Three Facebook Group strategies for 2019
It’s 2010. Five boys called Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson auditioned for The X Factor. David Cameron became the Prime Minister. Flash mobs were considered a legitimate marketing stunt. You get the idea. Alongside the aforementioned events we all could’ve done without, Facebook introduced their newly revamped “Groups” product in a live press conference straight from Palo Alto.
The product had existed prior to this, but the relaunch framed Groups as spaces where small communities of friends share information, with each group controlled by the entirety of its members. This was to lead an important new direction for Facebook and fundamentally change the way people interacted on the platform. While some of the more active Facebook users adopted the product to stay in touch with their childhood friends and ‘Class of 1998’, it took eight more years to start gaining traction with brands and marketers.
2018 could have been marked as the year of resurgence for Facebook Groups. Why did it take so long for them to catch on? There are two key reasons for this:
The first one has to do with the ever-increasing need for privacy. When sharing what you had for brunch on your timeline was a daily event a few years ago, the idea of having a personal conversation openly in the public domain doesn’t seem that attractive anymore. People actively look for ways to avoid branded messages and escape their ad-filled timelines.
The second reason? Meaningful interactions. What started as Facebook’s newly defined strategy towards prioritising content from friends and family and turned into the social media buzzword of 2018, saw brands and publishers crying out for lost reach and turning into alternative solutions to share content.
Facebook Groups offer just this. Content posted in Groups offers brands the chance to game the algorithm so they get more eyeballs on content, set up a branded Group and view Group analytics, and tap into the authentic sharing mindset of their customers. Because that’s what Groups are all about, encouraging sharing through shared context.
The most prominent content strategies for brands can loosely be divided into three categories; Product Feedback, Content Distribution and Brand Positioning. Each of these allows brands to harness the needs and interests of different customer segments, building up to their overarching business objective.
The Group for brands with hard-core fans who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. Think Monzo, Lululemon and Netflix. The sole purpose of this type of group is to gather feedback from fans, both to aid product development, but also to make your customers feel truly heard. The role of the brand here can be more prevalent than in other Groups - it’s acceptable to be sharing product content and taking part in conversation when that’s the Group objective to begin with.
The Content Distribution strategy allows brands to host a space about a specific product or aspect of the brand its customers are particularly interested in. Unlike a brand’s Facebook page, the content should be “owned” by the Group members, not the brand itself. It’s a chance for the fans to share their experiences around the brand or product, not an arena for the brand to push more content down their customers’ throats. Occasional posts by the brand are reasonable, but generally the 90/10 rule should be applied: 90% member posts, 10% brand posts. Respect the Group dynamic. The fitness tech brand Peloton do just that - they run one of the largest Facebook communities centred around customer content. It sees hundreds of member posts on a daily basis, the majority of them showcasing how much fans love the products and how they’ve integrated them into their lives.
The broadest of all three Group strategies, the Brand Positioning route aims to build favourable associations around the brand, rather than post about the brand itself. Take Monzo and their “Saving Squad” Facebook Group. The brand known for their community-first approach run a Group that simply allows its members to ‘share their saving progress and chat with other savers to make the most of their money’. By doing this, Monzo truly positions itself as a “people’s bank”, emphasising softer brand qualities and showing they’re working together with their members to reach their savings goals. Aligning themselves with positive money moments and saving successes and will go a long way in building loyalty in the long run. Another example of this is a dementia support group we set up for Unforgettable, acting as a community for family caregivers and people living with dementia and memory loss. It allows members to connect with people facing similar experiences across the country, sharing personal stories with others who truly understand what it’s like to be dealing with dementia.
What’s in store for Groups in 2019? With scandals popping up left, right and center, Facebook will keep on investing in initiatives that create unity, rather than division.
The latest developments have been the added ability to join a Group as a business page, updating the Group with FB Story content and sharing LIVE videos with the community.
Facebook have also started rolling out a chat room feature, combining Groups with features from FB Messenger. The move allows users to start chats about sub-topics in relation to the Group that up to 250 members can join. The chats could provide an effective space for organising meetups or sharing more niche content relevant to only a small portion of the Group in real time. The feature blurs the line between private messaging and community interaction, which could be seen as a move to fight off some very high-potential competitors in the private community and messaging game. Telegram, we’re looking at you.