Facebook Groups allow people to come together around a business, products, cause or activity to exchange ideas, discuss issues, post photos or share related content.
A decade ago, Facebook was a site for college students to socialize, but the platform has undergone a significant transformation over the past few years. Today, it finds itself the home of brands and businesses, side-by-side with its 2.2 billion users. Whether local, national, or international, businesses of all sizes are finding it a key tool for promoting products, establishing brand recognition and loyalty, and engaging with their customers.
Changes to the Facebook Platform
For some time, Facebook Pages have been a core tool in digital strategy on the platform. Pages function similarly to a user account, representing a brand, business, or association rather than an individual. With a Facebook Page, a business can keep their customers informed of recent developments and upcoming deals, maintain updated hours, contact, and location information, and even chat one-on-one with consumers via the Facebook Messenger feature. All of these uses of Facebook pages remain essential. However, back in January, Facebook changed the algorithms that select how content is shown in newsfeeds.
In an effort to show users more content from their friends and family, Facebook lessened the audience penetration of posts made by Pages and, by extension, brands and businesses. Now digital marketing strategists are shifting their attention to a different aspect of Facebook’s social web, the Facebook Group. If you have seen a drop off in user engagement over the past several months, or if you are first starting your foray into marketing on Facebook, it might be time to start using this cutting-edge tool.
Why Create a Facebook Group?
Facebook Groups, are an extension of your brand. Groups act as discussion forums that users can join to discuss some particular topic. Users can create threads with questions or comments to which other users can then reply. Traditionally Facebook Groups were the feature of choice for informal fan clubs, book clubs, and other digital sewing circles. Today, however, they represent a powerful opportunity for brands to increase customer engagement and organic reach on the Facebook platform.
Though it is common for businesses to engage with these customers themselves, Groups have proven vital for the cultivation of die-hard brand advocates. By moving from the one-directional “broadcast” model of a Facebook Page to the many-to-many communal engagement of the Facebook Group, businesses are creating spaces in which customers can discuss and review products, ask important questions, and give other customers suggestions or advice about products or services. This kind of organic engagement is something that marketers have long dreamed about, and with Facebook Groups it is possible.
Linking Pages to Groups
The primary feature driving the explosion of the brand or business-centric Facebook Groups is the ability to link a Page to a Group. This feature allows business representatives to participate in a Group not only with their individual profiles but also as the linked Page itself. In essence, this means that a business can post and reply as an institution, rather than as an employee, heightening a sense of brand identification in engaged consumers. Being able to dialog directly with a brand encourages users to continue engaging with it long after a purchase has been made.
In order to link a Facebook Page to a Group, you will first need to assign the Page role of Editor or Admin to each employee you would like to be able to speak as your business’ Page. On your Facebook Page, select Settings, then Page Roles, and type their name in the box next to Assign a New Page Role. You can choose between the Editor and Admin roles via the drop-down menu beside it. Next, navigate to your Facebook Group and link your Page to it: select Group Settings, scroll down to Linked Pages, and click the Link Your Page button.
Growing and Engaging Your Audience
With your Facebook Page linked to your Facebook Group, it is time to start building its membership and engagement. Using your Facebook Page (albeit with its algorithmically lessened reach) to promote your Group is essential. Be sure to link to it at the end of every post along with a well-crafted call to action. You can also purchase advertisements on Facebook to recommend it to your target audience. If you are engaged in multi-channel marketing, your newsletters, email campaigns, and other social media channels are also excellent resources for Group promotion. If you want to invite specific people to become members send an invitation with a link to join your group.
Though it is important to build your Group’s membership, growing user engagement is just as important: discussion begets discussion, and no one likes to speak in an empty room. One easy way to spark discussion among your Group members is to share posts directly from your Page using the Share button (Select “Share…” and then select “Share in a Group” from the drop-down menu). This will bypass Facebook’s devaluation of posts made by Pages, showing these posts to all the members of your Group and giving them the chance to reply to the comments.
The best advice for growing user engagement, however, is to engage openly, honestly, and frequently with your customers. Respond to their posts, lavish them with attention, and they will turn into the greatest allies in your marketing campaigns.