If you’ve been around for a while, you KNOW how important Facebook groups are to me! I wrote a post for Jane Friedman about using Facebook pages vs Facebook groups and have been steadily growing my Create If Writing Facebook group since I started the podcast in 2015. But things are always changing on the internet and some HUGE Facebook groups updates are taking place in 2017 that we need to discuss. Like my reach dropping in my own group as it did on my Facebook page. GASP!
We’ll talk about the Facebook group updates, some educated guesses for what we can expect, best practices for using Facebook groups, and why some HUGE Facebook groups just closed their doors.
WHAT’S CHANGING IN FACEBOOK GROUPS
Facebook recently announced that is has a new focus: GROUPS. This will mean group insights, linking pages to groups, having suggested groups at the top of each group, asking questions of potential members as a vetting process, and being able to schedule posts. (See the tools listed HERE.)
While these SOUND like great things for group admins, this new focus may NOT be a great thing for group owners overall.
Unless you like the changes that happened to Facebook Pages after 2014.
What the History of Facebook Pages Can Teach Us about Facebook Groups
If you have had your Facebook page before 2014, you know why that date matters. In 2014 Facebook began rolling out changes that greatly impacted the organic (aka: unpaid) reach of Facebook pages.
Pages suddenly went from having a decent number of their followers see their posts to almost NO followers see their posts. I found this post on the Social Media Examiner from back in 2014 talking about reach— this was just the beginning of this issue for page owners. No one HAD to talk about reach before this, because it wasn’t a problem.
Before 2014, if people liked your page —> people saw your post. That was it.
The change happened after Facebook started rolling out new tools and insights for page managers. Organic reach dropped as Facebook began to adopt more of a pay-to-play model. (As in, if you want to really boost your page reach, you need to start paying to boost posts.)
If we can learn anything from Facebook’s history, it’s that when Facebook focuses on an area and rolls out new tools, it means that changes are coming. Specifically to organic reach. (Check out this fascinating 2014 Slideshare of Facebook’s history, particularly slides 68-70.)
The Facebook Ads Explosion
Facebook may be about user experience, but Facebook is also about FACEBOOK. Particularly how Facebook can make money. Over a year ago, Facebook said that it was running out of space to show ads.
With more people than ever using ads, this means that Facebook needs more spaces to show ads.
For a long time I’ve also heard murmurings of Facebook moving to ads inside of groups as well. I think the new focus on groups means that we are not far off from this.
Facebook Groups Updates and Ads
Because Facebook is still rolling things out, it’s hard to know for sure what the paid piece will look like. But here are a few educated guesses based on what I’ve heard from other group owners as well as what I’ve seen.
- Boosting Facebook posts
As Facebook rolls out features, sometimes they are there one minute, gone the next. When I have linked my page to my group (see this tutorial to do so), I have sometimes seen the option to boost my post IN THE GROUP. This has mostly been on mobile and isn’t always available.
I’m not a huge fan of boosting posts in general, so I haven’t clicked to see how this will play out. But the fact that I’ve seen the option indicates that this will become akin to boosting a post on a page.
- Targeting within Groups
One of the larger entrepreneurial groups I’m in had a discussion a few months ago about targeting ads to groups. Right now as you create Facebook ads, you can target custom or lookalike audiences, people who like certain pages, or other demographics. I would guess that soon this would add Facebook GROUPS.
The debate inside the group was about whether your ads would show up IN the group or if you would just be seen in the newsfeed of people from a particular group. Some claimed to have seen ads inside of larger Facebook groups. If the Facebook newsfeed is running out of room, it makes sense for ads to show up inside of groups. Jenn from Jenn’s Trends agrees!
SO WHY ARE BIG FACEBOOK GROUPS CLOSING?
Several HUGE Facebook groups have shut down in the past month, just as Facebook announced these new changes. Coincidence? I actually do think so. But it’s definitely worth mentioning!
Melyssa Griffin archived her Facebook group, Online Biz BFFs, which hit over 70k members before cleaning out 1-2k people and archiving the group. This means that posts are still visible, but you can’t comment or post. She cited a difference in vision from the time she started the group.
Screw the 9 to 5 closed their 40k member Facebook group in summer 2017. This after actively building the group as their main focus and building a huge part of their brand ON the idea of building a Facebook group. Founders Josh & Jill opened a new group that has about 5k members currently. To join the new group, potential members must answer questions about what they’ll bring to the group and making clear that spammy posts aren’t allowed.
Kimra Luna closed her over 40k member Facebook group, Freedom Hackers, citing the Facebook algorithm as a cause. In her post she claims that no one can see HER posts and that when she creates a new event, her group members don’t get notified. (Read her full public post HERE.)
