The Question on Many Marketers’ Minds: Should My Brand Start a Facebook Group?

Should My Brand Start a Facebook Group

Despite its recent bubble of controversy, marketers still view Facebook as the prime destination for social media marketing.

The newly released Sprout Social Index 2018 reaffirms this, with 97% of social marketers saying they use the platform.

However, while almost everyone is incorporating Facebook into their strategies, not so many express confidence that it’s making the desired impact. Last month’s 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report showed only 49% reporting a belief that their Facebook marketing is effective.

With algorithmic changes deprioritizing publisher content on Facebook feeds, and thus suppressing organic reach for brands, marketers are feeling the crunch. As I wrote here recently, “Facebook’s gargantuan active user base is impossible to ignore. We just need to get creative in finding ways to connect with people there.”

One creative solution that marketers are increasingly turning to is Facebook groups.

Are they worth your time and effort? Let’s explore.

Why are Facebook Groups Gaining Steam?

Much like influencer marketing, Facebook groups present an opportunity to regain diminished reach by embracing the platform’s heightened focus on user-generated content.

According to the Sprout Social Index, social marketers point to increasing community engagement as their No. 2 biggest goal, right behind boosting brand awareness. Facebook groups are very much in line with this objective. They are mini-communities, where members are empowered to speak up and (in many cases) can engage directly with company reps, in addition to one another.

Although groups have long been available as a feature on Facebook, the brand-driven “Facebook Groups for Pages” were just rolled out last year. You can find a helpful primer on setting one up here, via Social Media Examiner.

What differentiates a Facebook page from a Facebook group, you might ask? AdWeek frames it as such:

“Pages (are) for pushing key marketing messages and product information, as well as an outlet for customer support. Groups is a dedicated space for more in-depth, meaningful conversations and relationships between a brand and its fans.”

Another attractive element of Facebook groups is the added analytical depth through Group Insights, which provides information about trends and usage patterns in your membership.

With growing emphases on engagement, authenticity, and community-building, it’s easy to see the appeal of Facebook groups as a marketing asset. And some are tapping into it very well. One notable example is Peloton, the cycling fitness company whose closed members group boasts an extremely active ecosystem of more than 92,000 members.

But not everyone is finding traction on this front.

With growing emphases on engagement, authenticity, & community-building, it’s easy to see the appeal of #FacebookGroups as a #marketing asset. And some are tapping into it very well. But not everyone is finding traction. – @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet

What’s Holding Back Brands on Facebook Groups?

Although the potential benefits are clear, the path to achieving them is a bit murky. For every success case like Peloton (which had the advantage of a three-year head start thanks to a preexisting member-driven community), there seem to be several examples of companies spinning their wheels in frustration.

While Peloton has hit its stride with groups, another popular fitness brand is searching for a second wind. As Digiday explained in May regarding Fitbit’s exploration of the tactic:

“The company created 12 different groups geared toward major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Each group has around 200 members, but that’s a far cry from the 2.4 million followers of Fitbit’s Facebook page. Fitbit’s group for fitness-focused San Francisco had only 11 posts in the past 30 days.”

The problem is that around 200 million groups exist on Facebook, making it difficult to gain visibility, especially for new creations. To assist with this, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this year the integration of a Groups tab intended to “make groups a more central part of the Facebook experience.”

“In addition to the new tab,” TechCrunch notes, “the company is launching a new Groups plugin that admins and developers can add to their websites and emails that solicits people to join their Facebook group.”

Some marketers have understandably been reluctant to dive into this functionality over concerns that Facebook will change gears and renew its focus six months from now, but I believe it’s safe to say — based on the social network’s clear commitment to elevating active participation and “meaningful communities” — that groups are going to be a mainstay feature going forward.

Should My Company Start a Facebook Group?

In assessing whether a Facebook group is worth launching for your B2B or B2C business, we recommend asking yourself these questions:

#1 – Are community conversations relating to my product or service useful?

If community is core to your offering, then Facebook groups are most likely going to be a fit. But you don’t want to force it. The most resonant groups bring users together over a shared passion where they can transfer knowledge, stories, and ideas. For instance, the highly popular Instant Pot Facebook group has become a destination for owners of the electric cooker to troubleshoot and post their own recipes.

