Humans are social creatures.
In the Stone Ages, we formed groups to hunt and survive in the wilderness. In the Middle Ages, our communities grew into powerful civilizations and religions. In the Industrial Age we built companies and factories on the backs of groups.
We work in groups, we play in groups, we thrive in groups, we survive in groups.
In today’s digital world, we’re starting to see our groups and communities shift online. Social networks stormed into our lives and now everyone is checking the latest post or tweet every ten minutes. You don’t need to be a prophet and start a new religion to gather your followers. Today, anyone can do it online in a few steps.
And one of the best ways to create a community and attract raving fans for your business is with Facebook Groups.
Just to be clear, we are not talking about Facebook Pages. Facebook Pages are essentially public profiles for your business where you broadcast posts to your audience (most of whom won’t see your posts anyway). A Facebook Group, on the other hand, is a place where your customers congregate and interact with each other. The goal with a Facebook Group is not to broadcast your content. The goal is to build a community for your customers.#FacebookGroups help you build a thriving community for your customers Click To Tweet
Throughout this article we are going to show you several examples of entrepreneurs and online course creators who have successfully built communities for their customers using Facebook Groups. We reached out to everyone you see in the post to get their thoughts on creating, growing and maintaining Facebook Groups.
We’ll start off by outlining some of the benefits of creating a Facebook Group, and then we’ll walk you through the steps involved in creating your group. After that, we’re going to give you a series of specific tips to help you build and maintain a thriving community for your students.
Before we begin, you should know that this is a comprehensive post. If you don’t have time to go through the full thing now, download our workbook on building communities with Facebook Groups and follow the steps offline.
Benefits of creating a Facebook Group
Creating a private Facebook Group for your customers and students is beneficial for a number of reasons, and we’re not the only ones who think so. Suzi Nelson, the Community Manager for Digital Marketer, said in an article on Digital’s Marketer’s blog that establishing a private Facebook Group for their customers has helped the company meet a number of important business goals including:
- Increasing customer satisfaction
- Reducing refunds
- Increasing retention in monthly memberships
- Increasing sales generated by word-of-mouth recommendations
Many of our customers have already started to experience the benefits of creating a Facebook Group for their business. Julie Harris, a creative business consultant and brand designer, for example, created a Facebook Group called The Creative’s Corner in order to build and nurture her relationship with her audience. We got in touch with her and asked her what it’s like to have a Facebook Group. Here’s what she had to say:
“Leading a Facebook Group is an excellent way to establish your creditability as a leader in your market. By sharing your knowledge, providing guidance, and creating opportunities for growth and expansion only helps your professional reputation as a creditable resource.
You can also learn so much about your target market. Asking questions directly to your most loyal followers about what kinds of products they want you to create, or services you should provide, or how to strengthen existing ones is an invaluable way to increase the value you provide professionally without spending a dollar on marketing or research.”
As an online course creator, setting up a Facebook Group for your students is definitely a worthy pursuit. Your community of happy customers, or raving fans – as Ken Blanchard would say, will likely become your greatest source of future revenue (you do plan to create more than one course right?) and word-of-mouth promotion for your business.
Here are some of the main benefits of having a Facebook Group for your online course:
1. Direct communication with your students
When we spoke to Ryan Stewart, who runs the group Digital Marketing Questions, he said being able to communicate with his followers was the biggest benefit of it.
Having a Facebook Group gives you the opportunity to interact with your customers on a platform that they are likely checking multiple times throughout the day anyway. Many individuals actually prefer to communicate through Facebook versus by email or phone.
“It’s a great way to communicate with people. To me, it’s like having a highly engaged email list.” – Ryan Stewart
2. Course and product feedback
At Thinkific, our development team is constantly adding and improving upon the features of our online course creation software, and in many cases those improvements were sparked by feedback we received from customers in our Facebook Group. We also set up an online course training library with free video tutorials that were inspired by feedback and questions we received from customers in our Facebook Group.Create a Facebook Group for your students and get feedback on your online course #teachonline Click To Tweet
3. Customer service
Instead of sending an email to our support team, many of our customers will simply post a question in our Facebook Group. Anyone on our team can jump in and answer that customer’s question, and sometimes other customers end up answering their question for us, often within minutes! If your students are having trouble understanding a concept, they can ask questions in the group and others can help them out.
4. Student retention
Have you ever sent a complaint to a company’s support team, only to receive a response several days later, if at all? In that scenario, chances are you didn’t remain a customer for very long. After all, nobody likes to feel unappreciated or unacknowledged by a company that they have bought from.
