Social

Why Your Company Needs a Facebook Group

If it weren’t for Facebook groups about rats, I would have deleted my account a long time ago.

You heard me. Rat groups. After I adopted my first pet rat, Ripley, in 2015, I took her home and realized I had no idea how to take care of her. While researching online, I stumbled into a thriving community of Facebook groups for rat parents. There are groups for sharing toys and cage decor, for matching rat foster parents with “forever home” adoptive parents, and for sharing related memes. (The best meme group is called Ratto Bamboozlin’, and it is a joy.)

Although Facebook’s algorithm changes slowly cleared my feed of posts from publications I follow, all that sweet, sweet rat content has remained. Mark Zuckerberg says he wants Facebook users to primarily interact with posts shared by friends, which means I now get updates from second cousins going on vacation, former coworkers having babies, and fellow rat moms.

Facebook groups have been a hot topic of discussion since last June, when Zuck rolled out updates to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Whether or not that’s true, the new emphasis disrupted the connection between publications and their audience. For many media companies, especially ones that don’t value SEO, the hit to their Facebook traffic is enough to threaten their existence.

To hold off extinction, some companies have turned to the Facebook group. Publications have started groups that function like a comment section for their readers. Others have used branded Facebook groups to crowdsource ideas for the publication. It’s similar to the Kinja community, a lively group of dedicated readers swapping jabs with staff writers, which Gizmodo Media Group has used on its CMS since Gawker existed (R.I.P.). By inviting loyal followers to a Facebook group, you’re implying that their voices are just as important as their clicks.

How are companies adapting?

Facebook was originally known for organic distribution. Then it became an empire for paid distribution. While brands and publishers may not be able to get referral traffic to their sites like they could a few years ago, they can still support meaningful engagement and loyalty with a Facebook group. The groups foster conversations with a Reddit-style approach, which audiences should appreciate compared to the transactional nature of most social posts.

In March 2017, Condé Nast released an editorial package called Women Who Travel for International Women’s Day. The stories, which varied from a personal essay by Ava Duvernay to e-commerce articles about airline-friendly beauty products, resulted in a spike of engagement. Thinking quickly, Condé Nast created a Facebook group aimed at women who travel a lot, promoting the discussion group within its existing (relevant) content. The group now has about 70,000 members, all with the ability to ask questions of each other or the editorial staff. Most discussions in the group don’t even focus on content or the Conde Nast Traveler brand. But you can bet group members now associate Condé Nast with open discussion and proactive, helpful messaging.

The media company continued the trend over the last year, launching Facebook groups for more of its publications, including Vanity Fair’s Reel Women and The New Yorker Movie Club, effectively changing the way audiences communicate with their favorite magazines.

If your brand starts a Facebook group, think of yourself as a facilitator rather than a marketer or blogger. You’ll lose the group if you only promote your own work. Based on the groups I’ve been a part of, though, the group owners seem to hit a sweet spot when 70 percent of the posts come from directly the members. Eventually, when you prove that you care enough about what they have to say, members will start sharing content because it genuinely interests them. And once that happens, the rat race for vanity metrics like pageviews doesn’t seem so important anymore.

Image by Ryoji Iwata / Unsplash
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