Last Friday, during one of our virtual happy hours inside of the Unemployable Initiative, we got to talking about Facebook Groups.
One of the happy hour attendees, Dawn, mentioned that she had built a small Facebook Group where her audience could congregate, as well as a forum on her website. She described feeling ready to take the next step in her community development, but felt at a crossroads for how to proceed.
The question of whether to stick with the forum or pursue a more robust SaaS solution is an interesting one. I’ll cover that in the future.
But the question about whether to keep the Facebook Group is easy:
Facebook Groups lack essential features
There are several reasons why Facebook Groups are a bad choice for your online community.
And contrary to what you may assume, the most important reasons have nothing to do with Facebook’s dwindling reputation or questionable business practices.
At a basic level, Facebook Groups just don’t have the features you need to run an effective community.
- Archiving content and locating past discussions is a disaster.
- Your Group is enveloped within Facebook’s brand, rather than your own.
- You’re forced to play by Facebook’s rules and work within Groups’ limitations.
So even if Mark Zuckerberg were Abraham Lincoln, Facebook Groups wouldn’t be any better as an option.
But here’s the biggest — and most overlooked — reason why a Facebook Group is not a good option for serious online communities:
The greatest supposed strength of Facebook Groups is actually a weakness.
Quality of activity is more important than quantity of activity
The main reason why people consider Facebook Groups for their communities is because of Facebook’s massive reach.
The thinking goes something like this: If I offer a Facebook Group as part of a paid membership, the Group will get more activity than a standalone community on my own website because people already use Facebook regularly.
At first glance, it’s a compelling argument. But peel back the layers of the onion, and it falls apart.
Here’s why: Context is everything.
And Facebook is the wrong context for the kind of online community building that results in personal transformations for your members and a durable revenue stream for you.
Yes, a lot of people across the globe use Facebook (though it’s fair to note that large swaths of people are also leaving Facebook, because posts like this are accurate). For the billion+ worldwide who still use Facebook, participating in your community on Facebook Groups would undeniably be easier based on the simple logic that it’s one less website to log into. I won’t argue that.
But easier isn’t always better, especially for online communities.
You may think it’s a benefit that someone can log into Facebook and discover a red alert in the upper right hand corner that takes them to community activity. Woo-hoo! So convenient!
That person most likely did not log into Facebook specifically to access your community. You want your members participating by habit, not accident.
Plus, whatever participation they offer will most likely come amidst participation in other Groups and their general news feed. So your community will get lumped in with everything under the Facebook umbrella. Do you really want the context for your community conversation to be linked with baby pictures, annoyances at uninteresting ads, and divisive political rants by angry uncles?
That’s not the path toward creating an online temple that makes participating in your online community special. And special is what you’re trying to build.
- A special community inspires people to invest time, be vulnerable, and break out of the mental chains that make change difficult.
- A special community encourages people to help other members and share it with friends and family who might benefit.
- A special community convinces people to keep paying when each recurring charge comes through, because they can’t imagine going down the path they’re on without this congregation of people and knowledge.
But it’s difficult to build a special Facebook Group because, almost by definition, they are not special.
Sure, through sheer force of will and care, a dedicated community leader could make a Facebook Group work, even thrive. Communities are, after all, more about people than anything else.
But why work against the grain? Why climb uphill?
There is always a better solution for a serious, paid online community than a Facebook Group.
Wait, are Facebook Groups ever the right solution?
You might argue that a Facebook Group is a cheap, easy way to test the community waters and see if you can get some activity going.
My response is that cheap, easy solutions deliver cheap, easy results. That’s not the kind of community I want to help you build.
Besides, if you do get the results you’re looking for in a Facebook Group, you’re probably just going to migrate people away from Facebook down the line when you upgrade to a better SaaS platform. Why set yourself up for that hassle?
If you’re serious about building a paid online community, invest some time and money into doing it right from the start. If you’re so ambivalent that doing a cheap, easy test on Facebook is your best solution, I say wait.
Whatever you do, don’t split your community in two — meaning, don’t have a Facebook Group and a community somewhere else. That’s a hassle for you and a potential confusion for your members.
In other words: don’t straddle the fence. Pick a side. Are you going to build your community on Facebook or not?
The savvy, forward-thinking online community builder will say no to Facebook Groups.
The path toward creating an online community worthy of your members’ time and money is paved with your pride in creating something special.
So let your pride be the fuel that propels you to expect more from your community space than what a Facebook Group can provide, while your humility remains your guiding light in organizing your online temple around the particular needs of your people.
Now here are some additional links on this topic …
On-site forum or Facebook Group?
Callie seems to mostly agree with me, as evidenced by the relative pro/con lists for the two options. She does say, “If you’re looking for quick and easy engagement go for a Facebook group.” But is quick and easy even worth pursuing?
Should you use a Forum or Facebook Group for your community? | The Membership Guys
With Facebook, there is always fear
Not only are more and more people leaving Facebook, but Facebook’s history of baits and switches means you’ll always have to live in fear that they’ll change the rules of engagement. So why bother?
Beware of Facebook Groups. Long Live Communities! | Social Media Examiner
Facebook is a communication channel, but not a community channel
“Looking at Facebook groups, they are probably the worst community channel out there.” This is the thing that often gets lost in the discussion about Facebook Groups. It’s not about disliking Facebook; it’s about the Groups platform itself being subpar.
Thank you for reading this issue of Primility.
Please consider forwarding it to a friend who wants to be a better servant leader and build a strong online community.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash