Jelena Rakic - May 9, 2020
Why Move Away from Facebook Groups for Your Business
It was not that long ago that you could see various brands promoting Facebook in their ads. Encouraging people to join their communities through Facebook pages was an integral part of their call to action.
Brands used to consistently encourage customers to like their Facebook pages. However, in the last couple of years, there has been a turning point in terms of online community building. Today, we can see that many businesses are, in fact, doing quite the opposite. They are doing everything in their power to move away from Facebook pages.
Facebook pages were highly popular not long ago. But then a simple change in news feed algorithm was enough to cause their organic reach to drop by 44%. The posts on pages now find their way to a significantly lower number of fans and followers. It is only natural to fear that the same thing can happen with Facebook groups in the near future.
So, is setting up a Facebook group and building your community there a smart thing to do for your business?
Advantages of Using Facebook Groups
One of the biggest advantages of using a Facebook Group is that most of your customers probably already have a Facebook account. They are familiar with the platform, and they know how to use it. Thus, many find it suitable because there’s no learning curve. It is easy to get your customers to use it and get members to join.
People are used to checking their Facebook all the time. According to Zephoria, there are 1.66 billion daily active users on Facebook. This is an already established habit.
So, when you build your community on Facebook, you’re simply relying on that established habit. There’s no need to create a new one in a sense that your customers have to get used to checking your forum, for instance. They are on Facebook all the time already, why not check out your group while there, right?
As you can see, there are things that make Facebook a good option. However, there seem to be quite a few disadvantages, as well. Let’s look into these.
Disadvantages of Building a Community on a Platform You Cannot Control such as Facebook
Even though we don’t argue with the fact that using Facebook does come with certain benefits, we still firmly believe that disadvantages outweigh the advantages. The majority of issues you can encounter when building a community on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram stem from the same fundamental problem — lack of control.
Let’s look a little bit deeper into some of the major disadvantages of building your community on this platform.
You Don’t Need Facebook Groups to Grow Your Business
Contrary to popular belief, you need to remember that your business is not doomed if you don’t start a Facebook group. This might have been the case in the past. Luckily, today, your business doesn’t need social media to grow.
Instead of spending your money on a rented property in a desperate attempt to build a community, invest in your product. Give your customers a reason to come back for more.
Satisfied customers are much more likely to help you grow your business by spreading a good word than a Facebook group would. According to a study by Fred Reichheld, a business strategist, “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit.”
And don’t you ever forget just how huge the Internet is. There are plenty of other platforms and alternative solutions to building a community. You should try these before your Facebook group drives you crazy.
It Is Getting Harder to Get Organic Reach
No matter how good your content and ideas are, when you can’t get organic reach, it all goes in vain. And this is precisely what has become one of the major problems with Facebook. If you have an active group, we’re sure that you, too, have noticed the decline of organic reach, just like many others have.
For instance, Social Media Examiner reveals that their “good post will reach about 20,000 of their 545,000 page fans (about 3.7%).” Needless to say, such a low percentage is quite alarming. It’s only a question of time when the same will happen to Facebook groups. So, if you haven’t already, it might be time to ask yourself if investing in your group will ever pay off.
Facebook Is on a Downward Trajectory
Even if there wasn’t the problem of organic reach decline, there’s another potential threat. Will you be able to reach any of your customers at all in the near future?
According to MarketWatch, Facebook has lost as many as 15 million users in just two years (estimated in 2019). So, we can’t help but wonder, will this downward trajectory continue in the future?
With Facebook’s popularity plummeting, your community on that platform is not safe. We go back to the major problem — you’re on a rented property. So, when more people delete their accounts, they will immediately leave your cherished community, too.
Facebook’s privacy issues have a direct impact on marketers and businesses. According to research by GoodFirms, 38.10% of media marketers claim that these issues somewhat impacted their business. While 35.71% of them did answer that there were no changes in their marketing results, 26.19% said that their business was largely impacted by the privacy issues.
Lack of Flexibility and Scalability
Finally, we shouldn’t forget about the limitations when it comes to flexibility and scalability. Both flexibility and scalability play a major role in community building. But when you build your community on Facebook, you face major restrictions. In the end, you are forced to build and manage your community following these restrictions instead of your community demands.
If there’s no room for you to expand your offers and features to meet your customers’ needs, you can’t really hope for a successful community. Communities are much more likely to gain success on forums, which can be scalable to include a variety of features. For instance, they can be customized to match your brand.
