This blog is not an anti-Facebook group rant at all. I’m a happy member of a couple of Facebook groups for personal and professional interests. Rather, it’s a story about the three things I learnt in starting, running and subsequently closing a Facebook group for my business, Houseway Consulting.
The idea was born in lockdown
During 2020, as many others did, I invested in self-development and the development of new technologies and platforms for growing and sustaining my consulting company in the context of the pandemic.
I’d already established a solid presence on LinkedIn and that was my primary social media platform. My Facebook page for Houseway Consulting was more of a shop window and directory to find my services, but I was very aware that my ideal clients, heads of schools in Southern Africa and abroad, were not active on Facebook.
Yet I was curious about the opportunity of a Facebook group to build a community around my specific area of expertise, marketing strategy. Some of this curiosity was fueled by a surge of interest in Facebook groups by entrepreneurs around the world. It seemed like a worthwhile area to explore – And 2020 was my year of exploring new opportunities! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
I didn’t just dip a toe into the water
I went all in. I set up and promoted the group as a private Facebook group linked to my Houseway Consulting Facebook page. I invited members, did Facebook lives, ran a video series of my own and a 5-day challenge through the group, arranged guest expert speakers and special offers. I ended up building a small community of 65 members that were local and global, across various industry sectors and designations, focusing on demystifying marketing strategy and sharing knowledge and skills in this area.
But a few months later, I decided to close the group. I felt I’d sufficiently tested the concept to make a call to ‘go/ no go’. And while I was grateful for all the support and interest shown, I found it unsustainable for my company.
These are the 3 key lessons I learned.
Lesson #1 – Stick to your niche
My niche is marketing strategy for independent schools. That is technically a ‘double niche’ in that my specialisation is in a skill and a sector. I stepped out of my niche to a wider area of marketing strategy across sectors. This meant I was playing outside of my ‘sweet spot’ and watering down my market positioning in which I’d invested years. (Market positioning is my game! It’s what I train!)
Why did I step out of my niche? The reason was, I didn’t believe a Facebook group on this ‘double niche’ would attract enough interest.
At the same time, I did not want to start another school marketing Facebook group. There are many of those, excellent ones.
It was also because my area of expertise is research-based marketing strategy, not tactics.
Tactics makes up perhaps 80% of a school marketer’s work and strategy 20% (or less). I find that most of the existing successful, busy Facebook groups on school marketing are predominantly tactics-related, and run by technology or consulting companies who work across strategy and tactics, channeling related value, content and events through the groups. Strategy on its own in private schools is relatively small as a niche – Not fitting the criteria for a successful Facebook group.
Facebook groups thrive on engagement. There must be a specific need that is fulfilled through the group (the target market).
I’ve learnt that the best Facebook groups help their members by relieving their pain, providing solutions to problems that are in the here and how, ongoing, providing identity and belonging, sometimes nostalgia, often related to personal or professional success. They’re a powerful platform for the right offering. I have seen some successful Facebook groups run by schools for their own communities, and I believe this is a growing area.
My own Facebook group on marketing strategy did not meet these criteria and was unlikely to ever achieve that due to my specific niche. The larger the need for immediate and ongoing help from not only the admin but all the members of the group, the more likely a Facebook group will succeed and provide value to all, in my experience. This is marketing strategy 101!
A close friend of mine started her own private Facebook group at the same time, and it’s a runaway success. I’m so pleased for her! Her group is about healing personal wounds, recovering from past traumas and finding a soulful life. Her expertise is in this area (she already had a name for this and an in-person network) and she posts constantly on uplifting and motivational content, as well as providing training material for the recovery process.
Here’s is an important key success factor – Facebook groups have an energy that can become self-sustaining, and the community becomes the group. This is what I see as a successful Facebook group. It’s hard work, but if it’s well positioned and well managed in a specific area of need, it can thrive!
Lesson #2 – Recognise the tough parts (investment in time, loneliness, responsibility)
Allow me to repeat that: It is hard work. And much of it is unpaid work. Hours and hours of time. Especially for a busy, engaging group. Sure, it’s marketing and promotion, but then it needs to bring in business/ return on investment at some point. If not, I would suggest you review it. Is it achieving the objectives? How can it be adjusted to better achieve those objectives.
There are some wonderful free challenges and courses online for running successful Facebook groups. These can help in getting the basics right. I do recommend for example Rachael Spiewak’s group ‘Rock Your Tribe’ as one example of a great resource. These training opportunities also help you to be objective about the good and bad points of your Facebook group and how to realign for best results.
I did find running the group strangely lonely at times. And the responsibility for producing good content created some pressure. Good content on Facebook groups is a little different to content on other platforms. My topic and my style is less suited to Facebook groups. It’s my opinion, and happy to discuss this further.
Lesson #3 – Spammers and Facebook notifications
I do need to mention this, as it was a disappointment. But I recognise it comes with the territory. As the group grew and I shared the link on public platforms, more requests to join came in and some were seeking only to join in order to spam my members with hard selling. That was awful, and I learnt some hard lessons.
In addition, I found that the notifications for groups on Facebook are far more intrusive than other types of platforms, requiring a change of settings which not all may like to do. I’ve never believed in pushing my customers into buying from me. It doesn’t work. And I do find that Facebook groups can become persistent noise. Unless there is sufficient value for the members, they’re unlikely to survive.
My only regret is that I feel I disappointed some good people. I’m thankful to those who generously supported my efforts while the group existed and I do hope they got some value from the content.
The good parts!
I did have fun, despite the lessons learnt, and I grew a whole lot of new skills in the area of Facebook groups which I’ll apply to my work in marketing strategy for independent schools. I’ve learnt a sincere appreciation for all those who are hard at work administering busy Facebook groups.
It also made me appreciate my primary platform, LinkedIn. The LinkedIn platform is a remarkably intelligent platform with a level of functionality that many underestimate and underutilise. I’m a huge fan. Find me there!
I’d love to know if you’ve had the experience of setting up a Facebook group?
Comment below if you’ve travelled this road and can help others from the lessons you have learnt along the way!
I'm Keryn House
I enjoy creating marketing anecdotes and visuals related to my horse as there is a lot to be learned from animals, and this provides a unique context to my writing. My horse Slick (aka Sports Express) has been with me for many years and is a source of inspiration and relaxation for my strategic mind. He lives on a friend’s farm in KZN and I see him twice a week.
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