There are a lot of benefits to running a Facebook group.
You have probably heard of some of them, such as growing a great community of like-minded people and all the authority and prestige running a big Facebook group brings. And of course it can act as a great sales funnel for your services and products. Probably the number one reason why you would start a Facebook group in the first place…
I ran a Facebook group for 3 years. While it was not huge (I limited it to about 3,000 members) it did have good engagement and I consider it a success.
In fact, since I closed the group I have had many people contact me, thank me and tell me how sad they were that the group stopped.
Some people cannot understand why I closed a Facebook group that was ‘successful’, just starting to find its niche and certainly on course for even ‘better things’.
This post will hopefully address some of those reasons, as well as give some helpful pointers for anyone else out there who is thinking of starting their own group.
But before we get into that, let’s look at why I started a Facebook group in the first place.
When I started out copywriting I couldn’t find any groups that were 100% appealing to me.
At the time the only groups and forums I could find on the internet about copywriting were generally what I would consider a bit unfriendly to new joiners, and in some cases quite antagonistic when it came to asking ‘newbie’ type questions about copywriting.
So my intention was to set up a friendly community for copywriters and those interested in copywriting to connect and learn from one another, and also for people new to copywriting to learn, grow and prosper.
I believe this objective was achieved.
Here are some of the things I learned:
Naive of me maybe, but it was never my intention to monetise the group, in fact it never even crossed my mind when I set it up.
For this reason it was not branded in the slightest from the get go, and I had no real plans as to how I might ever use it to make money or attract clients.
Later on I did bring in my logos on the memes for the theme days, but I stuck to the same rules as the rest of the group, and only ever promoted myself on the weekly ‘Free Friday’ promo days.
This was a mistake.
Had I known the amount of time and effort running a Facebook group entails, I would never have set up one that did not contribute in some way to my overall business objective.
Pretty much all the successful Facebook groups out there sell something and start out with a plan or at least an inkling of how they will monetise their group at a future point.
My first paid product was not launched until June 2017, by then people were used to me not selling my products or ever seriously promoting myself. As a result it felt awkward and uncomfortable and quite frankly, by the time I launched even newbies in the group who the product was perfect for weren’t interested.Key takeaway: Have a business plan for your group from day one – and stick to it. Click To Tweet
‘A’ stands for authority and is the big carrot dangled in front of most people and a big reason why they set up a Facebook group; to become seen as the expert or ‘go to‘ person in their field.
While running the group did give me some authority, it didn’t directly translate into cash in the bank.
Okay, so had I not run the group I probably wouldn’t have had great opportunities like being a guest on podcasts or blog posts, or connecting with some really lovely and supportive people.
But none of that directly compensated me for the time and effort I put into managing the group.
In fact, in some instances I would say it actually excluded me from the group. After all, people love to rally against ‘authority figures’.
At times, I felt more like a trainee school teacher at St Trinian’s than one of the group.
So before you start a group, really have a think about what ‘authority’ will mean and do for you and how you intend to assert it.
It was great to tell people I ran a Facebook group for copywriters, but as my clients were not copywriters, most of them didn’t care either way.
I had to question if I was simply bolstering up my own ego.
The truth of the matter is, being captain of a ship can be a lonely place.Once again, my key piece of advice here is that when you run a group, make sure it is aligned with your business objectives...and your target audience. Click To Tweet
Never underestimate the amount of time running a group actually takes. There is a reason why groups generally have more than one or two admin.
When you are running a group it’s not just the general admin tasks you need to take care of such as attracting members to your group, vetting them and moderating group posts, you also have to keep the group engaged and it all operating within the right set of parameters.
Whether you are running challenges, having themed days or generally posting – all these things require a massive amount of time and can be a drain on your energy too.
After all, when you are running a group – it’s not about you – it’s about your group members. You have to provide them with resources, posts and help them.
It’s not – or shouldn’t be – some glorified promo fest; even if your group is branded.
You have to keep on coming up with the goods and the value.