Facebook Groups help increase customer retention, because they give customers the opportunity ask questions and get a response quickly, and be a part of a community of other people who can help them out.A Facebook Groups helps you increase student retention for your online course #teachonline Click To Tweet
5. Customer acquisition
Having a private Facebook Group that is exclusive to your customers is also a great bonus to be able to offer your prospective customers. When you’re trying to sell your online course, your private community can be a major value add because your prospective students will know that when they buy your course, they aren’t just buying information. They are buying the ability to network and interact with other people who are taking your course.
On the flip side, your private Facebook Group can be a source of new customers, as Stephanie Nickolich, owner of the Style Your Success Society told us.
“Owning a private Facebook group that has quickly grown into an amazing community is a great way to spotlight your business, it’s a safe place to get to know people, to interact on your terms, and to collaborate with other business owners. It has changed the game for my business as many of my clients have found me through my private Facebook group.” – Stephanie Nickolich
Additionally, the social proof of having a big community indicates that your course is definitely worth buying.
6. Increased authority
As the creator of a Facebook Group, you have the ability to bring people with similar interests and goals together and initiate conversations between them. The effect is similar to that of hosting a live event (like a conference or a party, for example).
When you host a live event, many of the attendees will get the most value from interacting with other attendees, and since you’re the one who made it possible for them to come together, you get the credit. Placing yourself in that position of leadership increases your perceived authority among your audience. Nick Loper, who runs Side Hustle Nation, had this to say to us:
“Being at the hub of these valuable interactions is strengthening my relationship with the group members.” – Nick Loper
7. Increased traffic
Sharing content that you create with the members of your Facebook Group can be an effective way to increase traffic to your website.When you post something in a Facebook Group, all of its members receive a notification that you have posted in the group, increasing the likelihood that they will engage with your post. Danavir Sarria, who started the group Copymonk, told us this:
“Whenever I post an article, I get lots of love in the form of traffic and engagement.” – Danavir Sarria
Just make sure that you’re not always posting your own content or trying to make a sale. Focus on providing value. Blog posts, podcast episodes, videos and infographics are all examples of types of content that you might already be publishing online to help educate your target audience.
8. Increased revenue
Having a Facebook Group exclusively for the students of your online course is an effective way to increase your course sales, because a private group where your students have direct access to you and other students increases the perceived value of your course.
It is worth noting that you can’t actually sell access to a Facebook Group (that is against Facebook’s terms of service), but you can absolutely offer access to your Facebook Group as a free bonus for purchasing your course. Access to a private Facebook Group provides additional inventive for purchasing your course, since most people don’t just want information, they want to be a part of a community.People don't just want information. They want to be part of a community. #teachonline Click To Tweet
Creating Your Facebook Group
Okay, so hopefully by now you’re convinced of the power of Facebook Groups to build a sense of community and increase engagement among your customers. So the next step is to actually create one, right? Don’t fret. Setting up a Facebook Group is the easy part (building and maintaining a thriving community is the hard part, but we’ll share some tips on that shortly).
The process for setting up a Facebook Group is pretty straight forward. From the main menu in your Facebook account, you simply click on Create Group. From there, you’ll be asked to fill in some details about your group and add its first few members.Creating a #FacebookGroup is easy. Building a thriving community is the hard part. Click To Tweet
Here are the basic steps involved in setting up your Facebook Group:
1. Choose a Group Name
The name of your Facebook Group should definitely include the name of your online course, so that it is easily recognizable by your customers. We also recommend adding an additional term to your group name that helps to signify that it is a group and not a Facebook Page. For example, the name of our Facebook Group is Thinkific Studio (the word “studio” helps to distinguish our Facebook Group from our public Facebook Page).
2. Select your Group’s Privacy Settings
After you choose a title for your Facebook Group, you will be asked to select your group’s privacy settings. There are 3 different privacy settings: Public, Closed, and Secret. The privacy setting you choose for your group will affect who can find the group, see its members, see its posts, and who can join it.
Here is a brief explanation of the different types of groups, and what they are each suitable for:
A Public Group can be found by anyone, so even people who are not a member of the group will be able see who its members are, and see the posts. A Public Group is not the best option for your existing customers, but it is a great option for communicating with your audience (aka your prospective customers).
If you have a blog, podcast, or book, for example, a Public Facebook group can be a great way to create a non-threatening environment where your target audience can engage with you, consume your content, and interact with other members of the group before they decide to buy from you. Basically, you give them the chance to get to know, like, and trust you before they make that decision to become your customer. The downside of a Public Group is that since anyone can join it, there is less of a sense of exclusivity, which reduces the perceived value of the group.
