Despite the growth of other social platforms, Facebook still remains the most popular channel with 1.65 billion monthly active users. Of those users, 850 million use the group functionality, which has been boosted by the introduction in 2014 of a separate group app. I feel groups could offer a good way for membership organisations to connect with their members and are often an underused resource.
What is a Facebook group?
Essentially a Facebook group is a community that shares an interest and unlike an organisational page it can be far more focused on the user’s interests, rather than simple promotion of an organisation’s products and services. Users have to proactively join groups.
There are different types of groups:
- Public groups are open to anyone to join and their posts and members are visible to all Facebook users.
- Closed groups are by invite/approval only and useful for membership communities as a place to interact and discuss topics specific to their own progress in a private community. The group topic is publicly visible to encourage new members but posts are hidden. Administrators have the permission settings to approve or reject requests to join.
- Secret groups are totally hidden and members are directly invited by the owner and administrator of the group.
Why Facebook groups and not LinkedIn groups?
For a professional audience, you might think that LinkedIn groups would more suitable. However, while there were 2.1 million LinkedIn groups (when figures were last reported) the level of engagement has lessened since the platform made various changes in 2015. I have seen it myself in the groups I am part of. Plus, there are simply many more users on Facebook.
Why set up a Facebook group?
A group can be a good way to connect directly with your members and potential members around their profession.
However, I always advise caution before starting another social channel, as they have to be managed, so you need to be clear why you are setting it up and how it will be managed.
It is also worth checking what groups already exist around your topic. If there is an existing group – see this Dentist group – you might be able to join and comment when appropriate which would take up less time, but still provide insight into what your community is talking about.
However, should you want to set up a Facebook group, here are the reasons why I think they could benefit your organisation:
- You are creating a space for your members where they already are, as opposed to asking them to login elsewhere.
- It is an easy way to share content and information with a group of users that have opted in to your communications.
- It provides an easy way for members to engage with you.
- Assuming you can develop an engaged community, it can be a rich source of feedback and research on different topics.
Setting up a Facebook group
It is worth pointing out that only individual users can set up Facebook groups, not organisations, so you will need staff/volunteers that are willing to do this using their personal accounts. Make sure there are clear social media guidelines in place for them. You will also need to consider how the group will be managed out of office hours when users might be posting.
Setting up the group is fairly straight forward, from your profile – on the desktop version – under ‘More’ you select Group and then Create a Group.
Setting it up is the easy bit, the on-going management is where the resource needs to go. My tips would be:
- Have clear ‘rules’, so that the space remains an enjoyable place to be, this could include not allowing commercial posts, or rudeness between posters
- Have a few staff/volunteer moderators
- Post content consistently
- Ask questions of your group and respond to any questions you are asked
- Welcome new members
- Promote the group outside of Facebook
I don’t think every membership organisation needs a Facebook group, but they do bring together likeminded individuals, so I don’t think they should just be ignored.
Does your organisation have a Facebook group? Would you recommend it? Let us know!