The complete guide to using Facebook Groups to build a thriving online community for your audience and customers, updated for 2018. Enjoy!
The desire to be a part of a community is not a new one. For as long as human beings have existed, we’ve survived and thrived by being a part of a community.
It’s estimated that at least 90 percent of human history was spent in the hunter-gatherer age. In those days, being outcast from one’s community could be the difference between life and death for that individual. Not surprisingly, the need to be a part of a community is just one of several survival mechanisms that are hardwired into our brains. There is safety in numbers.
Although technology has evolved exponentially over the last few centuries, human beings – as a species – haven’t changed very much. The need to be accepted by others and be a part of a community is just as strong today as it was thousands of years ago.
What has changed, however, is our technology. We now have technology that enables us to be a part of numerous communities simultaneously. We are no longer just members of local and physical communities. Thanks to the internet and social media, we can become members of online communities as well.
As more and more people from all over the world have started participating in online communities, entrepreneurs have begun to recognize the power of building a community around their mission, products, and services. We believe so strongly in the power of building a community that we listed it as one of the top 3 marketing trends for entrepreneurs to focus on in 2018.
So how do you build a community of raving fans for your business? For most industries and niches, the best platform to use to build an online community is Facebook.
Facebook’s new mission is to give people the power to build community
When the largest social network in the world declares that its mission is to help people build communities, that is something to pay attention to. In 2017, Facebook’s mission statement officially changed from “make the world more open and connected” to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
Earlier in 2018, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg also announced a significant change to how Facebook will choose to display content in their users’ News Feeds (you can read our response to Facebook’s News Feed change and how it affects your business here). Essentially, Facebook is drastically limiting the organic reach of posts from businesses, brands, and media. Instead, they are favoring posts that encourage meaningful interactions between people.
Translation: if you want to build an online community, you need to create a safe environment for your audience and customers to have meaningful conversations with you and with each other.
Fortunately, Facebook has given us a way to make this happen: Facebook Groups.
How To Use Facebook Groups To Build A Thriving Community For Your Business Click To Tweet
“Those businesses who have strong tribes and have developed a real community are going to shine, those who don’t have this are going to need to catch-up quickly.”
– Scott Oldford (ROI)
A complete guide to using Facebook Groups to build a community
Just to be clear, this is not a guide to using Facebook Pages to build an audience for your business. Facebook Pages are essentially public profiles for your business where you broadcast posts to your audience (most of whom won’t see your posts anyway, unless you pay to boost them).
A Facebook Group, on the other hand, is a place where your audience and customers congregate and interact with you and with each other. The goal with a Facebook Group is not to simply broadcast your content. The goal is to build a community.
Throughout this guide, we are going to show you several examples of entrepreneurs who have successfully built communities for their fans and customers using Facebook Groups. We reached out to many of them directly, and we’ve included their insights throughout this guide.
We’ll cover some of the main benefits of creating a Facebook Group, show you how to set up your group, and share some specific tips to help you build and maintain a thriving community for your audience and customers.
Before we begin, you should know that this is a comprehensive post. If you don’t have time to read the entire guide right now, feel free to download our shorter PDF guide on using Facebook Groups to build a community for your business.
Benefits of creating a Facebook Group
Creating a private Facebook Group for your fans and customers is beneficial for a number of reasons, and we’re not the only ones who think so. Suzi Nelson, the Community Manager for Digital Marketer, said in an article on Digital’s Marketer’s blog that establishing a private Facebook Group for their customers has helped their company meet a number of important business goals including:
- Increasing customer satisfaction
- Reducing refunds
- Increasing retention in monthly memberships
- Increasing sales generated by word-of-mouth recommendations
Many of our own customers have already started to experience the benefits of creating a Facebook Group for their business. Julie Harris, a creative business consultant and brand designer, for example, created a Facebook Group to build and nurture her relationship with her audience. Here’s what she told us about having a Facebook Group:
“Leading a Facebook Group is an excellent way to establish your credibility as a leader in your market. By sharing your knowledge, providing guidance, and creating opportunities for growth and expansion only helps your professional reputation as a credible resource. You can also learn so much about your target market. Asking questions directly to your most loyal followers about what kinds of products they want you to create, or services you should provide, or how to strengthen existing ones is an invaluable way to increase the value you provide professionally without spending a dollar on marketing or research.”