I think there are some takeaways from these successful groups that I’ll weave into my tips for Facebook groups below. But in short, I don’t think that these groups shut down because of impending Facebook-group-acalpyse.
HOW TO CREATE AND RUN A VALUABLE FACEBOOK GROUP
I have a few big practical tips for you as well as some takeaways from the large groups that closed down. You can also opt into my email to view a training I did early in 2017 on creating engaged Facebook groups. (This was before many of the Facebook group updates, but the content is still very relevant!)
- Be present
While Facebook is rolling out a scheduling feature, scheduling may not be the best option. Groups are about engagement and connection. Nothing creates a disconnect quite like a scheduled & automated post asking for “conversation.” If the group owner can’t take the time to be present to START a conversation, it’s not really a conversation.
Facebook also has become more strict about outside schedulers and at least one group owner I know was banned by Facebook from using a scheduler in her group. I see plenty of group owners still scheduling with third parties (so FB seems to be dropping the hammer on this arbitrarily), but it alerts the group members to the fact that you aren’t THERE.
From the group member side, one of the issues with some of those larger groups was the lack of engagement from the group owners. Many people join to connect with the face behind the brand, but as the groups grew, the owners appeared less and less. That relates to the next tip…
- Don’t just strive for numbers
The more people in a group, the more to manage. I remember feeling nervous and excited when my group went over 1000 members. It’s a great milestone…but at the same time, that means a lot of people I don’t KNOW.
The sense of community can change or get lost altogether. My group still has a great connection. People know each other. They talk. They support each other. It’s pretty awesome. (You can join here!)
The larger groups get, the more management they take, which increases the likelihood that things get out of control. Out of control? you say. Yep. Which brings us to point number three…
- Moderate your group
Group owners don’t just need to be present. They need to set the TONE. Part of that means moderation. This part isn’t always fun.
Many Facebook groups just exist for promotion. And many people have taught that you should get into Facebook groups to find your ideal customers. What this means is that in basically ANY Facebook group, you’ll have a decent percentage of people who join and then immediately and frequently post links to their latest blog post/book/thing.
Each week I delete posts and remove members. Each week I have a few posts on the fence where I have to decide if I want to kick someone out or take the time to message them, sharing why I deleted their post.
(Want to NOT be gross and smarmy in Facebook groups? Read my post here.)
I can’t imagine how many spammy, self-promote-y posts got deleted in those large groups that have now closed down. Several of them had team members and paid positions to manage the groups. In each of those three large groups, members could see a ton of spammy posts that still made it through (even temporarily), or thinly-veiled posts just trying to build a business on top of the hard work the group owner did to build the group.
It’s a LOT of work to moderate, especially as the group grows. Without that work, though, the value of the group goes down. You can ask questions now as people join the group, which is a great way to vet people at least a tiny bit.
- Post as your SELF, not your PAGE
With the linking of Facebook groups, I ran a little experiment. When I posted as my PAGE (something that you can do when you link your group and page), my reach tanked. When I posted from my personal PROFILE, my reach was fine. If you are going to link your page and profile, this is probably the first way that Facebook is going tin adjust the organic reach.
You can see here that the top 5 posts for the month included NO posts from my page, Kirsten Oliphant, but only my personal profile, Kirsten Kiki Oliphant, and a group member. (Way to go, Roland!!) That’s pretty significant, especially considering I post daily at least once or twice. I spent almost a month posting as my page.
Once connected, you can toggle between posting as yourself and your page with a little dropdown arrow in the top right of the posting box. Now that groups have insights, you can do your own tests to see how your reach is affected!
So, should you start a Facebook group if you haven’t already?
I do think that reach will go down as a pay-to-play system moves into place as it did for pages. This is the reality of building on someone else’s free platform. (So build that email list! I’ve written a great book for getting started if you need help.) We don’t know exactly what this looks like or will look like. But for NOW, Facebook groups can really be great if you want to build a community.
My email list is my main jam, but it’s kind of like a wheel: I’m at the center, having one-to-one interactions that move out from me at the center.
Facebook groups are a little more like those messy spiderwebs. I’ve done the work to build it, but rather than having all the separate spokes, the web of people weaves together and connects. It allows for COMMUNITY. Which is pretty special.
If you want to start a Facebook group, sign up to watch a thorough training I did earlier this year about pages & groups! It will help you get off the ground and create a thriving community on Facebook.
Need more resources on building up your FB group? Here are a few helpful posts!
- The Power of Facebook Groups with Katie Krimitsos of Biz Women Rock
- How Not to Be Smarmy in Facebook Groups (please PLEASE read this one)
Questions? Thoughts? Comment below! I’d love to know your experience with Facebook groups!