There is a vibrant place online where like-minded people are meeting over shared interests. If you aren't doing so you should be, in fact you could be leading such a place. I am finding conversations and genuine community that reminds me of the early days of networking online. In the 80's, we used our home modems to call bulletin board systems (BBSes) to interact. The buzz of online networking exploded as the Internet took off. We would search for Internet Relay Chat (IRC) rooms on topics we were interested in, log in and begin chatting with other participants right away. I fondly remember being a member (and host) of multiple forums, where messages were threaded under different topics and notifications of replies would have members eagerly sign in to see what was new.
It's Easier Than Ever to Join or Start an Online Community
If you are longing for this type of communication or you want to build or join an online community you should go where the people are: Facebook. Profiles and Pages are fine, but it's Facebook Groups where the networking is taking place.
The organizer of the Achievers Alliance Facebook Group, John Morgan, explained why he enjoys Facebook Groups, "I'm in four groups and the people in there post way more often than they do publicly. What I like about it is that people are already on Facebook. It's easy to build engagement because they are there anyways."
With an average of 890 million daily active users, it makes sense to create a group on Facebook. Jeff Brown explained, "What I have in my group for Read to Lead is members discussing their favorite books, what they are currently reading, learning and implementing and, the best part is, they're all doing it in the presence of my brand. My group helps give them an opportunity to interact with like-minded people and exercise their thought leadership muscles while doing it."
Smart business leaders and entrepreneurs are creating groups to become the leaders of a particular topic. Authors have groups on their books, artists have groups on their specialties, podcasters have groups on their favorite medium. Now is the time to join or start your own group.
Tips to create and manage your Facebook Group
- Know before you go. Begin by joining and participating in other groups. Visit https://www.facebook.com/groups to find groups to explore. Do this to get a feel for how groups function and to see what works and what doesn't. This is a good way to see what you can bring to your group that is different than what is currently being offered elsewhere.
- Decide whether you want your group to be: Public, Closed or Secret. Public: Anyone can see the group, its members and their posts. Closed: Anyone can find the group and see who's in it. Only members can see posts. Secret: Only members can find the group and see posts.
- Create clear rules that state the Do's and Don'ts of your Group. Don't be a stick in the mud with this, but make it clear. For example, you may want to ask members not to post links to articles without context or to refrain from self-promotion.
- Pin your rules to the top, so it is the first thing new and returning members see.
- Don't add people to your group without their consent. This is a common annoyance I heard from multiple members of groups.
- Ask open-ended questions to engage with your members.
- Save yourself time. Here's how to schedule Facebook group posts. I use SlackSocial, which is a free solution to help you. Be sure to keep track of the content you schedule on Facebook groups.
- Use several tags and a clear description for your group. Why did you create it? What's it all about? What should a person expect from being a member?
- Promote and introduce fellow members to one another. It's your job to be the connector.
- Share resources by uploading files (like Word documents, PDFs and images) directly to your group.
- Dedicate a day of the week to a certain topic. For example, members of my group, NBN Club (save $4.75/month right now) share their goals on Mondays and we review the outcome on Fridays. I also use Mondays to have members critique another member's blog, so we can provide constructive feedback from people with different backgrounds.
- Pay attention to your group notifications. You can do this by downloading the app and by looking to the left side of your screen when logged in to Facebook on your desktop. Add your group as a favorite and it will remain among the top items you see.
The most important tip I can give you is this.
Get the email addresses of your members before adding them to your group. Facebook burned us before by changing company Pages to a "pay to play"model. Page administrators typically have to pay to reach the majority of their fans. Use Facebook as the platform for your group, but don't let it hold the keys and control it.
Create a brief survey using Google Drive. Ask for your member's First Name, Last Name, and email address. You can include a single question to poll your members about your group. Use the question to learn from them and to improve it.
I also recommend using a landing page for your group. Any future members should sign up with their email address. Make a note that the email should be the same as their Facebook email. Once they apply using the form on the landing page, invite them manually through your group using their email address.
There are more than 700 million people using Facebook groups. At one time it seemed like Facebook was ready to abandon groups, but with recent updates and the slick, new mobile app, my money is on groups continuing to be a vibrant destination for people looking to connect online - and isn't that what social networking is all about?
This article originally appeared in the Tennessean.