As an entrepreneur, setting up a Facebook Group for your fans and customers is definitely a worthy pursuit. Your community of happy customers (or raving fans, as best-selling author Ken Blanchard would say), will likely become your greatest source of future revenue and word-of-mouth promotion for your business.
Benefits of having a Facebook Group for your business:
1. Direct communication with your audience
Having a Facebook Group gives you the opportunity to interact with your customers on a platform that they’re likely checking multiple times throughout the day anyway. Many individuals actually prefer to communicate through Facebook versus by email or phone. Communicating with customers in your Facebook group can even help to reduce the number of email and phone inquiries that your business receives.
“Having a Facebook Group is a great way to communicate with people. To me, it’s like having a highly engaged email list.”
– Ryan Stewart (Digital Marketing Questions)
2. Product feedback
At Thinkific, our development team is constantly developing new features for our software, and in many cases, those improvements were sparked by the feedback we received from customers in our Facebook Group. We also created an online course training library with free video tutorials that were inspired by feedback and questions we received from customers in our Facebook Group.As a business, your Facebook Group can be a great place to source new product, service and feature ideas from your customers. Click To Tweet
3. Customer service
Instead of sending an email to our support team, many of our customers will simply post a question in our Facebook Group. Anyone on our team can jump in and answer that customer’s question, and sometimes other customers end up answering their question for us, often within minutes! If your customers are having trouble understanding a specific concept or using a product, they can ask questions in the group and other members can help them out.
4. Customer retention
Have you ever sent a complaint to a company’s support team, only to receive a response several days later, if at all? In that scenario, chances are you didn’t remain a customer for very long. After all, nobody likes to feel unappreciated or unacknowledged by a company that they have bought from.
Facebook Groups help increase customer retention, because they give customers the opportunity ask questions and get a response quickly, and be a part of a community of other people who can help them out.
5. Customer acquisition
Having a Facebook Group that is open to existing customers and prospective customers can actually help you to acquire new customers. In our Facebook Group, for example, we have people that are not yet customers asking about our software (or asking for a comparison between us and a competitor) on a regular basis. When this happens, our existing customers chime in with their positive experiences and reasons for choosing us. That social proof and interaction has helped to convert countless group members into paying customers.
This post from a prospective customer, for example, received 30 comments from other group members that chimed in with nice things to say about us:
6. Increased authority
As the creator of a Facebook Group, you have the ability to bring people with similar interests and goals together and initiate conversations between them. The effect is similar to that of hosting a live event (like a conference or a party, for example).
When you host a live event, many of the attendees will get the most value from interacting with other attendees, and since you’re the one who made it possible for them to come together, you get the credit. Placing yourself in that position of leadership increases your perceived authority among your audience and customers.
“Being at the hub of these valuable interactions is strengthening my relationship with the group members.”
– Nick Loper (Side Hustle Nation)
7. Increased website traffic
Sharing content that you create with the members of your Facebook Group can be an effective way to increase traffic to your website. When you post something in a Facebook Group, all of its members receive a notification that you have posted in the group, which increases the likelihood that they will engage with your post.
Just make sure that you’re not always posting your own content or trying to make a sale. Focus on providing value. Long-form posts, podcasts, images, and live videos are all possible types of content that you can share with your group members.
“Whenever I post an article, I get lots of love in the form of traffic and engagement.”
– Danavir Sarria (Copymonk)
8. Increased sales
Having a Facebook Group that is exclusive to your customers provides a great additional incentive for someone to buy from you. In this scenario, your customers aren’t just buying your product or service, they’re also buying direct access to a community of people that made the same purchase.
In fact, most of our customers that sell online courses for premium prices include access to a customers-only Facebook Group as an added bonus for purchasing their course. Doing so helps to increase the perceived value of their course.
It is worth noting that you can’t actually sell access to a Facebook Group directly (this is against Facebook’s Terms of Service), but you can absolutely offer access to an exclusive Facebook Group as an added bonus for purchasing your product or service. Remember, most people don’t just want a product or service, they want to be a part of a community.Your customers don’t just want your product or service. They want to be a part of a community. Click To Tweet
Steps To Creating Your Facebook Group
Okay, so hopefully by now you’re convinced of the power of Facebook Groups to build a sense of community and increase engagement among your customers. So the next step is to actually create one, right?
