While many businesses have Facebook pages, some also choose to start Facebook groups. If you have a page or a group, it's important to keep followers engaged. How do you keep Facebook groups active? Recently a friend who is a small business owner asked me,
“What should I do when my Facebook group loses steam?”
She's not alone. A lot of people want to know how to keep Facebook groups active and engaged.
Facebook pages and Facebook groups differ in a few ways. For example, the page owner is primarily in control of posting content and followers engage or comment on posts, while in a group all members have the ability to post content and engage with each other. Also, pages are public, while groups can be public or private.
Some use groups for direct sales, others start mastermind or VIP groups, and others want their customers to connect around a specific product and share tips with each other. The key is to keep people active. So, how do you do that? How do you keep the group from losing steam, or what do you do if the group has already gone quiet?
Restart the cycle
Sometimes it feels like a chicken and egg problem: a person won’t post if they think no one in the group will comment, and no one will comment if there are no posts. Keep in mind, however, that while you are the group owner, you are also a member. You can post regularly to start the conversation again. One thing to keep in mind is that depending on the way you engage in your group, members might not get the message that it’s ok for them to post, or they might not be incentivized to engage.
People have a “netiquette” meter. If they know it’s your group, their netiquette meter tells them to let you take charge and do the talking; they may not be posting to let you do your thing.
Others may not be posting because they don’t have anything to say. Social media managers do a lot of thinking about content for their specific niche; the members of their groups are neither thinking about that niche all the time, nor are they going to be creating content about that niche all the time.
What can you do when your group loses steam? Two ways to jump start an inactive group are to build trust through inclusivity and give them a reason to engage with incentives.
Inclusivity means trust
Start with inclusivity before trying to incentivize engagement. Each member of your group needs to know that they are accepted and even celebrated when they engage with the group.
Case study: building inclusivity
I once managed a group for social media managers whose skill levels ranged from very basic to advanced. Those who were basic didn’t want to say anything in the group for fear of seeming stupid. Some of the advanced members did not want to engage because they felt they weren’t learning anything. While incentives come to mind, the real issue here is trust—the less knowledgeable members needed to trust that the group would accept and help them, and the more knowledgeable members needed to trust that the group would be valuable even to the most knowledgeable member. To build trust, I asked the basic members to anonymously submit questions they had about their work. This helped them open up and engage privately. Then I posted the anonymous questions and allowed everyone to comment and discuss, asking the advanced members to teach what they knew. This allowed the basic members to feel safe and, seeing that no one was mocking the basic questions, were willing to share their other questions with the group. This also gave the advanced members a feeling of purpose as they helped their colleagues and showed what they knew.
The way we understand the word “incentive” today was influenced by Latin, incendere, which means to set fire. It is essentially a way to encourage someone to take an action.
Ask better questions
One way to incentivize engagement is to ask questions. Many group owners know this and ask all sorts of engaging questions. While this does incentivize people to keep talking, it dilutes your purpose and brand. Your group becomes a general social group that may increase your engagement while decreasing your sales. People forget the value of the products that are the point of bringing this group together. The solution: ask better questions.
I have seen Facebook group owners ask questions like, "What is your favorite character from the TV show Friends?” This will get the group members to comment: it’s an easy question and there’s no wrong answer. But it doesn’t build a strong brand for you. If you are involved in direct sales for a clothing brand, for example, you might want to ask questions that will either give you the data you need to serve your customers better or ask questions that will provide value to your customers.
For example, here is a question you might pose if you sell clothing: "What is your favorite 'wild' color to wear with basics?"—The responses might look something like, “I love to wear highlighter yellow with dark gray!” or “I love to wear anything silver with jeans!” Not only do responses like this give you information on what kind of inventory to order, they also help you educate your customer by creating looks for them that they might actually buy. Once all the responses are in, create a Facebook album of the products you have that exhibit those elements in outfit photos and in the description name the look after the person who commented, e.g., “Monica’s Style” or “The Ricardo Look.” Have fun with it. Once you have created the album, copy the URL of the album and comment on the original thread where you asked the question.
Gamification and social rewarding
How can you jump start an inactive group? Try gamification and social rewarding. To “gamify” something is to turn it into a game. Some people love the rush of competition or the sweet feeling of victory, and if you can give people those feelings, they will look forward to more. For example, you could have people guess how many of your product fits into a large jar, which results in a lot of comments with their numbers. If you can orchestrate a game that has them engaging with each other instead of just directly with your post, even better. For example, have them guess facts about each other. If you sell jewelry, ask everyone who wants to play the game to privately message you with the style they love most. Then draw a name from the hat, let’s say it was Harriet, and have everyone guess what Harriet’s favorite style is. This directs more attention to your product and to the customers and less to you. You're cool and all, but why not change it up?
Social rewarding is a similar concept where engaging brings a social reward. For example, if you were to ask people to post to your album their favorite outfit that they have bought from your products, they are taking the time to show their fashion savvy, incentivized by the recognition they’ll receive by receiving likes from friends.
Serving your customers
Sometimes the right resources are better than giveaways. Instead of giving away prizes or surprises with purchases or during contests, use Facebook group features to provide what your customer is looking for. If you sell clothing, the customer might appreciate good wardrobe advice more than a free lotion in their bag. They're in your group because they have purchased or want to purchase a clothing item from you, and if someone wants to purchase a clothing item, they likely think their wardrobe isn't complete yet. Think about why the customer feels this way. If you sell products, don't forget why the customer is interesting in your products. Facebook groups have a feature called "files." Have you looked up the fashion colors for next season? Upload a file to your group that explains the colors they should be looking for.
If you need help understanding your customers and their communities, take a look at Part 2 in the Social Media Marketing Basics Series.
Take a data-driven approach
If you are just starting out, whether you have just started your group or want to reignite your current one, my advice is to experiment so that you can see what works. Every group is made up of different people. Something that works for your friend's business might not work for you. When you experiment, take a quantitative approach and record the data! Experimentation plus a data-driven approach makes for a great initial strategy.
Help members build ties with each other
Instead of just counting how many people respond to one question versus another, which is just a count of the people who responded to you and your post, count how many people engage with each other's comments on your post. This meta-engagement is important because it means that they are forming connections within the group. If members only connect with you, then they have one connection to your group. If you connect them with each other, they are less likely to leave that group. Your Facebook group should be a community. A community is not a leader with a bunch of followers. It should be a circle of people who are connected to each other. If you want to keep your group engaged as a community, try a few of these tips.
- A warm welcome. When new members join, introduce them and a fun fact about them! Ask the community to welcome them to the group by commenting on the post. Make sure to tag the new member in your original post. If you gain hundreds of followers per week, this might not be the best approach.
- Group spotlight. Featuring a group of customers with one commonality. If you sell cleaning products and ten customers bought two or more of the lavender scent over the past 3 months, then feature the Lavender-Loving Crew! Try to get the customers' permission first; not all people like to publicly display that they purchase specific products. Ask them why they love lavender so much and see what they say! They'll bond over their similarities and even over their differences.
Losing steam? Kindle that fire!
Managing Facebook groups can be challenging because people are complex beings with their own motivations. Build a foundation of trust and incentivize others without diluting your brand. There are many more examples for doing this: share your ideas and case studies in the comments!