If you had to pick ONE private Facebook Group you couldn’t live without, which one would it be?
We pondered that question from a mastermind group recently and couldn’t hold back from sharing candidly: none of them. We could easily live without them all and probably be much happier for it. We’ve never really joined a private Facebook Group and been excited about it. Or excited to go back to it. Actually, it’s become a pretty simple, six-step business chore.
Step 1: visit group.
Step 2: Search topics of relevance for your business.
Step 3: Monitor those posts.
Step 3.5: Shake head to self.
Step 4: Drop a few comments.
Step 5: GTFO.
Step 6: Be in a bad mood because cliques (usually).
Private and secret Facebook Groups launched years ago, but at the beginning of 2016, joining private Facebook Groups full of sometimes thousands of other entrepreneurs and business owners was all the rage. The sense of community in groups is undeniable. Members can post questions and get almost immediate feedback from their target audience: other entrepreneurs and business owners. Groups offer visibility and sales opportunities. Because of that, many online business owners credit private Facebook groups – either their own or those of others – for large growth in consultancy business. Some entrepreneurs have built empires around counseling other startups how to begin and grow private Facebook communities that convert.
From Heather Crabtree’s Savvy Business Owners Group (9,625 members) to Jill Stanton’s Screw the 9 to 5 Group (30,215 members), to Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson’s Being Boss Group (19,570 members), and beyond, there are several groups with established and engaged communities which experienced tremendous growth over a short period of time.
Because of the visibility potential, most creative entrepreneurs seek membership in more than one. Due to the free acceptance into these groups and the low barrier to entry, a lot of new entrepreneurs ask to join and are quickly accepted.
There are no secret passwords.
You don’t have to buy a ticket.
And the exclusivity factor is just enough to make outsiders want in. Those who are new to these online ecosystems are excited to be a part of something bigger than themselves and find solidarity in the sometimes-lonely entrepreneurial journey. They’re open to trusting like-minded business owners and think camaraderie is happening in the comments. They mistake admins as friends, members as supporters, and the privacy as a safe haven.
But you can’t deny the wildcard nature of private Facebook groups. Like a mustang, they have to be tamed, worked and trained before you get close to seeing a return on your investment.
The interactions inside can be unpredictable, inappropriate, offensive, disheartening, and discouraging. They can also be empowering and connecting, offer great visibility for your company and even a few sales opportunities here and there. It’s not all bad, but we call ’em like we see ’em and if you’re new, you should prepare yourself for the chores ahead.
Here are a few we wish we had known last New Year’s Eve:
- Do Your Chores: Even Cinderella couldn’t go out and play until all her chores were finished. And you shouldn’t either. Monitoring, engaging and participating in private Facebook groups has become the ultimate business chore. It’s important to monitor conversations taking place around your respective niche or skill set. You might have to repeat steps one through six above in multiple different groups per week in order to effectively monitor and contribute to all relevant conversations. Try to dedicate an hour a day to monitoring, and an hour a week to thoughtfully posting comments under important discussions relevant to your business. This is key to positioning yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise.
- Know Where You Stand: These free groups housing thousands of business owners, at times, face lower quality exchanges, conversations, and overall community maturity due to the huge gaps in stages and ages of business between members. Be thoughtful about posts you contribute to and why. Work to add value to both the new stage business owners and the seasoned vets of the group and you’ll be remembered.
- Consider the Cost in Joining: Business owners in advanced stages of growth sell to newbie members in early stages of business, who are more than eager to invest in something new and shiny. If you’ve made a purchase as a result of a private facebook group membership, then the group you thought was free actually has a much higher price of admission than you thought.
- Try Not to Nod Off: Facebook admins and members are both getting a little bored with the same, recurring, automated content prompts. The same people will make spammy attempts to self-promote. Don’t be that guy. But try to stay awake when you get tired of the monotony. You might be seeing the same content prompts, but the comments under each of them should be fresh and new every week.
- Don’t Share Your Trade Secrets: This one seems like a no-brainer but we’ve seen group members get so excited at “promo” posts before that they’ll drop any link in the comments without consideration of close-by competitors watching and reading. It’s okay not to post when the promo post day comes. Be a little bit selective.
- Introduce Yourself Without a Self-Published Intro Post: Most groups will call out new members and ask them to post an introduction to the group, also a one-time pass for self-promotion in your own post. But have you ever read a self-published intro post you actually liked? We haven’t. And we’ve done them before! We didn’t even like our own. Because you completely lose the third-party endorsement factor (why PR is so powerful). Opt-out of the intro post if asked to do one and instead either let the group admins introduce you, or let your work speak for itself as you slowly start to contribute.
“But, Bridget, I’m supposed to be an active participant!”
There are many ways to be an active and engaged member of private Facebook Groups (and not be like a “wall flower”) without posting a four-paragraph autobiography with heavy self-promotion and link-dropping. If you do opt to publish the intro post, keep it short and sweet. Treat it as you would meeting a first-time acquaintance. You wouldn’t tell a complete stranger your credentials, background and freemium link upon first shaking their hand.
You would say, “Hi, I’m Bridget and I’m a publicist. What do you do?” Introduction posts can be just that – an introduction – without being spammy and sales-y, killing your appeal from the start. We’re taking a stand against long-form group first-time intro posts that turn readers off and encouraging a more approachable, simple and short introduction (even if you have to do it yourself).
Thousands of people use private Facebook Groups. They’re not going away. And don’t get us wrong, real networking is taking place and connections are being made every day in private Facebook groups big and small. There is money to be made utilizing these groups, but admins will have to be more creative about how they’ll engage members in 2017. Similarly, business owners will be more thoughtful about groups they start and join in the New Year. Just don’t forget to do your chores.