Fortunately, setting up a Facebook Group is actually pretty easy. Building and maintaining a thriving community is the hard part, but we’ll share some tips on that shortly.
From the main menu in your Facebook account (top right), you simply click on Create Group. From there, you’ll be asked to fill in some details about your group and add its first few members.Creating a Facebook Group is easy. Building a thriving community is the hard part. Click To Tweet
Here are the basic steps involved in setting up your Facebook Group:
1. Choose a group name
The name of your Facebook Group should probably include the name of your product, service, or business so that it is easily recognizable to your customers. We also recommend adding an additional term to your group name that helps to signify that it is a group and not a Facebook Page. For example, the name of our Facebook Group is Thinkific Studio (the word “studio” helps to distinguish our Facebook Group from our public Facebook Page).
2. Select your group’s privacy settings
After you choose a title for your Facebook Group, you will be asked to select your group’s privacy settings. There are 3 different privacy settings: Public, Closed, and Secret. The privacy setting you choose for your group will affect who can find the group, see its members, see its posts, and who can join it.
Here is a brief explanation of the different types of groups, and what they are each suitable for:
A Public Group can be found by anyone, so even people who are not a member of the group will be able see who its members are, and see the posts. A Public Group is not the best option for your existing customers, but it can be a good option for communicating with a broader audience or prospective customers. The downside of a Public Group is that since anyone can join it, there is less of a sense of exclusivity, which reduces the perceived value of the group.
A Closed Group can be found by anyone (they can also see who its members are), but only members of the group can see the posts. Anyone can request to join a Closed Group, but their request must be approved by someone who is an Admin of the group before they will be added. If you want to create a Facebook Group that is more exclusive (or exclusive to customers only), this is the best option.
A Secret Group cannot be found by anyone that is not already a member of the group. This type of group is great for communicating with members of your team, members of a mastermind group, or a team of ambassadors (often called a launch team) who are supporting your next big project or product launch – like the launch of a podcast, book, or online course, for example.Closed Facebook Groups are a great way to build an exclusive community for your audience and customers Click To Tweet
3. Write a group description
Your group description will appear in the right sidebar of your group where anyone can see it (unless you’ve created a Secret Group, then only its members will see it). It doesn’t have to be long, but it should definitely be clear and compelling.
Who is your group for? What is the purpose of your group? What are the benefits of joining? These are some of the questions you should answer in your group description. You can also include your group rule or guidelines (more on those later) or a link to them if they’re published on a separate webpage or document. Your group description is also a good place to include a link to your website and/or any other resources that are relevant to your group members.
Here is an example of a well-written group description from Marc Mawhinney’s Facebook Group (The Coaching Jungle):
4. Create a compelling cover photo for your group
The cover photo for your Facebook Group will be displayed at the top of your group’s page. If you have a graphic designer or web designer on your team, ask them to create a cover photo for you. If not, you can find a designer on Fiverr or on a freelance network such as Upwork. Another option is to do it yourself using a design tool such as Snappa or Canva.
Your cover photo should be consistent with the overall branding for your business so that your group members know that they’ve come to the right place.
Here is an example of well-designed Facebook Group cover photo:
We like this cover photos for a few reasons:
- It contains the names and images of the group’s owners (Josh & Jill Stanton)
- It contains their brand’s logo (Screw the Nine To Five)
- It contains several Call-To-Actions for their group members (“Here’s your next steps…”)
- The background image shows a community of people learning together
5. Pin a Welcome Post or Announcement to the top of your group’s News Feed
When you create your Facebook Group, your first post should be a Welcome Post for all your group members. However, as you and your members add more posts to the group, that first post will automatically be pushed down to the bottom of the group’s newsfeed. Pin your Welcome Post to the top of the News Feed (or create a Permanent Announcement) so that regardless of when someone joins your group, they will always see your post at the top of the News Feed.
Similar to your group description, your Welcome Post is a great place to introduce yourself and remind your members what the purpose of the group is for. You may want to include your Group Guidelines in your welcome post, or at the very least, remind new members to read your Group Guidelines before they post anything in your group. We’ll cover Group Guidelines later in this guide.
