Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.
Now that we've had several years in the social media universe, I've noticed several trends, especially for business, come and go. Twitter chats? They're so 2010. Google Hangouts? Well, 2014 has come and gone.
Today, I see a lot of small business folk flocking like lemmings to create Facebook Groups in pursuit of the holy grail of engagement with customers and prospects. In theory, it's not a bad idea. But, like everything, in practice, it might not be.
Why the Interest in Facebook Groups for Business?
Currently, I see the lemming rush to Groups particularly in the consulting and coaching space. The theory is to create conversation with current and prospective customers and networking referral partners. The Group's admin, who is usually a consultant or coach, assumes a leadership position that can help conversation turn into sales conversion. That, in itself, makes Facebook Groups worth considering as an engagement channel.
Other coaches and consultants who offer group coaching often use Groups to create "exclusive" forums for their customers. That can be efficient and cost-effective since it leverages Facebook's complex and robust backend technology. As well, many are already on Facebook daily anyway. So it doesn't require customer members to visit yet another site to participate.
As Group members post, a notification is sent to other Group members. However, whether the members actually get the notifications depends on each member's Facebook privacy settings. But Group admin leaders are hoping that members will want to receive these notices via their Notifications and news feeds and/or email. No special emails to create, no email marketing management. Cheap and efficient marketing at its finest on a platform that members are already using. Brilliant!
The Reality About Facebook Groups for Business
After launching and closing a couple of groups, and being a member of many others, here's what I've found.
Though I have a pretty extensive network online and off, I've found that the same people I connect with elsewhere on social media are also in the same Groups I am. Do I really need to connect with them in multiple Groups? So I may tune out the group chatter. If I'm doing it, I'm sure others are, too.
If all Group members can freely post, there could be dozens of conversations going on at the same time. Then Group notifications can contain updates for every . . . single . . . comment. Ugh! Every time a Group member comments with a useless "I agree" type comment, a notification appears. Imagine if you have a few hundred people in the Group (I've even seen groups with 10,000+ members). Trust me, I've seen this happen and it's the reason why I join very few Groups these days and do an occasional Group audit to ditch those not worth my time.
It is time-consuming to monitor and manage Groups! Facebook must realize this because they allow the main admin to appoint additional admins to manage.
"Don't Bother Me!"
With the information overload that social media is, many users opt-out of various notifications. So all those posts and conversation in Groups could go ignored.
Controlling Membership and Behavior
As of this writing, Group admins can set up the group to public (anyone can join, invite, be added, or add members), closed (anyone can ask to join or be invited/added by a member), or secret (anyone can join, but have to be invited/added by a member). If admins don't require approval to join and don't set up limitations on posting and commenting activity, the Group can easily get out of control.
Keeping Facebook Groups for Business Manageable
If you think running a Facebook Group is right for your business goals, here are ways that can help make it a more valuable and efficient experience for everyone:
Invite, But Don't Expect Automatic Acceptance
Because of the plethora of Groups and people's information overload in general, don't be surprised or offended if even your closest Facebook Friends don't join your Group.
Understand and Monitor Group Privacy Settings and Issues
Facebook is noted for making frequent changes to its privacy policies and procedures. Keep updated on these policies and alert members as things change so they can adjust their posting or commenting behavior.
Keep Communication Uncluttered
If Group member posting is getting out of hand, you may choose to limit member participation to only commenting on posts the admin(s) create. You may even turn off that commenting on particular posts after a certain period. This does help keep things more manageable for everyone. But remember to clearly communicate your rules of engagement to members.
Don't Tire Out Your Members . . . Or Yourself
I have been in several Groups where the admins post every darn day and expect people to chime in every darn day. In one Group I ran, I limited my admin posting (I didn't let members freely post) to twice a week and even that seemed to be too much for the Group, resulting in some posts getting zero activity.
I think that some Group admins feel that if they just post something daily, that will automatically foster engagement. Sorry, more is not essentially better when it comes to Facebook Group activity. Always measure your social media networking ROI.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 01, 2017:
Thanks, Larry, for taking the time to stop by and read! Hope you're having some fun during the last week's of summer. Cheers!
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on August 01, 2017:
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 31, 2017:
Hi purl3agony! I certainly hope that as a result of reading, people will think twice about the Facebook Group strategy. It is time consuming for sure! Thanks so much for starting your week here! Make it a great one!
Donna Herron from USA on July 31, 2017:
Hi Heidi - Thanks for another interesting and informative hub. I didn't realize that businesses were creating Facebook groups to foster client engagement, but I can see the appeal - and the downside. It seems like it would take a lot of time, thought, and energy to manage. I hope most businesses and managers think about the pros and cons you mention before launching their Facebook group.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 31, 2017:
Flourish, I think we all have better things to do! :) So anything that glues me to Facebook and doesn't help me build my business is gone, gone, gone. In theory, the Groups idea is sound; in practice, not so much. Thanks for sharing your experience! Have a beautiful week ahead!
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 30, 2017:
I'm so glad you both expressed a thumbs down to the groups thing. No to groups for me, too, for all the reasons you listed. I barely use Facebook anymore because I just don't trust the security and don't like the terms changes that aren't communicated properly. But you won't catch me hanging out on Google or in groupchats or any of that stuff. I have other things to do.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 30, 2017:
Billybuc, as you can see in the article, I've ditched the Group thing, too. After two attempts to get my own going, I measured the ROI of my activity and it just wasn't worth it. I'm not ruling it out for the future if the circumstances warrant it. But otherwise, I, too, love the solo life. Thanks for being part of my less formal "group" and for your always kind support! Have a great rest of the weekend!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 30, 2017:
I stopped the group thing about two years ago. I'm afraid I'm not a group kind of guy and never will be. I have a clear picture of what I'm doing and how I'll achieve it, and I like going solo so I only have one person to answer to on decisions. The lemming life is not for me, my friend.
Happy Sunday to you!