“You’re only going to get those super-users and superfans,” says Meg McDougall, Social Media Strategist at TopRank Marketing. “If you have that audience, it’s a great opportunity. But you’re not going to build it out of nowhere.”

When it comes to #Facebook groups, you’re only going to get super-users & superfans. If you have that audience, it’s a great opportunity. But you’re not going to build it out of nowhere. – @megnificent #SocialMediaMarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Do we have the bandwidth to run a group and grow it?

Don’t underestimate the commitment that running an active Facebook group can require. In order to get going, and especially to sustain, groups need attention and administration. You may want to have a content producer or community manager specifically designated for this task.

Also, be ready to have employees promote your group in various ways, such as mentioning it in content and including it in email signatures.

#3 – Is it truly going to be a value-oriented interaction hub, or simply another vehicle for brand promotion?

“If your brand starts a Facebook group, think of yourself as a facilitator rather than a marketer or blogger,” suggests Emily Gaudette in her post at Contently. “You’ll lose the group if you only promote your own work.”

This is pretty much a cardinal rule of content marketing in general, but especially important in these kinds of community-fueled endeavors. Oftentimes, the brand play should be very subtle, and customers will hopefully start associating your product or service with the topic because it’s where they go to talk about it and find good info.

The Bottom Line on Facebook Groups for Marketers

Without question, Facebook groups are more worthy of our attention than they were a year ago at this time. Dwindling organic reach for company pages on the platform, along with a strong commitment from corporate leadership to grow the feature, make this an intriguing frontier.

But as things stand, these spaces are really more about fostering and evolving engagement within your customer base as opposed to rapidly growing that base. And given the time and effort required to get it right, some brands might not find the payoff worthwhile.

In other words, don’t give in to groupthink.

“Look at what your end goal is for social,” McDougall urges. “If it’s reaching a ton of people, expanding your audience, and getting impressions, groups probably aren’t the best route. If it’s targeted interactions and deeper engagement, they can be really helpful.”

For more guidance on social media marketing that meets your objectives in a fast-changing environment, check out some of our recent write-ups on the subject:

Social Media Marketing Benchmarks: What Works & Where to Focus

Social Media Marketing Benchmarks Report 2018

Social media marketers, how are you feeling? Take a minute to breathe if you need to. The last few months have been a wild ride. Fatigue, vertigo, and even a little nausea are perfectly understandable.

As I said before, social media isn’t dying, but it is changing. Marketers are used to quick changes, naturally, but it’s important to be sure we’re making the right changes. We should approach evolving our social media with the same data-driven, strategic rigor that applies to everything else we do.

The good folks at Rival IQ recently published their 2018 Social Media Benchmarking Report. The data points to some clear directions for the next evolution of social media marketing.

Here are some of the key data points – and, more importantly, what you should do about them.

#1 – Influencers Have the Highest Engagement Rate on Facebook

Facebook Engagement Benchmark 2018

The report breaks down engagement by platform and by vertical, which invites some intriguing comparisons. If you’re in the food & beverage industry, congratulations! You’re likely seeing some of the highest engagement.

If you’re not, however, there’s no need to roll out a new Cloud-Based SaaS brand of soft drink. Influencers are also hitting the top engagement rate (a whopping .24%, but more on that later).

What to Do:

TopRank Marketing has been talking about influencer marketing since before it was cool. These stats underline the importance of co-creating content with influencers who are relevant to your audience. It’s incredibly tough for brands to make a connection with organic social. Influencers can provide the person-to-person relationship that most people want out of social media interaction.

Read: Death of Facebook Organic Reach = New Opportunities for Influencer Marketing

#2 – More Posting Doesn’t Equal More Engagement

The highest post frequency on Facebook is in the Media vertical, with an average of over 10 posts per day. That’s an artifact of an old way of thinking about social media: Flood your page with posts and hope one or two stick. That strategy doesn’t seem to work anymore. Media has the lowest engagement rate, at .08%. Especially with Facebook, upping your posting frequency is counterproductive. The algorithm will show your posts in fewer feeds, fewer people will interact with them as a result, and you start a vicious cycle that ends up slashing your organic reach.