Another thing you should keep in mind is that your community is going to grow over time. As more members join, you will need to adjust the community. Perhaps introduce some new categories to keep discussions in order. But if you build your community on Facebook, you won’t be able to make any adjustments necessary for the community to keep growing.
Facebook’s limited integration options will also stop you in case you decide to integrate the community with your website or application. Alternatives to Facebook groups, on the other hand, give you more flexibility. That way, you can easily integrate your community with your website, alongside tools you use within your business.
The Importance of Building a Community You Can Own
In the beginning, you’re all consumed with audience engagement. But then you want to turn your audience into the customers who will join your community. Ultimately, you’d like to own your community. This is a lot more difficult to do when you rely on a platform that doesn’t allow you to own your community directly. You are forced to organize your community in a way to fit the platform’s business model, which limits your reach.
If we take BiggerPockets, for example, we can see how many benefits owning your community brings to business. BiggerPockets flourished when they showed their community members that the community is there to serve them. And they were able to do so because they were in control. The customized forum they used allowed for a variety of convenient features, such as email notifications, threads, user history, categories, etc.
Can You Really “Own” a Community in the Early Days of Your Business?
When you answer the question of how to build a community, another one arises — can you own that community right away? This might be tricky in the early days of your business when you have very little traction and your community is quite small. But that still doesn’t mean that you should leave it to social media, either. Just because your community is small starting out, it doesn’t mean that Facebook groups or other social platforms will help you build it.
Even if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars creating your own custom community tool, it is crucial that you at least have control over it. This can be achieved when you use do-it-yourself community software. These types of software give you full control over your community and how you communicate with your audience. You can add all the features you think will be useful for the community.
An excellent example of how beneficial DIY software can be is Lufthansa. They chose this type of software to build a community for employees and trainees. The flexibility to customize the community precisely to their needs eventually improved their team collaboration. You can achieve the same results with your customer community.
When You Own Your Audience, You Get Direct Approach to Those Interested in Your Product or Service
When you present your product via social media, you’re sending your message to a great number of people who might not have any interest in your product whatsoever. So, even if you fight your way and manage to reach many people, the question is, how many of them will actually care about your brand.
On the other hand, when you own your audience, you get to establish direct communication with those who have already shown their interest in what you offer. You get a direct approach to your potential customers.
For instance, you can gain their trust enough to ask for their email addresses. Email marketing will allow you to communicate with your potential customers without any third party coming between you and them. You can also send out community newsletter keeping members always informed on what is happening within the community. This is an excellent way to generate ongoing and consistent engagement.
Here’s an infographic of what owning your audience means in terms of approaching your potential customers:
“Owned media is about your brand getting its piece of cake.” (The Owned Media Doctrine)
Owning Your Audience Allows You to Control What They See
If you only communicate with your audience via social media, you constantly have to compete with other businesses. Plus, with the constantly changing algorithms, you can never be sure what portion of your content your target audience will actually see.
But when you own your audience, you get to control what they see. For example, if you use your email list to notify your audience of any news or special offers, there is a greater chance that your message will get to them. To be more precise, “a message is five times more likely to be seen in an email than via Facebook,” according to this Email Statistics Report.
It’s Easier to Monetize Your Audience
Considering that your owned audience is your most valuable asset, it’s only natural that you want to preserve it the best you can. But you also want to monetize it. Generating revenue from the audience you own is much easier than when you only rent it.
According to a study by Econsultancy, 66% of marketers claim that email brings them excellent or at least good ROI. One of the reasons why email is more effective is that you can personalize messages more easily in an email than in a Facebook post. Customers are more likely to open a personalized mail, as well as to trust what it says and, eventually, make the purchase. Let’s not forget that statistics also show that email is 40 times more effective than Facebook when it comes to acquiring new customers.
What Tools Are Better for Building a Community than Facebook Groups and Why?
So, if you’re going to move away from Facebook groups, you’re probably wondering what you should do instead. We’ve talked about email marketing, but that’s not the only alternative solution. There are many other Facebook group alternatives you can use.
We will mention some of the alternative platforms you can use to build your online community. All of them are a better way to go primarily because, unlike Facebook, they don’t put restrictions and limitations that can have devastating consequences.
One of the most convenient platforms for building an online community is Group.app. It offers a variety of features that make both building and growing a community a walk in the park. Group.app is a convenient solution both for you as a business owner and the members of your community.
One of the best things about Group.app is the complete ownership over your community. When you build a community on Group.app, you can be sure that it is completely owned by you and that you’re the one to organize it the way it suits you.