A Closed Group can be found by anyone (they can also see who its members are), but only members of the group can see the posts. Anyone can request to join a Closed Group, but their request must be approved by someone who is an Admin of the group before they will be added. If you want to create a Facebook Group exclusively for your existing customers, this is the best option.
A Secret Group cannot be found by anyone. Only the members of the group can find it and see the posts. A Secret Group is great for communicating with members of your team, members of a mastermind group, or a team of ambassadors (often called a launch team) who are supporting your next big project, like a book or a podcast launch.Closed #FacebookGroups enable you to build an exclusive community for your customers Click To Tweet
3. Write Your Group Description
Your group description will appear in the right sidebar of your group where anyone can see it (unless you’ve created a Secret Group, then only its members will see it). It doesn’t have to be long, but it should definitely be clear and compelling.
Who is your group for? What is the purpose of your group? What are the benefits of joining? These are some of the questions you should answer in your group description.
Here are some examples of descriptions for various successful Facebook Groups:
4. Create a Cover Photo for your Group
Similar to a Facebook Page or a Facebook Profile, you will be asked to upload a cover photo for your Facebook Group. This cover photo will be displayed at the top of your group’s page. If you have a graphic designer or web designer on your team, ask them to create a cover photo for you. If not, you can find a designer on Fiverr or on a freelance network such as Upwork. Another option is to do it yourself using a design tool such as Snappa or Canva.
We also have a resource of 115+ stock photos you can use for free.
Your cover photo should be consistent with the overall branding for your online course so that your group members know that they’ve come to the right place.
Here are some examples of cover photos for various Facebook Groups:
5. Pin a Welcome Post to the top of your group
When you create your Facebook Group, your first post should be a Welcome Post for all your group members. However, as you and your members add more posts to the group, that first post will automatically be pushed down to the bottom of the group’s newsfeed. For that reason, you should pin your Welcome Post to the top of the newsfeed, so that regardless of when someone joins your group, they will always see that Welcome Post right at the top.
Similar to your group description, your Welcome Post is a great place to introduce yourself and remind your members what the purpose of the group is for. You may want to include your Group Guidelines in your welcome post, or at the very least, remind new members to read your Group Guidelines before they post anything in your group. We’ll cover Group Guidelines later in this article.
Here is an example of a Welcome Post that Jill Stanton (co-founder of Screw the Nine-To-Five) pinned to the top of her Facebook Group. It’s a pretty detailed post, so anyone who wants to read it will have to click on “See More” to read the whole thing, but you get the idea.
Tips for Growing your Facebook Group
Once your Facebook Group is created, the next step is to start adding members to your group. When we created a Facebook Group for our customers in the beginning of 2015, we didn’t put very much effort into promoting it to our customers.
In the beginning of 2016, after experiencing the benefits of having a Facebook Group firsthand, we made the decision to actively encourage all of our customers to join the group. Today, we are proud to say that our Facebook Group has evolved into a highly engaged community, where members are sharing advice, ideas, and strategies for building their brands and launching their online courses.
Here are some strategies for growing the number of members in your group that have worked well for us and other Facebook Group creators that we spoke with:
1. Send an email to your newsletter subscribers or existing customers
If you’ve created a Public Group for your audience, send an email to your list of subscribers to tell them about the group and invite them to join. You can also add an invitation to join your Facebook Group to the first email that is sent to all new subscribers who join your list. If you’ve created a Private Group exclusively for your online course customers, then you can send a similar email to all your current and future customers.
2. Invite your existing followers from other channels
Adrienne Dorison, who created the Society of Self-Mastery, told us that she uses her existing social media channels to promote her Facebook Group. People who read her blog, and follow her on Instagram and so on are already interested in what she has to say, so bringing inviting them to continue a conversation in the group is a no-brainer.
“When I share something challenging or vulnerable or want people to engage back with me, it’s important that I go first to make them feel comfortable to share.” – Adrienne Dorison
3. Add a link to your Facebook Group on your website
Add a link to your Facebook Group to the main menu or sidebar of your website. Another great place to include an invitation to join your Facebook Group is at the bottom of your blog posts.
4. Invite your friends and connections to join your group
Many of your existing friends and online connections will likely be interested in joining your group, but do not add people to your group without asking them first. Most people find it annoying when someone adds them to a Facebook Group without their permission (if they don’t want to be in the group, they’ll have to manually remove themselves from it). Instead, send them a private message first to tell them about your group and ask them if they would like to join it.
