facebook Group and email list.

I would frequently schedule posts in the group spotlighting new members, asking others to share women in specific industries we could learn about, share blogs/podcasts/articles that Fems were writing, asking for their input on what it means to grow a community of positive women in business in the Des Moines area and other engaging thoughts or questions.

The Facebook Group allowed FemCity Des Moines to grow from 5 members to 500 (nearly 150 paid and 350 unpaid). This was when I started to see how much other businesses could flourish by creating their very own Facebook Group.

One of our hummingbird clients, Fusion Fashion, has a robust Facebook Group where she highlights new items in the store, offers amazing giveaways ONLY to Group Members, polls her members to see what items they want to see in the store, and creates consistent videos to see the details of the products in her store.

With 1200+ members, many are receiving notifications of new posts and regularly purchasing or inquiring about purchasing. This type of Facebook Group makes a lot of sense for a business with inventory that frequently changes out. It is directly associated with the Business Page and the way Sara runs it makes the customers and members feel like they are truly VIP.

So, the question is, is it right for you?

It would depend on how you want to approach it. I see three ways that are incredibly advantageous when thinking about your local business.

BUILD YOUR FACEBOOK GROUP THREE DIFFERENT WAYS

Already have a Facebook group? Drop down to Engagement in Your Facebook Group to start optimizing.

1. Create a VIP group for your customers.

The intention of this would be to pour into people (likely your customers to start) who want to be the first to know about products or services you’re releasing. They LOVE your brand and would be excited to see a 20% off promo exclusive to group members and see videos of you talking about what you’re selling. These types of Groups thrive with regular activity and utilizing the engagement tools within the Group. This type of Group likely won’t be the fit for every local business.

2. Create a group around a topic you want to be the thought leader in.

An immediate business that comes to mind that may have an interesting opportunity to create a Facebook Group in the local market is a pest control company. They could call it called “Indoor + Outdoor Pests in Des Moines” and allow people to join to figure out what pests they have, how people treat them, and what to do. I thought of this idea right away because as a new homeowner, I’m seeing new pests and instead of posting to my Facebook feed asking WTF IS THIS? I could hop into a Facebook Group with other people in my community who likely have seen/know about specific pests and post to that Group instead. If this existed I would 100% take pictures of alive and dead bugs I see. ?

If your company “XYZ Pest of Des Moines” is the owner of the group, you 1) have instant credibility and 2) the opportunity to create amazing content that supports people who want to mitigate pests. OF COURSE you are going to see other pest control business owners join your Group. Simply provide MORE value to your members again and again and over time, you will become top of mind and the go-to business for pests.

Dang, I love this suggestion. I hope someone in this industry uses it.

3. Create a group as a way to bring together like-minded community.

Similar to what I mentioned about FemCity Des Moines, is there a group you can create to support a specific industry? Say you are offering breath work classes and know that most people who love breath work also love things like chakra balancing, chiropractic care, and massage. Can you bring this diverse group of business owners together and educate one another on your services, promotions, classes, events, and add value to your own clients’ lives by referring them to other services locally? Maybe the group is “Healers of Des Moines” and you can only join if you own a business that focuses on healing people. The only challenge with this type of model is that you may need to decline people so be mindful about how you create it, who’s allowed in it, and who is not.

The third model is really about showing your leadership. It says to your local community, I care about our collective success, I want to help you. 

Below are a couple examples of community-based groups to see what it means.

Are your wheels turning yet for your local business?

Perhaps you need to see Facebook Groups in action. Head to your search bar in Facebook and type in some of your favorite topics to see if there is a Facebook Group for it. Join the Group, engage, scroll, and see how beneficial it is to create a space online where people can gather.

SETTING UP YOUR GROUP

Facebook gives you a lot of ways to set up a Facebook Group. Here are the essentials that I think you should have, especially if people can find you and request to join (versus being completely private and not searchable).

  1. Your description: make sure you describe what the Group is about, expectations, what is allowed and what isn’t allowed, etc.
  2. Your contact: you’re the leader of this Group, make sure people know how to contact you! Drop your email, website, and other information that a brand new person would want to explore once they stumble on the Group or request to join.
  3. Entry questions: you can ask people questions before they enter your Group which I LOVE. It allows you to make sure the right people are coming in and it allows you to collect information if you so choose.
  4. Posting Permissions: is anyone allowed to post whenever they want? Do you want to approve posts before they go into the Group? Set this up before you go live!
  5. Your cover image: Create or upload a graphic for the Group that’s the correct size. To date, this is 1640 x 856 pixels. You can put the Group name on the image or have a photo that represents the community you are building. I always encourage things to look clean and professional… not perfect!
  6. Posting as you or your page: This is a new option for Facebook Groups where you can post as your Business Page or your personal profile. I prefer to post as myself because people do business with people, not necessarily logos/brand names.

