Using Facebook Groups for business

Dear Doctor Digital, I’ve noticed recently more businesses seem to be setting up Facebook Groups – would I use this instead of a business page to promote my products?

Doctor Digital Says

Facebook groups are gaining a following by business owners for use in growing communities. It’s kind of a new twist on an old flavour as Facebook groups have always had their place for bringing together people with similar interests, whether that was around a cause, a hobby or a geographical community. The use of a group page vs a business page is very different however. The key use of your business page is to provide a real time context around your product or service, to update customers and clients, and allow a natural two-way conversation to occur. Your business page is still pretty linear and driven by posts, and it is fundamentally a marketing activity for your brand. Undoubtedly you can have your raving fans and evangelists on that forum, but to really activate a community, a group page is the new black.

Groups are different to Pages in that they are usually coalesced around shared interest rather than a brand, even through a brand with a vested interest may well start one. The difference is that the community members are all empowered to participate, share views, comments, interests etc. It’s kind of like the old days of online forums, but neatly packaged up to be where your customers are hanging out anyway. Even if you aren’t the instigator of the group, as an active and meaningfully contributing member (not just shamelessly selling your wares) you can build your brand value by giving value and your expert knowledge, which will usually translate to business for your business.

When it comes to business, Facebook Groups can be a powerful tool. With the change of emphasis in the algorithm to preference authentic active interaction such as comments and shares, this can also be a turbo booster to your business ranking. Some of the benefits to your business from having a Facebook group are:

1.    Build expertise – many Facebook groups are built around a particular expertise – like start-ups, entrepreneurs, marketers, franchisees etc. By starting a group to bring together experts in your area, you can create a wealth of knowledge for others to share in. If you ran a business connected to pets like dog minding, you can start a page to discuss pets, share stories and alert owners to snake season etc, this brings together like-minded folks who can share in your and their expertise in a soft sell environment.

2.   Extend the reach of seminars and conferences – A Facebook group is the perfect place to continue or start conversations around a learning experience such as a seminar or conference. By gathering participants together and giving them the space to share and extrapolate on their learnings, you are continuing the dialogue and enmeshing the community around that experience. This is now a pre-qualified place to offer further services or extensions to services such as e-books, webinars, and coaching.

3.    Promote chats -  if you run Twitter chats or other meetups, this is a great place for a focussed conversation in a closed group situation. Experts and guests can be brought in, and the conversation targeted and curated on particular topics that support your business and customer needs as well as setting up collaborations which can lead to further customer cross-pollination.

4.    Mastermind groups – another popular way to give clients added value. You can test ideas with peers, support each other with mentoring and coaching, share your learnings and generally build each others knowledge bank. These can be an incredibly valuable and productive way for you to build community with peers at the same time as you are building an invaluable network of trusted advisors.

5.   Collect offline feedback - want to test out new ideas on some of your existing customers? One way to do that is to start a Facebook group to use as a think-tank for your business. Create a closed Facebook group, invite some of your best customers and openly discuss new ideas you’re thinking about implementing in your business. Then gather feedback from them. This type of group provides a way to build stronger relationships with customers, while helping business owners collect honest feedback on what their customers might like, outside of an open and uncontrolled environment. Incentivize their participation and give them a VIP status to enhance the experience.

6. Delivering products and services: You can use a Facebook group to deliver courses, training, real time live group training or coaching, in a closed or open but interactive environment. This is a really convenient feature if you are selling knowledge based services, or you want to educate customers on how to get the best out of your products so they become evangelists or superfans. You can upload documents and e-books so your group members have instant access to exclusive information or offers.

7. Promoting anything: Facebook groups are really effective as a pop up or temporary site to cluster people together. This can happen for events, but also for things like product or book launches, causes close to your business, and other associated businesses. You may have a precinct based group that supports businesses within a micro niche geographically or with specific product interests.

Facebook groups supplement your business and your fan page. So even if you create a Facebook group, you’ll still want a Facebook page for your business. Anything you share on your business page shows up in the news feed for fans to see. When fans engage with your content, it increases your visibility to others in their network. Once you have a Facebook group and a page, make sure they work in tandem. Actively promote your group to your fans, if it’s something they’re able to join. This way, you can leverage your group and your page at the same time.

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