I’ve been using groups to support my business training since 2012 and to be honest, I LOVE them.
- They allow me to virtually get to know my students.
- I can support them in a safe setting.
- They get peer support from other members.
- We brainstorm and chat, tackle problems and challenges, celebrate success, practice videos and give feedback on blogs and websites and make friends.
- We set up introduction threads, run competitions, support each other to hit milestones and help each other build our business.
That’s powerful – in fact you will often hear me talk about the Power of the Group.
It adds a new dimension to my teaching – you’re never alone in your learning. And THAT is more important than it might at first sound because many of my learners are women business owners working by themselves, at home around busy lives where their friends and family just don’t get what it’s like to be taking on the huge task of building a business.
What’s Good About Facebook Groups?
Facebook groups are incredibly versatile. You have different privacy settings from secret (not findable – membership is by invitation only and only members can see group details and content) to closed (appears in searches for groups and non- members can see the group title, description and admins/members but only members can see content) to open (searchable, content is open to everyone, members can either join and be given immediate access or can be set so an admin has to approve the request).
- You can choose whether to allow members to add people automatically or set it so you have to approve requests. You can choose whether member posts automatically appear or whether you have to moderate them.
- You can create group chats with the whole group (think carefully before making this a regular thing as it can be annoying to be pulled into group chats you neither requested nor wanted).
- You can create events within a group, that all members can see. The events area lets you add images and videos, times and dates and information and it keeps it all together in one place.
- Members can choose to receive notifications when someone posts or comments (that can get overwhelming quite quickly) but you can choose your notification level and control what you see.
- Members can create Facebook live videos within the group. They can also upload videos, images and documents that are all then neatly stored in the photos/ videos/ files sections for future reference.
- Members can search within the group for words, phrases or people.
- Admins can set out group rules in the ‘about’ section and members can report posts they feel are not within the rules, which are then flagged up to admins to delete or approve.
- Admins can ask questions of people requesting to join the group, to help them decide whether to let them in.
Businesses are using Facebook groups for a whole range of reasons, so could you be using them to build YOUR business? Here are a few suggestions to get your brain cells whirring.
1 Support a study programme
This is how I use Facebook groups in my business. Every programme or club I run has a Facebook group attached to it. It allows me to add value to my teaching and build a supportive community in which I can help my students and they can help each other.
2 Parent’s group
If you run children’s classes or have a business working with children or parents, a closed Facebook group can be a great way to share opinions, ideas and images away from the public timeline.
Often, parents worry about sharing images of their children on a Facebook page because it’s open and anyone can share from a page. In a closed group only group members can see the posts and images and if they try to share them outside the group, the post comes up with an ‘attachment unavailable’ message, you might have seen these before.
Yes, people can save images within a group to their device (or screenshot them) but if you limit group membership to parents and carers of the children you work with, there shouldn’t be any issues. Best make the group rules very clear, however, and tell people that they can only download images of their own children and must ask permission if another child is featured in the photo.
Finally, if you do work with children and parents it’s always sensible to ask them to sign an image permission/disclaimer form to allow you to use images of their children in your marketing. That way, you know who is happy for images to be shared AND who isn’t.
3 Interest Group
If your business sells wool, you could set up a local knitters Facebook group. If you run a toyshop then you might set up a local children’s event Facebook group for parents and team up with other businesses aimed at parents in the area, to pool your marketing. If you are a florist and you run local workshops, you could set up a local ‘florist workshop’ Facebook group.
You get the idea. Bringing together people with the same interests, who are a great fit for your business allows you to get to know potential customers, build a relationship and share your knowledge. That way, when they are ready to buy they are much more like to buy from you than someone else.
4 Special offers and sales
If you have regular stock clear-outs, or often launch new products it can be a good idea to set up a Facebook group where your group members get first dibs at the deals. It makes them feel special and they are much more likely to buy than your general Facebook fans, as they have chosen to be in that group for that reason.
5 Feedback group
Imagine a place where you can get useful, honest feedback on your products and services in a safe place away from the public gaze. Imagine a group where you can share ideas you’re thinking of developing and get a steer on the best options (in other words, what people would BUY). Depending on your type of business, a closed (or by invitation only) Facebook group could be just what you need.