“I then invited many of the woman that I had interacted with online months prior and within the first week, it grew to over 1000 members organically. Now, we’re approaching 10,000 members and the group isn’t even a year old. CRAZY!” – Stephanie Nickolich
5. Let your group members add other people to your group
Unless your Facebook Group is exclusively for your existing customers, don’t restrict your group members from adding other people to it. In fact, you may even want to consider making some of your group members (the ones you know personally or trust the most) Admins of your group. This will give them the power to approve member requests so that you don’t always have to. These options can be configured in your Group Settings.
6. Add a link to your group to your email signature
You are probably sending and responding to several emails on a daily basis. If so, your email signature is a great place to include a call-to-action for those people that you are corresponding with. Here is an example of what you could say at the bottom of your email signature:
“Have you joined our Facebook Group yet? It’s a great place to (insert benefit). Click here to check it out.”6 ways to promote your #FacebookGroup and build a thriving community Click To Tweet
How To Increase Engagement in Your Facebook Group
Once your Facebook Group is set up and full of members, your job is to encourage and facilitate engagement so that your group doesn’t become a ghost town. The more engagement there is in your group, the more value there is for each of its members, and the more incentive there is for existing members to stay and new members to join.
Here are some tips for increasing engagement among members in your Facebook Group:
1. Create a group around a specific topic
When we asked Elizabeth Kelsey Bradley, who owns the hugely successful Blogging Boost group, what her secret for increasing engagement was, her reply was:
“Create a group that is centered around a topic that many people are passionate about. That tends to spark conversation organically.” – Elizabeth Kelsey Bradley
When you create a Facebook Group for your business, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the purpose of your group is just to promote your business. It’s not. The purpose of your group is to build a community of individuals who share a passion for the same topic or are working towards a similar goal. The additional exposure your business receives as a result of having a Facebook Group is great, but the focus of the community should be on the topic.
For example, Matt Suess, a photographer with image editing and photography courses, created a group for a specific photography software called On1 that he uses and teaches about. That sounds really niche, but he managed to grow it to almost 700 members in just 2 months. Matt doesn’t promote his courses on the group, but it’s so engaging that members automatically look him up and buy his courses anyway.
2. Ask questions to spark discussions
Start discussions in your group as often as you can by asking your group members specific questions. You can ask them for feedback on something specific (like a new course chapter or piece of content), ask them what challenges they are currently facing related to your topic, or even just ask them how their week is going. Regardless of what you ask them, the point is to start a conversation.
“The main goal of a Facebook Group is to create a discussion, not a sale.” – Danavir Sarria (CopyMonk)
3. Participate in discussions and respond to questions
Many of the members in your group will start discussions on their own, often by sharing their insights or by asking questions. Do your best to participate in those discussions and answers those questions as they occur. If you have a highly engaged group where members interact with each other without your involvement, that is fantastic, but you should still make an effort to participate in those conversations whenever possible.
“Don’t think of it as a broadcast medium, but rather a community with you at the center.” – Nick Loper (Side Hustle Nation)
4. Create a theme for each day of the week
A great way to increase engagement in your Facebook Group is to assign a specific theme to each day of the week. The theme for each day will help to encourage specific types of posts or comments from group members on that day.
Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income Community), for example, does this very well in his Facebook Group:
- Monday is “Goals Day” (members post their goal for the week to help hold them accountable)
- Tuesday is “Top Tool Tuesday” (members post their top business tools, apps, and resources)
- Wednesday is “What’s Working Wednesday” (members share something they’ve done in their business that worked)
- Thursday is “Thank You Thursday” (members publicly thank someone else in the group who has helped them)
- Friday is “Free Speech Friday” (members get to promote their business or current projects)
- Saturdays/Sundays are “Weekend Wins” (members post their recent accomplishments)
“You can pre-load your group posts over a glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon and know that you will have content going out to the group for the rest of the week.” – Sarah Cordiner (Entrepreneur to EDUpreneur)
5. Create an adjective to describe your group members
This one may sound funny, but it works! Think of a word to describe your group members, and start referring to them using that word. This helps solidify the sense of community among your group members. Here are some examples:
- Jill Stanton (Screw The Nine-To-Five) refers to her group members as Scroupies
- John Lee Dumas & Kate Erickson (Podcaster’s Paradise) refer to their group members as Paradisers
- Nick Loper (Side Hustle Nation) refers to his group members as Hustlers
- Elizabeth Kelsey Bradley (Blogging Boost) calls her group members Boosters
6. Share content that lives exclusively in your group
Sharing exclusive tips and insights (content that you do not publish anywhere else online) is a great way to reward your group members for being a part of your Facebook Group. It increases the value of being a member of your group and encourages members to re-visit the group often. This will also help prevent group members from leaving, knowing that if they do they will miss out on the exclusive content that you share inside your Facebook Group.