Here is an example of a well-written Welcome Post from Michael Marcial‘s Facebook Group (5-Figure Workweek: The Mastermind):
Tips for Growing your Facebook Group
Once your Facebook Group is created, the next step is to start adding members to your group. When we created a Facebook Group for Thinkific customers in the beginning of 2015, we didn’t put very much effort into promoting it.
Since then, however, and after experiencing the benefits of having a Facebook Group firsthand, we made the decision to actively encourage all of our customers to join the group.
Today, we are proud to say that our Facebook Group has evolved into a highly engaged community with more than 11,000 members that support each other and actively exchange ideas and strategies for creating and selling online courses.
Here are some strategies for growing your Facebook Group that have worked well for us and other Facebook Group owners we spoke with:
1. Send an email to your newsletter subscribers or existing customers
If you’ve created a Public Group for your audience, send an email to your list of subscribers to tell them about the group and invite them to join. You can also add an invitation to join your Facebook Group to the first email that is sent to all new subscribers who join your list. If you’ve created a Private Group exclusively for your online course customers, then you can send a similar email to all your current and future customers.
2. Invite people from your other channels
If you have a page or profile for your business on other channels and social media networks (such as Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube), consider adding a link to your Facebook Group to your bio and/or profile pages on those platforms. This helps to create a bridge for your audience from other platforms to your Facebook Group.
“The best way to grow a Facebook Group is to understand your entire online presence needs to be built like a spider web. Every channel you have and every media appearance you make should point back to your group. Most importantly, your personal profile should be branded and lead people to your group through your cover photo, bio, featured photo, and links. Then as long as you’re consistently active online, your group will grow steadily every day!”
– Arne Giske (Facebook Groups for Entrepreneurs)
3. Add a link to your Facebook Group on your website
Add a link to your Facebook Group to the main menu or sidebar of your website. Another great place to include an invitation to join your Facebook Group is at the bottom of your blog posts. This way, everyone that visits your website is given the option to check out your Facebook Group.
4. Invite your friends and connections to join your group
Many of your existing friends and connections will likely be interested in joining your group, but you shouldn’t add them to your group without asking for permission first. Most people find it annoying when someone adds them to a Facebook Group without their permission (if they don’t want to be in the group, they’ll have to manually remove themselves from it). Instead, send them a private message first to tell them about your group and ask them to consider joining it.
5. Let your group members add other people to your group
Unless your Facebook Group is exclusively for your existing customers, don’t restrict your group members from adding other people to it. In fact, you may even want to consider making some of your group members (the ones you know personally or trust the most) Admins of your group. This will give them the power to approve member requests so that you don’t always have to. These options can be configured in your Group Settings.
6. Add a link to your group to your email signature
You are probably sending and responding to several emails on a daily basis. If so, your email signature is a great place to include a call-to-action for those people that you are corresponding with. Here is an example of what you could say at the bottom of your email signature:
“Have you joined our Facebook Group yet? It’s a great place to (insert benefit). Click here to check it out.”
6 Tips for Growing Your Facebook Group & Attracting New Members Click To Tweet
“My best piece of advice I can give about starting and growing an engaged Facebook Group is to treat it like you would a live networking event. Think about how you want people to feel and act with each other. Think about the experience you want a member to have when they “arrive” and throughout their entire stay. And SHOW UP! You would never think about hosting a networking event and then not being present as a leader, so take that same attitude with your group. Be active, be engaged, and remember that every single individual has chosen to spend their time with you. At the end of the day, you are building a community!”
– Katie Krimitsos (Biz Women Rock)
How To Increase Engagement in Your Facebook Group
Once your Facebook Group is set up and full of members, your job is to encourage and facilitate engagement so that your group doesn’t become a ghost town. The more engagement there is in your group, the more value there is for each of its members, and the more incentive there is for existing members to stay and new members to join.
Here are some tips for increasing engagement among members in your Facebook Group:
1. Create a group around a specific topic
When you create a Facebook Group for your business, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the purpose of your group is just to promote your business. It’s not. The purpose of your group is to build a community of individuals who share a passion for the same topic or are working towards a similar goal. The additional exposure your business receives as a result of having a Facebook Group is great, but the focus of the community should be on the topic.
