When you’re on social media, it can feel as if you’re drowning in a torrent of information. It can be hard to sift out the useful pieces of knowledge from the pictures of cats and the updates about the contents of people’s meals. Social media gurus speak of the importance of interaction, but social media can feel like a warehouse party where everyone is shouting at once. This makes it hard both to be heard and to listen to the right people.
Groups give you the chance to target your social media communication, and if you set up your own group, you get to decide who to interact with and what to say.
This probably explains why Facebook groups are taking off in recent times. Groups are very similar in structure to pages. But while pages give businesses, community organisations and non profits the chance to promote their services, groups are all about building communities and finding a common ground. As a result, the interaction tends to be livelier on Facebook groups than on pages. They tend to centre on mutual interests or location.
I’m going to describe how groups work using a group that I recently set up called Irish Writers, Editors and Publishing Professionals.
Benefits of Groups
Groups have two main benefits. One is that they help you build relationships. While there’s scope for building communities among your customers, particularly in the B2B sector, groups are best for building relationships with people who are in the same field as yourself. My group enables me to deepen my relationships with other writers and with people in professions related to books and publishing. It gives me the chance to interact with people who are at the top of their game.
The other benefit is that you can be sure that the information you get in the group will be relevant to you. If you ask a question, there’s a greater chance that someone will have the answer. You’ll also be able to make better use of the resources people post up in the group. The reason why I wanted an Irish group was because I felt there was a need for information that’s relevant to an Irish audience. A lot of the information on Facebook and LinkedIn groups for writers is geared towards the US and UK, so it’s good to access information from your own country, which you can make better use of.
Structure of Groups
Facebook makes it easy for you to set up a group. It’s like setting up a page. You add a cover photo and a description of the group, its activities and its goals. Then you add the people from your contact list who you think may be interested and you’re good to go. You also decide on your privacy settings for the group, which we’ll discuss later in the post.
As the admin, it’s important that you get the conversation going. People are reluctant to post a comment or put up a post unless they see someone else doing it. Also, be sure to respond to every post that someone puts up, even if it’s critical, so they don’t feel like they’re talking to themselves. Post up information about the group, questions that will provoke discussion, event notices and links to interesting articles.
Open and Closed Groups
Because you’ve set up the group, you get to control the conversation, but don’t let the power get to your head. Instead, make good use of the options Facebook gives you to set sensible controls on the content and membership of the group. First, you can make your group open, closed or secret.
- An open group is great if you want to build a large community, and an open group creates an open atmosphere.
- But a closed group lets you choose the people you want and focus on building a quality community. Because people have to request to join, you can be sure that they’re interested.
- A secret group is useful if you want to create a small team to plan events and need to make important decisions.
Who to Invite
I myself have chosen a closed group because I want to be sure that the people who join are both Irish and have a background in book-related professions. This greatly reduces the chances that hawkers, spammers and shameless self promoters will infiltrate the community. I fear this might happen if I left the group open. People with only a vague interest in writing, or who have nothing to do with Ireland, might join, and while their intentions are probably good, it would dilute the strength of the community.
Closed doesn’t mean closed off. Members can invite people they know to join by email, which will add to the richness of the community. When they add people, you’ll then be notified that they require approval, so you can do a quick check to make sure they fit the criteria. If you’re not sure, send them a polite message asking them about their background. If they’re genuine, they’ll be happy to tell you and you can add them to the group.
Ensuring Quality Conversations
Facebook then lets you decide how you’re going to manage your content. You can set it up so that members have to ask for approval before they can post. This does let you control the content so it’s of good quality. I didn’t implement this, because I felt it would stilt the conversation, if members couldn’t spontaneously post their news or queries. You can still make it clear in your description what posts you will not tolerate, and you reserve the right to hide or delete such posts if they arise.
Creating a group will greatly enrich your social media experience. You’ll have the conversations you always wanted to have, with the people you always wanted to talk to you. It’ll bring you closer to your contacts, and with your ear to the ground, you’ll start picking up work opportunities. And when you ask a question, you’re much more likely to get the answer you need.
Do you participate in Facebook groups? Have you set up one of your own? How have you found the experience?
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