What to Do:

Stick to one or two posts per day, and really make them count. That’s right at the industry average, and seems to be the threshold on most platforms for how much an audience wants to see branded content. If you have ten potential posts, get ruthless: Pick the two that are most interesting, most relevant, most valuable to your audience. Then save the rest for a roundup blog post at the end of the week.

#3 – Engagement Rates Vary Widely by Platform

We tend to talk about social media as though it were a single monolithic platform. Of course we know there are differences between channels, but the report underscores just how much they can vary. The engagement rates for Instagram are above the 1% mark, with some verticals seeing over 3%:

2018 Instagram Engagement Benchmarks

2018 Twitter Benchmarks

While Twitter has an average engagement of .046%. That’s 4 hundredths of a percent, or engagement on one out of every 4,000 posts.

What to Do:

If Instagram fits your brand, and your audience is there, these stats are definitely an endorsement for hopping on the ‘gramwagon. But don’t count Twitter out completely. There is a great deal more content posted on Twitter than Instagram, and Twitter moves a lot faster. So that low engagement rate shouldn’t scare you off completely. Instead, use Twitter to boost your brand awareness, provide customer service via social media monitoring, and to engage with potential influencers.

Paid posts on Twitter can also have a powerful impact. One of our technology clients initially ruled out Twitter completely. We were able to prove they had a potential audience on Twitter and helped them run a paid program. In the end, their Twitter engagement was far higher than engagement on any other platform.

#4 – Engagement Is Low on Every Platform

More than anything, the report shows just how low the benchmarks are across the social media spectrum. If an email marketing campaign had a .046% average open rate, we would be throwing in the towel writing our resignations at the same time.

The drop in engagement makes sense, though, with how social media platforms have evolved. They used to be based on delivering all the posts the user opted into seeing. Whatever accounts the person chose to follow, that was what filled their feed.

Now every major social site is curated by algorithm. The user doesn’t control what they see, and neither do brands.

What to Do:

There are two key ways to thrive in the Age of the Algorithm. We’ve already covered the first: Start thinking of most of these channels as pay-to-play. Take your most compelling content and throw some paid promotion behind it on your highest-performing platform. Then A/B test your audience targeting until you find the sweet spot.

The second is to produce the type of content that the algorithm will promote. For Facebook and Twitter, that increasingly means native video. Facebook in particular has been explicit about their favoritism for video. Posts that match what the platform wants to promote will get a bigger initial push, which can help you get engagement, which will signal the algorithm to promote it more.

It’s also a good idea to explore the major platform that’s missing from Rival IQ’s report: LinkedIn*. The reported engagement rate on LinkedIn is .054%, lower than Facebook but higher than Twitter. However, it’s easy to more than double that benchmark with a little optimization, as this infographic from LinkedIn shows.

You can also branch out on LinkedIn by having your C-suite post their own thought leadership content on their own accounts. Personal posts are likely to get more engagement and more shares.

Stay on Your Mark and Don’t Get Benched

Social media marketing is still one of the newest marketing disciplines there is. We’re still developing best practices as the platforms continue to evolve. It’s a little like trying to build a train while you’re going 60 miles per hour down a track built on top of a pool of lime Jell-O.

These benchmarks can provide a starting point for the next iteration of your strategy. They might not speak to your specific vertical or audience, but they do highlight the broad changes taking place across social media. To make sure your train keeps rolling, focus on just a few high-quality posts per day, boosted with paid ads on your most valuable channels.

Need help mastering social media marketing? Here’s how we helped one company expand their reach.

*LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing Client.

Death of Facebook Organic Reach = New Opportunities for Influencer Marketing

Facebook Zero Influencers

Earlier this month, marketers were shocked to learn that Facebook would be making more major changes to its News Feed, effectively bringing brand and publisher organic reach to zero by prioritizing high engagement content from family, friends and groups.

In a formal statement posted on his own Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg said:

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. … Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook.”

