Running An Equine Facebook Group
You might be thinking about starting your own equine Facebook group for your business. It’s no secret that Facebook is prioritising groups as they move the platform back to its roots of private spaces. Here’s what founder Mark Zuckerberg said back in March 2019
“Over the last 15 years, Facebook and Instagram have helped people connect with friends, communities, and interests in the digital equivalent of a town square. But people increasingly also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room.”
With a dedicated groups news stream in the mobile app (which is replicated in the new desktop version being released later in 2020), it’s easier than ever to consume group content instead of the mix of ads and status updates in the main news feeds. Plus at present, there is no Facebook ad inventory available in groups – so advertisers can’t show ads inside group or directly target groups in their wider ad campaigns. Anytime a huge ad platform like Facebook keeps an area of the platform ad free, it’s a big sign of how much they are prioritising it as an essential part of the future of the platform.
At this point you might be confused because you see ads in Facebook groups all the time – these are ads posted by individual group users for free, rather than ads served with the Facebook ad platform.
So we’ve established groups are important to the future of Facebook but are they right for your business? In my opinion, there are two main reasons to build a group for your business. The first is to attract and build a community with things in common that align with your brand. The Equine Business Association members group is an example of this – it unites equine business owners (our perfect customer) and is also an integral part of our product which focuses on education, support and networking. If you are a retailer specialising in equipment for miniature ponies, then hosting a group for mini owners would be a great way to build a community that aligns with what you sell and establishes you as the expert in your market.
The second reason to build a group is to connect and nurture the fans of your brand. A great example of this is the Badminton Superfans group which brings together the avid fans of Badminton Horse Trials brand all year round, even though the event only runs for 1 week of the year.
In my opinion, groups can give you more engagement, reach, brand loyalty and in turn sales than an organic Facebook page in 2020, which is why so many businesses are setting them up for themselves.
Now that we understand the reason for having a Facebook group you might be ready to jump in and start one or perhaps you already have one that’s up and running. You already know I’m a big fan of groups but they can be far more work than a Facebook page, especially when you are first getting started with one.
Running a successful group is like hosting a great party. Fun fact, in my younger days I used to organise parties for a living (club nights rather than posh dinner parties…). I would never have guessed at the time, that the lessons I learnt wielding a clipboard behind a velvet rope in club land would be so useful in running online communities.
Based on my experience of running my own groups as well as insights from being part of the Facebook Share To Connect Community program, here are the 5 key steps to making sure your Facebook group is a success and an enjoyable place for your members to hang out in online.
1) Welcome members
The welcome you give to new group members is their first impression of your group. Make sure they get a warm greeting as they step in through the virtual door. Facebook has made this easier by allowing you to welcome all new members in one bulk post. You can of course welcome people one by one as well.
2) Get the first post done & dusted
We’ve all been at a party and either been or seen wall flowers clinging to the outer edges of the room. It’s natural to be shy in a new group of people but if you went to a party and didn’t speak to anyone then you’d probably leave early and never return. From my own data crunching, a member is far more likely to regularly post or comment in a group once they have made their first interaction. The welcome post (see step 1) is a great opportunity to break the ice because members often comment on the post they have been tagged in. Even better is to encourage new members to start their own thread by introducing themselves, which also has the added bonus of letting other group members find out more about new faces in the community.
3) Encourage discussion
A group lives or dies on having a regular stream of new posts and comments. But this can be hard to force when a group is new or small in numbers – you can’t force people to post! This is where having a stack of posts you can drop in to encourage discussion really helps. Either schedule them in regularly to keep things moving along or deploy them as needed when the group is having a quiet spell. What sort of posts encourage discussion? Open ended light hearted questions are great for this. Want to see this in action? Check out this post in the EBA members group with 55 comments at the time of writing!
4) Help things along
You’ve attracted a new member to your group, welcomed them in and they’ve made their first post but it’s crickets, with no comments, answers or even a like. How do you think that member feels right now? We’re all rational adults running businesses but when a post bombs it can take you back to school days and sitting alone in the dining room.
As the group host, this is when you should jump in & respond. You might not know the answer to the query been posted but you can add an emoji or tag another member who might be able to help.
Running an online community is best treated like a benevolent dictatorship in my opinion. Having rules & reinforcing them benefits the community as a whole. Facebook have recently upgraded group functionality to allow you to set rules & require prospective members to agree to them before they join. No matter how clear the rules are, you will have people who flout them especially when it comes to no advertising. Get used to not being the most popular person on the internet when you police them but in my opinion, it’s always best to give people the benefit of the doubt before you kick them out of a group for rule breaking.
If you’re not able to be in your group on a daily basis, you will need to appoint extra admins or moderators to help manage rule breaking and the occasional group psycho who drops a link to something illegal or obscene (yes it does happen…).
With these 5 actions in place, you’ll be much more likely to have a fun, useful & popular Facebook group. Now it’s over to you. Do you have hints & tips that didn’t make this list? Pop them in the comments below so that everyone can benefit from them.
PLUS if you’d like to be able to access the Equine Business Association members group, then why not click here & join us today?