“Create a group that is centered around a topic that many people are passionate about. That tends to spark conversation organically.”
– Elizabeth Kelsey Bradley (Blogging Boost)
2. Ask questions and participate in discussions
Start discussions in your group as often as you can by asking your group members specific questions. You can ask them for feedback on something specific, ask them what challenges they are currently facing related to your topic, or even just ask them how their week is going. Regardless of what you ask them, the point is to start a conversation.
Many of the members of your group will start discussions on their own, often by sharing their insights or by asking questions. Do your best to participate in those discussions and answers those questions as they occur. If you have a highly engaged group where members interact with each other without your involvement, that is fantastic, but you should still make an effort to participate in those conversations whenever possible.
“Ultimately, your Facebook Group is a place for people to seek out fresh information and insight pertinent to your industry or focus, which makes good content a cornerstone of encouraging engagement. But that’s just half the journey. Once that content is available you need to actively encourage people to interact with it.”
– Linda Reed (Business Business Business)
3. Share a variety of content types with your members
Don’t just share one primary type of content with your group members. Share a “balanced diet” of different content types. Live videos and Q&A sessions tend to get a lot of engagement (people love to watch videos!), but other types of content work well too.
Not all of the content you share with your group members has to be your own. Sharing helpful content from external sources helps to position your group as a valuable resource without being overly self-promotional.
“We post a mix of polarizing questions, in-depth guides, personal stories, powerful quotes, live videos, and interviews in our Facebook Group. Asking questions and sharing a variety of content types helps to boost engagement.”
– Alexander Keith (Next-Level Coaches)
4. Create a theme for each day of the week
A great way to increase engagement in your Facebook Group is to assign a specific theme to each day of the week. The theme for each day will help to encourage specific types of posts or comments from group members on that day.
One of our customers, Lewis Howes (Online Business Mastermind), for example, does this very well in his Facebook Group. Here’s a screenshot of his usual Tuesday post, which he created a theme (and a hashtag!) for:
“Auto-schedule content to post daily into the group with prompts that create conversation. Then complete the loop by engaging in the conversation your members are having. Everyone wants to feel the love, so making sure that you’re taking the time to build and nurture relationships with your members brings massive value in the long run.”
– Lamar Tyler (Traffic Sales & Profit)
5. Create an adjective to describe your group members
This one may sound funny, but it works! Think of a word to describe your group members, and start referring to them using that word. This helps solidify the sense of community among your group members. Here are some examples:
- John Lee Dumas & Kate Erickson (Podcaster’s Paradise) call their group members Paradisers
- Nick Loper (Side Hustle Nation) call his group members Hustlers
- Elizabeth Kelsey Bradley (Blogging Boost) calls her group members Boosters
6. Share content that lives exclusively in your group
Sharing exclusive tips and insights (content that you do not publish anywhere else online) is a great way to reward your group members for being a part of your Facebook Group. It increases the value of being a member of your group and encourages members to re-visit the group often. This will also help prevent group members from leaving, knowing that if they do they will miss out on the exclusive content that you share inside your Facebook Group.
6 Ways to Increase Engagement in Your Facebook Group Click To Tweet
“It’s all about the value you can provide to the people of the group. Try to create unique value that ONLY the people in the group have access to.”
– Ryan Stewart (Digital Marketing Questions)
Tips for Maintaining Your Facebook Group
Sometimes, Facebook Groups get so big and ungainly that it becomes a cesspool of spam. If you don’t want yours to go that way, you need to maintain it! The amount of time it will take to maintain your group will depend on the size of your group and your commitment to encouraging engagement amongst its members.
If you want your group to flourish, you should be prepared to spend a minimum of 30-60 minutes per day overseeing and participating in group discussions. Some businesses require a part-time or even a full-time Community Manager to oversee all the activity within their Facebook Group (especially if they have several thousand group members or multiple groups for different purposes).
Here are some tips for maintaining and moderating your Facebook Group:
1. Establish group rules or guidelines
You’ve probably heard the phrase “without rules, there is chaos.” This definitely applies to Facebook Groups. Groups without specific rules or guidelines for its members are rarely successful because they have no gauge for acceptable (or unacceptable) behavior. They usually end up becoming a free-for-all spam fest. A predetermined set of rules or guidelines helps to set an expectation for all members of the group and sets the tone for the overall group culture.