Those are the essentials (we’ll update them as Facebook changes things as well!) to start and know that you can always evolve. Maybe you started out where anyone/everyone could post but now you have 1000 Group members and things are out of control! Or perhaps you are seeing self-promotions and you really didn’t want that to happen; make an announcement of this change and put it in the description.

CONTENT FOR YOUR GROUP

There isn’t a formula to getting a group to take off, but there certainly are some best practices you can use. Always think about WHY you started the group. If it’s for your existing customers, you’ll always want to consider how you can add value to their lives and keep them excited to buy from you.

If it’s to build a group around a topic people may be interested in, you need to think about delivering content about that topic in engaging ways.

If it’s about building community for like-minded individuals or business owners, it’s about connection and making sure people know about one another and feel empowered by you.

The Facebook Group should have original content, not content you just shared to your business page, Instagram account or email. Think of this group as the insiders. They see the behind the scenes, they get to provide input on things, and see videos that aren’t perfectly polished like you may prefer on your website or social profiles. It’s absolutely fine to share a promotion you’re running to the general public in the Facebook Group, but sweeten the deal for just Facebook Group Members: tell them if they share the promotion on Instagram Stories or their own Facebook profile, you’ll give them a free mug (or whatever your go-to giveaway is).

You can always provide first dibs to Group Members on promos or products or whatever it is you create or sell. Which leads me to the next topic…

GETTING PEOPLE TO JOIN

So you have a Facebook Group. Cool, where are your people at?! I’m not a big fan of adding dozens of people to Facebook Groups simply to populate it. I’m more interested in sending personal notes to individuals who I think would actually like being in the Group, inviting them via conversation (probably in Messenger) and giving them a link!

I like to sprinkle the Facebook Group into content as well for both love local and my clients’ Facebook Groups using incentives or “secretive” language. Let’s refer back to that promotion I was mentioning earlier and how you could sweeten the deal for just Facebook Group Members. How would you promote this to your email list and your social feeds? Here’s an example:

Next week, we’re offering a pretty incredible promotion you won’t want to miss. If you want to be the first to know (and win some pretty amazing prizes), you’ll want in on our Facebook Group. Request to join the Group full of other [members, clients, customers] to see what [your business name] is up to on the regular!

OR

Do you want to see new products or hear about promotions offered before anyone else? Join our Facebook Group to be the first to know everything happening at [your business name].

Create a little bit of FOMO and show your audience that when you’re an insider you get even MORE value.

ENGAGEMENT IN YOUR FACEBOOK GROUP

People are joining! You’re so popular. 😉 So how do you start engaging your audience and creating the impact you desire?

Commit to posting regularly (regularly is different for everyone, so start with a couple posts a week!) and commenting back to every comment YOU get on a post! Comment on a post you wrote and tag a couple people to see what they think of the content.

Another suggestion is a giveaway! Incentivize people to join your group by offering a giveaway to anyone who invites THREE friends to join who would align with the Group’s purpose and function.

Create a rhythm where every specific day (say Mondays) group members are asked to post something in particular. Maybe it’s a selfie of them with a product you sell. Maybe it’s a quote that has helped them in their business. Obviously this varies per Group, but you can always offer one free XYZ per month for anyone who participates in the Monday posting. Over time, if it’s actually a fun way to engage as a group member, you’ll see people posting on their own unprompted because 1) they’ll be getting responses from other group members and that feeds their ego + feels really awesome and 2) it’s something they plan for…almost like a habit.

The more real YOU are as the Group leader, the more people will begin to show THEIR real selves whether that’s by adding their own posts, images, questions, etc. Remember, every single thing we do and teach at love local is about building TRUST. Not everyone who joins your group immediately trusts that they can post without judgment or knows they can comment without feeling “dumb” about a question. Lead by example.

ENGAGE IN OTHER FACEBOOK GROUPS

We advise many of our clients to join Facebook Groups where they can add value with their posts and comments. No one wants to be sold to in a Facebook Group that you don’t directly oversee (having a VIP group for your retail brand for example, people are EAGER to be sold to!). Add value by sharing an article you love (maybe you wrote it, maybe you didn’t), connect people to services/brands if they are asking a question in a Group, or tag other business owners who specialize in a topic someone is looking for more answers. People will SEE YOU showing up in a consistent and valuable way and over time, this builds credibility and trust.

My two cents: join as your personal profile, not your business page. No one knows who is behind the logo of a business page and you won’t likely get the traction you would when people see a real human on the other side of a post or comment.

WRAP UP

Friends, I wanted to be succinct here, but there are so, so many ideas I have for you! We’ve gotten a ton of feedback from our community that this Free Training we offer on how to generate consistent sales for your local business WITHOUT a complicated or expensive marketing strategy is a fantastic starter resource. Grab a spot and start learning where to make shifts in your local business!

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