Some of the most popular Facebook groups are closing - what now?
Right now in the online business space, a lot of the biggest, and most popular Facebook groups are either closing or changing focus and re-opening as smaller, curated groups.
This may be nuanced to the online biz to online biz space (OB2OB) which can be a bubble of its own on occasion, but the conversation around community trends is an interesting one.
[Read why Melyssa Griffin closed hers here]
Facebook groups have been a mainstay of many entrepreneurs and business owners to add value to their audience and build communities, so what does this shift signify?
The worrying thing from what I have observed, is that the community members at a loss from the big groups closing have been using other people's groups as a client acquisition tool.
I think this is dangerous. Relying on someone else's community as a source of building relationships leaves you in a vulnerable position.
Building other forms of business development leads - your email list, offline connections, a strong content strategy - allows for a stream of inbound enquiries without relying on resources you don't own.
After I saw some surprising and concerning comments around this discussion, it prompted me to ask some of the biggest leaders online for their thoughts on the discussion.
Read what they have to say (the viewpoints are varied), and consider what works for you.
As for me? I, personally, have begun to spend my time in the groups that give me the most joy, the best discussions, the most meaningful connections and experiences. Even with those criteria in place, I still set boundaries around how much time I spend on Facebook, and Newsfeed Eradicator is a dear friend of mine for sanity saving.
I also think that Slack, with it's many apps and scope for add-ons, will be used more and more for curated community experiences.
I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on the future of Facebook groups in the comments below.
What the experts say:
My prediction is that Facebook Groups will become more of a curated experience.
I'm going to be experimenting with a free 4-week pop-up style curated group. Think topic specific, in and out, small daily posting commitments leading to a very specific offer... in this case, a JV promo for FB Ad Managers, with the Group archived upon cart close.
Then, anytime I want to run this promo again, I'll release similar content (if not the exact same).
This excites me thinking of the potential conversion rate with a more personalised selling approach than our industry is used to via sales funnels.
The email sequence will morph to include the curated group experience with finite start and stop dates.
Currently, we're seeing an 85% uptake on a free webinar specifically designed for the group members.
We're asking if they'd like to attend (and for them to provide their email!) in one of the 3 questions Facebook allows you to ask new members.
The Ad Strategist
I intentionally never grew a large free group.
I started my biz in 2009 and I've had consistent, significant traffic and leads from Google, so FB was always a bonus for me, rather than a primary business driver.
So when I started a FB group, I intentionally made it only for my customers.
It's now at about 1500 members.
Those members are super engaged. They help each other.
Our team spends less than a couple of hours per week on moderation, and our students still say it's super valuable.
They love the group, and it works well for my goals of retention, referrals, and engagement.
The group is also an invaluable source of testimonials, market research, and referrals.
Cory Huff, The Abundant Artist
I've never been a fan of Facebook groups--free or paid.
When I originally started the group that became CoCommercial, we hosted it in Google+ because it was clear even 5 years ago that Facebook groups were not going to be a long-term play.
As we rebranded the group into CoCommercial and doubled-down on building the business association for the New Economy, we made a move to Mighty Networks.
Gina Bianchini, the founder, wanted to create an alternative to the monolithic feeds at Facebook or Twitter that was based on shared interests or identities.
There are certainly challenges to building a community off of a platform where "everyone" already is but the rewards have been incredible.
Our members remark that conversation at CoCommercial is higher-quality, more optimistic, and more forward-thinking than what they experience in Facebook groups.
To me, the demise of Facebook groups as a marketing strategy and stand-in email list, means we have a huge opportunity to build something much more valuable for the people in our audiences.
Tara Gentile, CoCommercial
I use FB groups two ways.
One is to have a free, closed group for my community to connect with each other. I no longer manage this space myself, but I do pop in to post and curate content.
I love this because I am a community builder and I love getting to know and see what's going on with my women.
