Facebook groups were originally seen as an easy way to build up a group, without the need to build your own platform. Facebook did a great job enticing a lot of us into their platform and setting up groups. These days I see a greater and greater number of membership and training providers turning to Facebook groups for their membership element. Even software companies have set up support groups on the platform. I believe this is a majorly risky strategy…
Why it is a risky strategy
Facebook will change their algorithms at will and you have 0 control over it as the group owner. User posts no matter how valid will disappear and you only see what Facebook deems interesting enough according to their rules. As a member of a number of groups, I see my posts disappearing in the swamp and never receive an answer. No matter how good the owner is, I only receive answers when it is a group that is relatively inactive.
I understand that when you are starting out cheap and cheerful is the way forward. At that stage, you may use a Facebook group to test your market and try out if your idea for a community has actual wings. If it has, then move the community onto your own platforms aka website as soon as you possibly can. One of my mentors James Schramko calls that concept “Owning the racecourse”, he is an internet marketer with a very successful community following for years, where you as the owner set the rules and own the knowledge and data and you control everything that happens in the group.
So if the algorithmic risk is something that doesn’t bother you, then explore the risk of Facebook closing your group down at any time when they change the rules. You instantly lose all the members and their data as well as any knowledge shared within the group. You wouldn’t be the first, it would have happened to.
Why is it not effective
From a member, client or course participants’ perspective, it immediately screams cheap and for some of us a bit worried about our privacy it raises a concern because we know that is Facebook’s biggest priority. If I have paid good money to be part of a course, use a tool or belong to a membership group, then I would like to be given something useful in return. A group where my messages and questions get lost, is not high on my useful ranking. In these groups, the squeakiest wheel get’s the most attention, often to the detriment of other quality questions and knowledge sharing.
I am making the big assumption that you created a course, membership community or software tool to help your end-users and that you care about them and their success with your stuff. In my view dumping them in a Facebook group is not the solution, nor does it show them much respect for their investment in your product and services.
I recently signed up for a few courses with experts and paid good money for them and both offered me a Facebook group. I suffer from distraction overwhelm when I have to enter their groups. A question I posted earlier will likely never be answered because it has vanished in the never-ending stream of others. The more this happens the less likely I am to engage in their communities. I am not sure if this has happened to you, but I hazard a guess that you may have found yourself looking for something specific on Facebook and 20 minutes later you are still there trawling through stuff without actually remembering what you were there for in the first place.
Is that the customer experience you want to be associated with?
What should you do instead?
This day and age you have absolutely no excuse to not have a community on your own website or on a dedicated community platform. If you have a website, then explore the plugins or add-ons available to set up your community there. If you are not sure even where to start, tell us what your website is working on and we can help you find a solution, even within small budgets.
If you are hosting your courses on other platforms look for those that have in-built communities. More and more course hosting tools have these tools built in and if they can’t facilitate it within their tools, explore others or link two of them together. Yes, it likely means a bit of an investment financially, but then if you want to be taken seriously and give a great customer experience, having the control strings in your hand in my view is an advantage.
For your client it means they find all your good stuff in one place, without the shiny object distractions lurking in other parts of another platform. It gives them stress-free access to what they bought from you in the first place. Customer experience matters and keeping them with you on your platform for as long as possible is what companies like Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, LinkedIn and others have figured out.
I am a member of a few communities and I truly value those that I can log into and find what I was looking for in a heartbeat. The owners of these communities made sure I knew where to find things, how to post and what to look for when I was a new member. Typically here I find that the owner is also the one answering questions.
This is the kind of user experience I am happy to pay for and appreciate.