6 ways to increase engagement in your #FacebookGroup Click To Tweet
“It’s all about the value you can provide to the people of the group. Try to create unique value that ONLY the people in the group have access to.” – Ryan Stewart (Digital Marketing Questions)
How to Maintain Your Facebook Group
Sometimes, Facebook Groups get so big and ungainly that it becomes a cesspool of spam. If you don’t want yours to go that way, you need to maintain it! The amount of time it will take to maintain your group will depend on the size of your group and your commitment to encouraging engagement amongst its members.
If you want your group to flourish, you should be prepared to spend a minimum of 30-60 minutes per day overseeing and participating in group discussions. Some businesses require a part-time or even a full-time Community Manager to oversee all the activity within their Facebook Group (especially if they have several thousand group members or multiple groups for different purposes).
Here are some tips for maintaining and moderating your Facebook Group:
1. Establish Group Rules or Guidelines
You’ve probably heard the phrase “without rules, there is chaos.” This definitely applies to Facebook Groups. Groups without specific rules or guidelines for its members are rarely successful, because they have no gauge for acceptable (or unacceptable) behavior. They usually end up becoming a free-for-all spam fest. A predetermined set of rules or guidelines helps to set an expectation for all members of the group, and sets the tone for the overall group culture.
We recommend you pin a post with your group rules or guidelines to the top of your group’s newsfeed, or add them to your group description so that they are clearly visible to all group members. Here are some examples of common rules and guidelines that most successful Facebook Groups have:
- No self-promotion (spamming)
- Be respectful
- Post only relevant content
- Be helpful to other members (answer questions)
- Before you post a question, check to see if it has already been answered
“Always post guidelines and make sure your members understand the purpose of the group. You have to be there. Without a leader, a Facebook Group doesn’t work.” – Kate Erickson (Podcaster’s Paradise)
2. Designate a Community Manager or have multiple Group Admins
If you don’t have the time to maintain/moderate the group yourself, you should consider hiring a Community Manager to do it for you. Another option is to make a few other people (people you know personally and trust to do a good job) Admins of the group so that they can help moderate the group.
3. Delete Posts That Break The Rules
If you see a member of the group post something that violates the group rules, delete that post immediately. Next, send a private message to the person who posted it with a brief explanation of why you deleted their post. Sometimes, people post something without knowing that they violated the group rules. If that’s the case, simply remind them to review the group rules before posting again.
4. Remove Members When Necessary
If certain members of the group are repeatedly breaking the rules (even after being warned not to), remove them. If a specific member is being disrespectful to other members in the group, remove them. If you receive multiple complaints from other group members about someone, remove them. As the group moderator, it is your job to ensure your group is a positive and safe environment, where members can feel comfortable and supported. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the environment for the entire group.
“Don’t blindly invite people! Or let the inmates run the asylum.” – Sol Orwell
5. Post Friendly Reminders To All Group Members
Once in a while, you may need to post a friendly reminder to all group members to respect the group rules or guidelines. A public reminder is a strong display of leadership, and many of your group members will respect you for doing it. Enforcing your group rules might make you feel uncomfortable, but it is necessary in order to maintain the integrity of your group.
The screenshot below is an example of a reminder post. Jill Stanton (Screw the Nine-To-Five) noticed an increase in the number of people in her Facebook Group that were violating her group rules, so in typical Jill fashion, she decided to put a stop to it. Her post to the group was polite but firm, and she won the respect of hundreds of members in her group in the process (her post received over 500 likes and more than 100 comments from people who supported her post).
5 strategies for maintaining and growing a successful #FacebookGroup Click To Tweet
Are you ready to create a Facebook Group for your customers?
If you made it all the way to the end of this article, congratulations! We know it was a pretty long post, but we wanted to give you as much practical information as possible to help you create, grow and maintain a successful Facebook Group for your customers.
The best part? You can do it yourself! We’ve created a workbook with step-by-step instructions to set all this up. So download it, set aside a few hours, and get your Facebook Group up and running.
Building a community for your customers is one of the best things you can do for your online course and there’s no better time to start than now. It will help to attract new students and keep your existing ones engaged, excited, and accountable to completing your course and implementing what they learned. Who knows, you may even end up with some ideas for your next course based on their feedback!
Tyler Basu is the Content Marketing Manager at Thinkific. In addition to creating helpful content for our community of online course creators, he is also a Podcast Host and the Publisher of Lifestyle Business Magazine, a digital magazine for lifestyle entrepreneurs.
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