Do you want to start a Facebook Group for your business?
Perhaps you already have one. Perhaps you’re thinking about it. It’s something I’ve considered many times over the years.
With the changes to the Facebook algorithms this past January, Facebook groups are being touted by many as the saviour of Facebook marketing for small business.
It makes sense, in a way – with Facebook more heavily emphasising community and connection with friends and family, posts from groups are being shown way more in our feeds than ever before.
But I’m still not going to start a free Facebook group.
I made this decision many years ago, and I’ve stuck to it, despite the changing landscape of Facebook.
With the rise of groups, and many people encouraging businesses of all stripes – including makers – to start and grow their own groups, I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic, and discuss why I choose not to have a free group – but why you might.
This was always a huge deciding factor for me, and it’s only been reinforced lately. I’ve seen a number of folks who invested immense amounts of time into growing huge Facebook groups who have since had to shut them down.
Because they simply didn’t have the time to manage them.
Some of them had to hire multiple moderators to help them. But even then, it got to the point where they had to let the group go.
Now, I have a couple of Facebook groups.
I’ve had my Set Up Shop group since I started running that course in 2013. I am only active in that group when I’m running a live course, usually twice a year.
I have other groups for other courses.
My main group is, of course, my Thriver Circle group, which I am active in every single weekday.
So I know, from personal experience, how much time groups take to run.
If you’ve never run one, this is a really, really important point.
They take a LOT of time. I cannot stress this enough.
Not only do you have to manage people joining, moderate conversations, enforce your rules… you also have to work hard to keep the group engaged and lively.
With a free group, there will always been tons of competition – tons of other similar groups that your members could easily end up spending their time in instead of yours.
Of course, that is true with my groups, too… but the difference is, I am being compensated for the time I spend on them, because all of the people in them have paid to have access.
Now, to be clear, they haven’t paid to have access to the group per se. They’ve paid for access to my courses, or to my community, and Facebook is simply the platform I choose to use to run my community forum.
If Facebook turned around tomorrow and shut my groups down? I would just take those people elsewhere. Because they aren’t there to be in a Facebook group – they’re there to be part of a community I’ve created.
This definitely follows on from number 1.
I have limited time. I run 2 businesses. I have a life outside of my work!
When I started the Thriver Circle, I decided to use Facebook as the place to host my community forum. I chose it because I knew it would foster interaction, because when you have your forum elsewhere (such as on your stand-alone site) you have to work a lot harder to remind people to come over and participate.
I wanted my members to have access to me, and to each other, in a simple, easy-to-access environment. It’s easy for them to access the group, and each other. This is a big upside of a Facebook group, and why they’ve become so successful.
Moreover, one of the benefits of being part of the Circle is that members have direct access to me.
They can ask me questions, and they know I’ll answer.
They’ve invested in me – and I’m invested in them.
I knew that I would not have the energy to give myself constantly to people in a free Facebook group. I wanted to save my energy for the people who have invested in learning from me. Because when people make an investment in learning from you, I believe they dive deeper, and put more of themselves into the process.
Following on from this: if I had a free Facebook group alongside my course and membership groups, I don’t believe it would be fair to my students.
The ones who have paid for my time and expertise.
I believe I’d be doing them a disservice.
This is a very big part of why I still choose to not have a free group. Because I owe my paying students my energy and guidance, and I want to make sure they are getting the best of me.
You do not own your Facebook group. Facebook owns your Facebook group.
Herein lies the risk of building your community or marketing on a platform that you do not own. There is always the chance that it can be taken away from you. Or that it won’t work so well any more when they change things (just look at what’s happening to Facebook Pages and Instagram feeds).
If you invest enormous amounts of time in growing your community and presence on Facebook, it could definitely have wonderful benefits for your business.
The reason it works well is that people are on Facebook anyways, so if they are in your group, and get your notifications, they are consistently reminded of your business.
But you do not own it.
What do you own?
You own your own website.
You own your mailing list.
You own your business.
That’s about it.
Really think deeply about this when you’re making the choice of where to spend your limited marketing time and energy.
If you want to build a business that is based around community – where it’s important that the community have access to each other, not just you, then a Facebook group or something similar may be a great choice for you.
But I would strongly recommend that you spend at least an equal amount of time fostering and growing your mailing list. The thing you own.
You can combine the two! Use your group to promote your list. Let people in your group know about special deals that they can only get if they are on your list. That is a strategy that could work really well.
But don’t fall into the trap of spending all of your time growing a group that you don’t have ownership of. Move those people onto your list, so that no matter what happens to Facebook, you will still have a way to connect with them.
Should You Have a Free Group?
Am I a member of free groups? Of course! There are a number that I am a member of, and participate in semi-regularly.
I’m not anti-free-Facebook-groups.
They’re simply not the right choice for me, at this time.
They could be a great choice for you, but just keep in mind the three issues I outlined above: time, access, and ownership.
Make sure, if you do start a group, you’re going into it with eyes wide open so you can make your group an asset, rather than a liability.