When Facebook aborted its mission of “making the world more open and connected” in June last year and revealed its new goal was to “bring the world closer together”, it was a clear sign that Mark Zuckerberg wanted to make significant changes to the platform.
Less than a month later, in line with this new mission statement, Facebook officially rolled out its Groups for Pages feature. Although the concept of being part of a Facebook Group isn’t new, there had never been an official way for brands to communicate with their fans in an open forum on the platform. While brand pages could project messages, it wasn’t exactly a two-way street. Now businesses can get to the heart of what their audience really thinks and engage with them on even terms.
Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, explained that “if you are an artist, a business, a brand, or a newspaper, you can now create fan clubs and groups centered around your super-fans. There are over 70M Pages on Facebook so we hope this unlocks a lot of goodness.”
Several months since the official rollout, we’ve weighed up the real value of Groups for Pages and explored how brand marketers can utilise the feature to create meaningful communities on Facebook.
In his announcement, Cox revealed one of the main reasons Facebook finally decided to roll out the feature was due to the success of The Washington Post’s group called PostThis. The group enabled reporters to speak directly to passionate fans of the publication and discuss how stories came together in real-time.
Page groups can now be created and accessed via the tab on the brand’s page. And in addition to being able to create new groups, brands can link existing groups to their account. This is particularly useful for brands that started groups for fans to talk about shared interests before Facebook allowed the two to be linked.
Linking a page has the benefit of allowing fans to identify between an official group affiliated with a brand as opposed to one which has been created independently. This, in turn, is likely to earn a more engaged audience, as fans are encouraged to actively participate in a brand’s conversation rather than passively consuming it.
How to Build a Successful Group
In order to grow a successful group for your brand, you will first need to generate engaging content that drives conversations for members to discuss. Eventually, when a group is established this will occur organically, with more people contributing and creating threads themselves. However, in the beginning, it is useful to have a dedicated person to start conversations and generate points for discussion. After all, nobody wants to join a group where nothing’s being discussed.
Another point worth noting is that, while a group is an extension of your brand, you should avoid excessive product promotion or ‘sales talk’. Instead, if you do have something new to announce such as a new service or product release then you should post that on the main page, and possibly follow it up with a linked topic on the group, such as ‘What do you think of our newest release?’ HBO utilised discussion topics to great effect for their hit series, Big Little Lies.
Another way to position your business group for success is to publish information and offers that your audience can’t find anywhere else. This will make your members feel like they are getting something exclusive, which will keep them engaged as a result.
Something to bear in mind with groups for pages is moderation. Because, whilst groups were designed with ‘super-fans’ in mind, unlike a brand’s main Facebook page, the purpose of a group is to generate discussion and ideas.
Therefore, within any discussion, differences of opinion are likely to occur, and they might not always be the opinions your brand wants to hear. However, marketers must accept that negative feedback is a natural part of brand communications; which can in fact be used to your advantage by using it to improve a product or service for customers.
While constructive feedback should be encouraged, any comments which could be viewed as harassment or bullying towards the brand or other members of the group must be moderated. One way to do this is by approving posts prior to them appearing, however this requires a lot of attention, so it is advisable to assign a designated person to manage this. As a last resort, if a group member is being persistently inappropriate, admins can completely ban them from the group.
The introduction of Groups for Pages was a welcome addition to Facebook, which had begun to feel increasingly disconnected prior to Zuckerberg’s renewed mission statement. However, despite some heavyweight early adopters such as HBO and The Washington Post, in the several months which have passed since the official rollout, an overwhelming amount of brands are yet to take advantage of the feature.
While this is (to some extent) unsurprising, as it won’t be 100% applicable to absolutely every business, I can’t help but feel that Facebook could’ve done more to promote the benefits of the feature to the 70 million pages on the platform. Nevertheless, Groups for Pages remains an effective stepping stone for brand marketers to connect with customers and cultivate a very real community.