I recommend this in Crafty Business School as a way to gauge opinion on product ideas before you go to the time and expense of developing them into full-blown product lines. Also, if you listen to your group members and create what they have asked for, guess who will be the first to buy?
6 Networking Group
If your business involves selling to other businesses, you could create a virtual networking Facebook group to bring them together. Not only do you have a lovely group of people to get to know, but they all get to know each other too – it’s a win-win.
My study groups are full of business owners and even though the primary purpose of the groups is to support their learning, I find that friends are made and business is done, because they are all entrepreneurs.
7 Support group
Imagine you work with new mums, maybe you’re a breastfeeding coach or offer baby massage. It might be a great idea to set up a local mum and baby Facebook group – NOT for the purpose of selling to members, but rather to get to know them and see how you can help. It could become a safe, friendly place so the group members don’t feel alone and can ask questions they might not be able to ask outside the group. I have a policy in my groups, which is ‘there’s no such thing as a silly question’ and it’s true! If you don’t understand something, there is a good chance you’re not alone. This alone means your support group becomes a valuable resource for the right people.
8 Event group
If you run or regularly sell or teach at events, workshops or fairs, Facebook groups can be a good way to bring together people who want to know where you are (in a non-stalky way) or who have attended your events and want to keep in touch. It means you have a group containing raving fans, who are much more likely than the average person on the street to seek you out in future.
9 List building group
So, this won’t work for every business and you have to be careful not to spend so much time in there that your core business is neglected, but offering membership of a Facebook group to fans and followers can help you build your subscriber list. In essence, you are bringing together people who already like what you do and because they are members of your group (depending on their notification settings) there is a high chance they will see your group posts ahead of stuff from pages.
This, therefore is a great place to ask them to sign up to your newsletter because they are already warm contacts, and if you let them know you will share offers, deals and valuable information regularly, they will probably sign up. It’s important to build your email list because with social media you can never guarantee your posts will be seen (yes, even in groups) so it’s a good idea to build an email list, so you can get your helpful messages in front of your fans on YOUR terms and not just when Facebook decided to show it to them.
It’s also good if you can offer an incentive to get them to sign up – a little freebie tips list, or one-off discount code, or some other nugget of awesome that they can only access in return for their email address. Just remember, the right people (your Super Customers) will love it. Don’t worry about everyone else.
10 Market night
If you sell lovely products, Facebook groups can be a great place to host market nights. There is definitely a trick to getting these to work and much of it is about building a buzz before hand. Showing photos of what will be for sale on your Facebook page and telling your fans they can only buy them on Market Night and it will all be happening in the Facebook group, is a good way to get them chomping at the bit and ready to buy. Don’t assume that because you’ve mentioned it once that’s enough. Oh no – you need to market it like crazy, because people are busy and will forget.
Make sure you post for at least 10 days prior to the event, showing bits and bobs that will be for sale, then ramp up the volume closer to the day. In other words, post LOADS of gorgeous things they will be able to buy, tell them which are one-offs, tell them which are bargains, treat it like an exciting bumper-sale!
Usually Market Night holders issue a password in the group at the start of the event and the first person to comment with that password on a particular item has bought it. This avoids confusion. You just need to make it really clear in the group rules and on explanatory posts that this is how it works.
Finally, make sure you get paid! People need to ideally pay on the night (it’s good if you can have someone generating paypal invoices and doing the admin as you go) otherwise you waste valuable time chasing non-payers and then might have to list the item again, which is a shame
Is it for you?
Running a Facebook group definitely isn’t for everyone. It can be time consuming, you can get plagued by spammers and every so often you get personality clashes and full-on battle taking place in groups!
My best advice for you is first of all, don’t set up a group for the sake of it. Make sure you know what you want from the group and how it will help your business.
Secondly, put some rules in place, so everyone knows where they stand. Are ‘sales’ posts allowed? Do you need everyone to introduce themselves when they join the group? You don’t need to go overboard – just keep it firm, but fair and let the group find its feet.
Finally, it’s often helpful when you have a new group to ask a series of questions, maybe pop some videos of you in there, things that will bring people out of their shell and make them feel comfortable and confident to ask questions.
I’d love to know how you have got on so far with Facebook groups in building your business, and what plans you have to try them. Pop a link in the comments and let me know 🙂
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Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.