Here are some of the features that make Group.app worth your time:
- You can create private and open channels to manage community discussions
- Integrate your community directly with your favorite marketing & business tools
- Scalable admin controls allow you to manage your community the way you want
- Charge membership subscription (yearly or monthly)
- You can choose between public and private groups depending on your needs
- Create resource library inside of your community
- Easily broadcast and notify your community members with a click of a button
- Group members can rely on Group.app’s mobile app for android & iOS to follow what’s happening wherever they are
Building a discourse community is another great solution. It allows you to organize your group by categories and topics. Dynamic notifications allow community members to be up to date with everything that’s happening. And spam blocking feature makes using this forum software a pleasant experience.
One of the best examples of how successful a community can be on Discourse is the SmartThings community. SmartThings organizes discussions by different categories, including Announcements, Collaborative Wiki Posts, SmartApps and Automations, and General Discussion. Members also have easy access to the most active topics and those with recent posts.
It is interesting to note that there is also the Meta category, where members can discuss the community forum itself. They have a chance to leave their opinions and suggestions on how to make it work even better.
On Slack, you can create different channels for different topics and divide the group that way to keep it better organized. Other useful features include private messages, audio and video calls, as well as the possibility to connect Slack to other software.
You’re still not sure whether you should use Slack for your business? Let’s take a look at some of the most successful communities on Slack to help you get the idea of how others use it to manage their business.
With over 150,000 members, more than 20,000 product managers, and close to 300 channels, Mind the Product is one of the largest and most dynamic communities on Slack. All members are asked to follow several House rules so as not to disrupt the workflow.
Depending on particular interests and needs, there are several channels members can join. For conferences and meetups, it’s best to join #producttank and #mtpcon channels. Other useful channels include #monetization, #launch, #freshcontent, and many others.
One of the best things about the Product School community is that its admins host AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions every week, which gives members a chance to discuss a topic with leaders from Amazon, Google, Netflix, etc.
Another popular thing about the Product School community is that you can ask for recommendations and reviews of your own product prototype in the #feedback channel.
Data Science community is also a good example of how beneficial Slack can be. It gathers people interested in data and machine learning. The community is built to offer a possibility to share knowledge, get help, as well as collaborate. There are 14 channels where members can discuss different topics. There is also a separate channel for sharing resources, and another one for books about data science.
Vanilla Forums, as the best forum software of 2020, is, without a doubt, worth considering. But it is important to note that this software primarily focuses on customer support. This makes it just the perfect option for those looking to build a community with the main purpose of hearing out their customers.
One of the main things that draw people to choose this software is the ability to easily customize the community built on it. If you want your forum to look like your site, this is the best possible solution for you.
One of the most active communities on Vanilla Forums is Smartsheet. It has nearly 40,000 members and close to 20,000 discussions. The topics covered are divided into different categories, which makes it easier for members to find what they need.
In addition to answering Smartsheet questions, the community also offers a chance to learn more about the best practices in project management. Members can ask for help from fellow users, as well as Smartsheet experts.
Last but not least, BuddyPress is a great Facebook Group alternative for those who’d like to keep the social network feel. Members can create profiles, send messages, and follow activity streams. But let’s not forget about the big difference — you’re the one in control. You can pick the features depending on your community demands.
BuddyPress is quite easy and quick to set up. Just keep in mind that it helps you create your community using WordPress.
Move Away from Facebook Groups, but You Don’t Have to Rule Them out Completely
Now that we’ve listed quite a few reasons why you should move away from Facebook groups, you’re probably already thinking about how to delete a Facebook group. However, this is not necessarily the solution.
Yes, it’s better to switch to some of the previously listed platforms where you can own or at least control your community. But there are still ways you can use your Facebook group, too. For instance, you can borrow someone else’s community. Let’s see what exactly we mean by this.
How to Borrow Other People’s Communities
An excellent way to make use of Facebook groups is to look for other communities in your niche. For instance, you can join a particular community to get some quality content or just ideas for your own website.
All you need to do is simply make a post in the group asking others for some ideas or their opinion on a particular matter you want to deal with. Not only will this brainstorming session help you eventually deliver top-notch content, but it will also get you more traffic.
Many will probably check out your website right after they see your post. Then, when your content is ready, go back to that group. Let people know how much they’ve helped you and invite them to check out your content. And there — you get even more visitors. Some of them might join your audience and even turn into your customers eventually.
Whether you were blindsided by the positive sides or you’re just used to Facebook groups, it is high time for some changes. If you’re just starting your business, make sure you get off on the right foot. And this means away from Facebook groups.
As you could see, there are so many other convenient platforms and ways to approach your community. Why would you stick with the option that could potentially do more harm than good?