We recommend you pin a post with your group rules or guidelines to the top of your group’s newsfeed, or add them to your group description so that they are clearly visible to all group members. Here are some examples of common rules and guidelines that most successful Facebook Groups have:
- No self-promotion (spamming)
- Be respectful
- Post only relevant content
- Be helpful to other members (answer questions)
- Before you post a question, check to see if it has already been answered
“Always post guidelines and make sure your members understand the purpose of the group. You have to be there. Without a leader, a Facebook Group doesn’t work.”
– Kate Erickson (Podcasters’ Paradise)
2. Create an application form to filter new member requests
Focus on quality over quantity. A Facebook Group with a large number of members and engagement is not always a good thing. Screening new member requests helps to ensure that the people who are accepted as group members
Here’s an example of a Facebook Group application form used by Adam Urbanski to filter new member requests. Based on someone’s responses to these questions, he is able to gauge whether or not someone is a good fit for the group before accepting their application.
“Measuring the success of your group purely on the number of members is a vanity metric. You want the right members. We decline nearly 50% of the requests to join our group. The kind of folks we want are those who a) we can really serve through our information and support through our services, and b) who have the need, the desire, and the means to do business with you.”
– Adam Urbanski (Fastest Path to Cash)
3. Designate a Community Manager or have multiple Group Admins
If you don’t have the time to maintain/moderate the group yourself, you should consider hiring a Community Manager to do it for you. Another option is to make a few other people (people you know personally and trust to do a good job) Admins of the group so that they can help moderate the group.
4. Delete posts that break the rules
If you see a member of the group post something that violates the group rules, delete that post immediately. Next, send a private message to the person who posted it with a brief explanation of why you deleted their post. Sometimes, people post something without knowing that they violated the group rules. If that’s the case, simply remind them to review the group rules before posting again.
“Facebook Groups are for cultivating fresh conversations around a core topic. If you focus on the quality and frequency of the conversations, you’ll do better than most other groups in your category that don’t.”
– Colin Theriot (The Cult of Copy)
5. Post friendly reminders to group members
Once in a while, you may need to post a friendly reminder to all group members to respect the group rules or guidelines. A public reminder is a strong display of leadership, and many of your group members will respect you for doing it. Enforcing your group rules might make you feel uncomfortable, but it is necessary in order to maintain the integrity of your group.
When Jill Stanton, for example, noticed an increase in the number of people in her Facebook Group that were violating the group rules, she put a stop to it. Her post to the group was polite but firm, and she won the respect of hundreds of members in her group in the process (her post received over 500 likes and more than 100 comments from people who supported her post):
6. Remove members that violate the rules
If certain members of the group are repeatedly breaking the rules (even after being warned not to), remove them. If a specific member is being disrespectful to other members of the group, remove them. If you receive multiple complaints from other group members about someone, remove them.
As the group moderator, it is your job to ensure your group is a positive and safe environment, where members can feel comfortable and supported. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the environment for the entire group.
7. Genuinely care about your group members
Last but not least, show your group members through your actions that you genuinely care about them. Be present. Be helpful. Answer questions. Start discussions. Lead by example, and don’t be afraid to remove members when necessary in order to protect and maintain a positive environment for all of your group members.
7 Strategies for Maintaining and Growing a Successful Facebook Group Click To Tweet
“I have a group of 75,000 members who post about 200,000 posts per month. The way I built it was around them and not me. They know I care about them and that makes them care about me.”
– Ryan Stewman (Sales Talk with Sales Pros)
Building a community for your customers is one of the best things you can do for your business
If you made it all the way to the end of this guide, congratulations! We know it was a pretty long post, but we wanted to give you as much practical information as possible to help you create, grow and maintain a successful Facebook Group.
Building a community for your audience and customers is one of the best things you can do for business and there’s no better time to start than now. A Facebook Group will help to attract new customers and keep your existing ones engaged and excited. You may even end up with some ideas for your next product, service, or business based on their feedback!
If you haven’t already, make sure you download our free workbook with step-by-step instructions to set up your Facebook Group. Set aside a few hours, and get your Facebook Group up and running!