Again, a lot of this comes down to good planning.But planning or no planning – running a group is a risk that your time and resources are taken away from other more important things you should be focusing on – like your core business, your health, and your loved ones. Click To Tweet
One last thing on this point, don’t forget that the group will in all likelihood have members from all over the world operating from different time zones 24/7 (not to mention completely different sets of cultural norms, customs and behaviours).
Some people will join your group for one reason, and one reason only.
To promote themselves and sell their services. To take and never give.
They can be easy to spot and deal with (assuming you don’t allow self promo in your group).
But then of course there are the people who push the limits.
These are the people who will do things that aren’t strictly breaking the rules per se, but against the spirit and ethos of the group. Always answering a post with a link to their blog or product, soliciting members of the group by private message, dropping affiliate links in the comments, encouraging people to join other rival groups etc.
The list goes on.
After a while, for me at least, it all got a bit disheartening.
As the owner of the group I felt a duty to protect the group member’s interests. Maybe this was wrong.
If anything, this was the part of running a group I found most arduous.
It got to a point where I would almost dread looking at the notifications on my phone sometimes – just in case there was another person I would have to put back into line, send a private message or (worst case scenario) kick out of the group and ban.My takeaway for this would be to have a solid strategy in place for these instances, and rigorously apply it. Click To Tweet
Unfortunately trolls exist.
You can mitigate the risk of having them in your group by asking questions before they join, making sure they have all the right credentials, profile pic, timeline feed etc.
But not always.
I will be honest with you. Sometimes, just occasionally, these types had me in tears.
You see, trolls are not just those who are overtly rude, disruptive and aggressive.
There are also those who are deliberately passive aggressive or belligerent, or who will intentionally pick up on a disruptive thread and steer it further off course. These types can be even more dangerous than outright and obvious trolls.
What they do is pervasive and hard to regulate against.
Fortunately when the trolls do break cover, they are easy to spot.
But what do you do once you have identified someone who is not exactly a foe, but whose intentions are provocative and less than friendly?
If that person is popular in the group, it can be tricky to throw them out for ‘no apparent reason’.
To outsiders it just looks like you are running a dictatorship if you boot people out who haven’t obviously broken any rules – even if you know they are constantly undermining your authority and conspiring behind your back to make your life more difficult!
In hindsight I should have dealt with some of these unlovable scoundrels a lot differently…which brings me nicely on to my next point.
There is a saying that lions circle hesitant prey. It’s true when you are in charge too.
When you run a group you have to be calm, firm and decisive but always carry a big stick (or get someone else loyal to you to do it for you).
During the time I ran the group there were only two instances where people left of their own volition that I was sad about. One was a person who had asked for my help, but I chose not get involved as I felt it was important to remain ‘impartial’. The other was someone who shared a link to a useful post (their own) which I disallowed as it was against the rules of the group.
On both occasions on reflection, I could have handled the situations better.
However, generally speaking the times I did not act quickly or firmly enough were the ones I regretted the most.My takeaway point from all this is; put in place fair and sensible rules and make sure you stick to them. Click To Tweet
The main reason was the drain on my time and energy. Running the group took my focus away from other more pressing things I should have been focusing on.
What’s more, despite all my efforts, I was not happy with the direction the group was going in.
My intention was for it to be a group to learn about and discuss copywriting and related issues. Sometimes I felt that those newer to copywriting did not get much of a look in, and those who should have known better were focusing on completely irrelevant things (or worse picking up on other people’s innocent mistakes for no good reason).
In truth, it was not a decision I took lightly and was very difficult for me.On the whole, running a Facebook group or any community can be really rewarding, especially if you are providing value to your members and getting something back in return. Click To Tweet
Despite the above, overall I loved running The Copywriter Facebook group and connecting with and meeting so many like-minded people.
I can honestly say it enriched my life and was a wonderful and worthwhile experience. I learned a lot.
However, I feel I closed the group at the right time. And left on a high.
What does the future hold? Do I intend to start another community at some point? How will it differ?
The future’s bright….let’s just say ‘watch this space’.
I must give special thanks to Sue Kelso Ryan for all her help and support being the admin of the group. Sue was a great source of support and is a super friend. She also just happens to be an excellent writer, ghost writer, proofreader and editor. You can contact Sue at her website here.