While the announcement seemed to be the final nail in the organic News Feed coffin, the death of organic reach on Facebook has been a long time coming. Back in April 2015, Facebook announced it was updating News Feeds to strike a better balance between friends, public figures, publishers, businesses and community organizations. Then in late June 2016, Facebook said it would be making further refinements to ensure users don’t miss updates from their friends and families.

Now, after an intense year of political and social upheaval — not to mention the emergence of the fake news engine and the Russian advertising scandal — it’s no surprise that Facebook is re-examining things yet again.

But What Does It All Mean for Marketers?

Naturally, disappointed marketers all over the world are wondering how this change will truly impact their social marketing efforts. From our perspective, the change:

  • Ends the organic reach of the News Feed and increases the importance of adding pay-to-play to your marketing mix — something that will likely require a bigger budget.
  • Bolsters the importance of channel diversification.
  • Makes it more important than ever for you to zero in on who your audience is and what motivates them, so you can share content and create an environment that will pique interest and engagement.
  • Means Instagram will more than likely follow suit in the near future.

The Influencer Implication

Since Zuckerberg’s announcement, there’s been one implication in particular that’s captivated our attention. The way we see it, the value of influencer engagement on Facebook will increase even more.

Our CEO, Lee Odden, has long been an evangelist for working with influencers, believing that influencers can help brands bypass several obstacles. AdBlocking, for example, is in use on over 600 million devices, costing business over $22 billion in ad revenue, according to PageFair. Working with credible influencers who are trusted amongst an audience allows brands to bypass the adblocking obstacle and better connect with buyers.

Lee has also talked about other challenges such as distrust of brand advertising. In fact, 69% of consumers don’t trust ads, according to research by Ipsos Connect. And yet another obstacle is information overload. Americans are confronted with an average of 63GB of media on a daily basis (USC/ICTM).

All of these obstacles, according to Lee, are addressed by working with industry influencers. The virtual elimination of organic News Feed visibility for brands and publishers on Facebook is no different and marketers would be smart to think about how influencer engagement can keep organic Facebook visibility alive.

So, to sum it all up: Now that the organic News Feed is effectively dead, new life is being given to influencer marketing opportunities. Here are a few key considerations:

#1 – If you’re not in the influencer marketing game yet, you can no longer afford to wait.

Last year, we saw influencer marketing explode — becoming one of the most talked about topics among marketers and arguably our most-requested digital marketing services among both B2B and B2C clients. In addition, our own research shows that 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activities in the next three years.

This quote from Lee sums it up well:

“For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say. In many cases, [audiences are] far more interested [in an influencer’s insights] than in what the brand has to say.”

With Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers — which can have an impact across all social platforms.

With #Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Influencers now hold more power than ever to more strategically align themselves with brands of their choice.

Influencer marketing was already poised to be big in 2018, but this change to Facebook’s platform will absolutely spur more brands and businesses to dip their toe into the water. As a result, influencers will see an uptick in requests, giving them more power to be very choosy about which brands they lend their time, insights and audience to.

Influencers have more power to be very choosy about the brand they lend their time, insights and audience to. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

#3 – Influencer nurturing will be more important than ever.

As illustrated by the previous two points, the Facebook change will lead to an increased adoption of influencer marketing, giving influencers more options. So it’s no surprise that it’ll be time to double-down on your commitment to influencer nurturing.

Now, we’ve always said that when it comes to building relationships and rapport with influencers, it’s critical that you put the time and effort into nurturing — rather than simply reaching out when you have a need. There has to be shared value.

But I think most marketers would admit that they have significant room for improvement in this area — and there’s no time like the present to recommit yourself.

With #Facebook’s recent algorithm change, it’s time to double-down on your commitment to nurturing your influencers. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

Capitalize on the Opportunity

Let’s face it. This “major change” to Facebook’s platform isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. As a result, now is the time to fully capitalize on the opportunity by better working with industry influencers. Now is the time to refocus on connecting with your audience — and influencers can help you do just that by adding authenticity, credibility, unique insights and new eyeballs to your content.

What else is in store for influencer marketing in 2018? Check out these rising influencer marketing trends that you need to pay attention to.

What do you think about the latest Facebook News Feed algorithm change? Tell us in the comments section below.