We do a daily welcome post where we ask people to introduce themselves and share what they love about being a woman and what they find challenging about being a woman.
Their responses provide invaluable feedback that I use to create content, curate podcast guests and more.
I also use FB groups for my programs. I run my monthly Q+A via FB live now inside my one group, and for my others it's the place to ask questions, celebrate, and seek advice and acknowledgement between calls.
THE MOST CRUCIAL element to having them be productive is stellar guidelines.
Elizabeth DiAlto, Wild Soul Movement
I've hosted a free Facebook group for our Fired Up & Focused Challenge since 2014, and it continues to be one of my favorite ways to connect with my community.
Everyone who joins the group first signs up for the Challenge - so we capture their emails - and each daily challenge is linked to specific prompt in the group to keep the conversations on topic.
We also have some theme days - some a prescheduled and some are more in the moment.
With the huge decrease in reach from my Facebook Page, I often share content like Facebook Lives from the Page into the Group.
It's been a great way to continue to drive traffic back towards my latest content.
With so many new features being added to Facebook groups - and the new focus from Facebook on groups - I'm excited to continue growing this group.
I've especially loved the addition of Facebook Live AUDIO as a way to jump on and answer questions.
Yes it takes a TON of time and honestly, without a team it's not possible to run a group with tens of thousands of people.
But we have so many stories of our challengers hosting in person meet-ups and finding new Biz BFFs that it definitely encourages us to continue!
Rachel Cook, rachelcook.com
Since 2012, I have been using Facebook groups to meet new and interesting people in all areas of life -- health, fitness, business, and motherhood to name a few.
I enjoy connecting with new and inspiring people who I wouldn't normally have the opportunity of meeting.
As a business owner, I use them the same way, to build relationships. My goal has always been to bring my online relationships offline, and to bring my offline relationships online.
When I bring the people I meet online onto a phone call or meet them in person, it allows me to forge a deeper relationship.
When people I know offline connect with my online (i.e. like my business page or join my Facebook group), it brings us in closer proximity to each other and establishes a deeper connection.
My social media strategy has always been about engagement and not the numbers.
Depth not width.
I think the trend will be more intimate connections and in order to do that a number of things will happen; the real leaders will start to rise to the top.
These are people who are CAPABLE of building relationships based on intimacy and vulnerability. In order for a leader to do that they must first connect to and be intimate with themselves.
This is a very different level of leadership and is one of the highest levels of leadership.
Groups will become smaller which will allow the leader to hold a safer and tighter container.
A great group leader will foster relationship building over selling and gross self-promotion.
We all know that no sale is created outside of a relationship anyway, right?
Tara Newman, The Bold Leadership Revolution
What you need to remember is that Facebook groups, while often fun, are still a marketing activity. They’re there for a purpose. And they take a lot of time to manage. Groups filled with thousands of members typically need at least one full time community manager too, to make sure everyone is behaving in line with the group rules.
That means someone is being paid full time to be in a group. If the owner isn’t making enough of a return on this investment, it’s not viable from a business perspective. And that’s what these people are doing – they’re running a business.
And you have to remember, people change. Businesses evolve. What someone was focusing on 5 years ago, when they set up that group, may not be their passion anymore. Does it make sense for them to invest thousands in a community focused on a topic that no longer lights them up?
I think as long as the members of these communities are being taken care of, and given plenty of notice, and told WHY this is happening, it’s a perfectly acceptable move.
Am I joining the big Facebook group shut down? Nope.
I love my Simply Smart Business Group. I love the people, and I love the conversation. Everyone is really polite, and abides by my rules. It still works for me and is a great addition to my business. But if it didn’t fit any more, if it didn’t give value, then I’d consider closing it too.
(Listen to Gemma's podcast on this subject here).
Gemma Went, gemmawent.co.uk
Now over to YOU - what do you think about using Facebook groups as a community?
How have you been using Facebook groups as part of your marketing strategy?
Leave a comment below.
~ Jo xox