Have you considered starting a Facebook group for your customers? We heard from Lisa of Twig + Tale about how she built and uses her Facebook group (check that post out here), and today we’re talking to three other shop owners who run business Facebook groups.
Facebook groups are places to build community, and they’re pretty different from a business page. The main difference between a Facebook group and a Facebook page is that people will actually see what you post in a Facebook group (rather than a small percentage who see your page posts). Groups (so far) aren’t pay to play, because they’re intended for actual community gatherings, not for brands to advertise to customers.
If you aren’t a member of any Facebook groups, you may want to join some to get a feel for how they work before starting one for your business. I think you’d like the Aeolidia Biz Tips group!
You may be a member of some groups already. I am in business-building groups, neighborhood groups, and event groups. You may be wondering why customers would want to join your group, and what they would get out of it.
Things to know about starting your own Facebook group:
- If you have really nailed down who your target customer is, it makes sense that they would want to hang out together, as they should have a lot in common if you’ve done it right! So they may be more eager to form a community than you may think.
- If you aren’t sure what the point of your group will be, start small, and your customers can guide you as far as focus and topics. You may be surprised what they want from your group.
- Starting small is fine, but know that for a small group, you’ll need to be in there more often spurring action and starting conversation, or it may fizzle out. Once you hit the right number of people, natural leaders and extroverts will keep it humming busily without much from you. There’s a second tipping point where your group grows large enough that it will require more moderation from you, so keep that in mind as you grow. Too many people can be chaos and detract from the usefulness of your group.
- If you’re on the fence about this, it’s better to start now than delay. Just think of how many more people you’ll have a year from now if you don’t wait! Growth snowballs on these kind of things.
And here is how our three real live business owners are using Facebook groups!
Using a Facebook group for community and customer service
I have a Facebook Group for my business and it’s terrific! I sell patterns, so it’s primarily a place where people can “show & tell” and get lots of nice oohs and aahs over what they’ve made. It’s also a place where people can ask questions, “audition” fabric choices and get feedback, and more. I jump in there with comments and occasionally answer questions—but mostly it’s customer-led.
I know a lot of people say to start a FB group right away, but I’m really glad I waited until I already had a pretty substantial following. That allowed the group to be mostly fan-driven and not feel like yet another sales channel.
I link to the group in my out-of-office autoresponder when I’m on vacation—recommending it as a place to go for a quick answer to a question while I’m away. And I share cute projects a few times a week on my business Page.
The group definitely leads to sales. Any time someone posts a particularly cute or well-made item I always see a boost in sales for that pattern.
Using a Facebook group as a customer VIP club
I recently started a group because I felt like the mission of my main Facebook business page had shifted as it grew. I have over 30k Facebook page fans now, and the majority are in the “gaining awareness” stage and have not actually purchased from me. The Facebook page is doing a nice job at building brand awareness in that group, but I felt like my real/best customers were getting lost in the crowd.
In the Facebook group, I don’t post more than once a day and I post things I wouldn’t normally post on the main page (behind the scenes stuff, asking for opinions, heads-up on sales, etc) and I get really great interaction. My repeat sales are WAY up and the group members seem to really connect with and feed off each other. Starting the group is one of the best social media decisions I’ve made.
I asked Ryann how she promoted her group, and what her members had in common that made them feel like a community—were they just moms of young boys, or was there more to it than that?
To get my initial group – When I launched [what I call version 1.0 of my own outside-of-etsy] website, I had a big build up on social—5 days of live Facebook chats with a different big announcement each day. One of the days was the creation of the insiders’ group and that’s when I got the majority of them. Since then, I try to post something to the main Facebook page once a week that was shared in the group with just a little call-out “hey come join us over at: ” and usually get a few each week by doing that. I also have an ongoing incentive of a just-for-group-members giveaway for every 100 members we get.
Mostly, members share pics of their boys wearing outfits and even collages of them wearing lots of different of my outfits and they like to comment on each other’s pics. They sometimes ask questions that they wanted to ask me directly (bypassing my customer service help). I like to ask their opinion on designs I am considering, etc.
They do have more in common than just moms of young boys/ I do have a very specific target nailed down in terms of other interests.
Using a Facebook group to drive interest in your products
We grow our group through a list + group building Facebook ad funnel. The group alone has outshined our Instagram as our biggest hook for customers, for the first time. It’s made our FB page way more active, and customers simply interact more. They talk more. It’s a community not a giant ad. People educate others and answer Q’s before me or my team have a chance which is wonderful.
We also have a sub group for UK customers and a sub group for Swappers who want to sell and trade—that group we keep separate because we don’t wanna moderate that stuff and it brings us no cash, and makes it fair to not allow swapping and selling in our main group when we have a designated area for it set up.
It’s like running a party non stop. Like, a selling scentsy/pampered chef type party. Make interactive games to thrive! ASK them to leave comments, vote, join in a give away, share something etc. and they will.
It’s also made me a mini-celebrity and has helped me become a more trusted figure to my customers, they know they are not buying from a big company but Brandon and his team.
Freaking LOOOOVE my groups!! (Email list is #1, but FB is #2, followed by Instagram as #3.)
I asked Brandon how he moderates his group, and he shared,
It’s closed which means members can view the group but have to request to join to be a part of it and interact. If it’s open, people can join without us approving and that leads to spam. We get an occasional spammer, but considering most people have to sign up to our email list to find the group, it’s rare.
We prune and trim ALL day. We close comments (you can turn comments off on any post as an admin) on posts that ask customer Q’s or basic things or any off topic stuff, after the Q has been answered (we usually point them to the FAQ or ask them to email us). We commonly delete threads that are closed and kinda just not on topic, you have to curate.
We post in our group description to email us instead of post threads, and to join the sub group to sell etc. We try to pre-teach this so we don’t have to moderate as much down the line. Plus people kinda learn these rules and community-police for us which is nice!
They share receipts after a purchase which we love! We post about it saying,“share your receipt and show what you got for a chance at a gift card” and it obviously promotes trust to see others actually buying etc. and it stems from there!
People post our waxes, they talk about favorites, they share hauls and collections, storage ideas, cool pics of it in use, share funny stories about the wax, how to remove it, how the dog ate it or the husband spilled it. This community really taught us a lot about who our ICA [Ideal Customer Avatar] REALLY is.
And because we have the sub group for selling and swapping, people don’t usually ever complain or leave bad feedback in our main group—as they do it in the swap group instead, and they wanna sell it etc.
We do SO MUCH to keep our vibe high. We make it very clear what attitudes we expect and we are NOT afraid to piss off a negative nancy who needs to be removed. One drama loving person can ruin a group for thousands. Be merciless, trim them. They have other groups they can poison.
What about you?
Do you think your business could benefit from a Facebook group? Ask questions or share your insight in the comments, or chat about it with other business owners in the Aeolidia Facebook group!
First step: find out who your customer is
You can’t effectively create a space for your customers unless you understand who they are. Download our dream customer exercise below! Print out & fill out, to create your own customer profile of your dream girl or guy. The more specific you get, the more helpful it will be in the long run. Have fun, and dream big!
Shipshape Collective Freebie
An exercise to target a specific, relatable person for effective, non-icky marketing.