Building community around your blog is a basic tenant of blog success but with recent changes in social network algorithms, more and more bloggers are turning to a Facebook group as a way of continuing the conversation.
What’s The Goal?
Like most other things involved in growing your blog, a Facebook group will take an investment of your time and energy and content. Clearly articulating your goal for the group offers a way to check that the investment is a good one! My Mil-Blogging Buddies group was developed because I saw a need for an easy, accessible way to connect with other military community bloggers in a collaborative way. When I first launched it, I was blogging largely about life as a military spouse and needed to plug into that community. Over time, the group has evolved but it still fulfills that original purpose exceptionally well.
What will your Facebook group do for your blog?
On the other side, what is your hope for the group in relation to its members? What should it provide? There are so many ways that your audience could be spending their time online. With each Facebook visit, there are literally thousands of pieces of content vying for milliseconds of their time. What makes your group stand out? Why should they take the time to read posts and comments, respond and other wise engage in the community you are creating? It is perfectly ok for this answer to change as your group grows and you get to know your audience in a more direct way. But from the start, you should be able to answer the question.
What does your group do for your members?
Before You Start Your Facebook Group
before you set up your group and start sending out invites, there is some framework to build. You group will absolutely need these four things to get off the ground and running.
- Founding Members
- Recruitment Plan
Some of your guidelines will depend on what you want your group to be and your personal branding. If your brand is bold and unfiltered, you might have looser guidelines regarding language than if you are focusing on positive body image. The guidelines you establish will provide the foundation of your group and set the stage for the atmosphere that develops. I have a standard set of guidelines that I have developed over the years that I tweak to suit a specific group.
Sample Facebook Group Guidelines:
I created this group to be a community so there are very few rules- be kind and be supportive.
Please keep shares of post or social media links to appropriate threads instead of sharing on the wall.
Because learning is a process littered with mistakes, shaming of any kind will not be tolerated. If you have an issue with someone, address them directly or contact an admin.
Any posts that include offensive or violent language; hateful or discriminatory comments regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or political beliefs; violations of copyright or intellectual property rights; Spam, link baiting or files containing viruses that could damage the operation of other people’s computers or mobile device; attacks on specific groups or any comments meant to harass, threaten or abuse an individual will be removed.
Any sort of commercial or promotional post needs to be approved by me or a designated admin BEFORE being posted. If it is not, it will be deleted.
Repeated violations may lead to a poster being removed.
Effective guidelines will include anything that is not allowed, protect members’ privacy, establish your willingness to remove members who disrupt the group and establish who should be in the group (if your group is aimed at a specific demographic).
Let’s get real here. A Facebook group can be a powerful traffic driver for your blog, income opportunity for your business and brand builder for you. But, before that can happen it has to serve a purpose: bringing serious value to your members. There are so very many things they could be doing on the internet, you’ll have to deliver the goods for the group to be worth the investment required to grow it.
So what does value look like?
It depends on the purpose of your group. It could like resources, opportunities to connect, learning, online chats, or answering questions. In any case, it requires engagement led by you. Especially in the beginning you will need to be very present and hands on to encourage other people to participate actively. One key feature for your blog’s group will be to provide some sort of exclusive content just for the people in your group. Much like your email list, the people in your group have allowed you to have direct access to them – make it worth their time.
To keep the value consistent, my recommendation is to have a plan for your delivery – much like an editorial calendar. To carry through with the example of my Mil-Blogging Group, the value it offers to members is the opportunity to learn, grow and connect. The wall is wide open for questions – and I regularly invite some of the extremely talented and knowledgeable bloggers that I know to help me provide the best assistance possible. There are daily share threads posted every week to share social networks, posts, FB pages, and ongoing promotional offers. We periodically offer hang outs that can be instruction on a topic, a social opportunity to network and chat or mastermind sessions. More than anything, it is a place to really get to know the other bloggers in the niche and start conversations that can be the start of really fabulous inspiration and collaboration.
A Facebook Group is a mini community – which means that you need people. When I launch Facebook groups, the first thing I do is put together a list of founding members. These are people who fit the intended demographic of the group who I have some sort of personal or professional relationship. This could be other bloggers, friends or long time or very engaged readers. They are people who are willing to put in a few minutes a day to help get the conversation started in your brand new group. I contact them, explain the new group and ask if they would be interested in helping me get things off the ground. Generally, I simply ask them to ask one question or post to the wall a day and reply to any other posts. In the beginning, things are often slow so it’s not very time consuming. I usually give these people a small gift – like a Starbucks e-giftcard and a personal thank you note or a little bit of blog/business swag. A core group of 5 or so is what I aim for, although that amount may vary depending on the group and its purpose.
All the content, goals and conversation starters are completely useless without one key group ingredient – members! Start with a 3 month plan on how you will grow your group membership, then assess and adjust. I start by reaching out personally to anyone I know would be interested. Then, I look back at my popular blog posts and place a call to action linking to the group on any post with an appropriate topic. I’ll also include posts that tie directly to my group at least once a month, and up to once a week depending on how much content I’m creating, for the next few months to give the group a jump start. As another layer, I also market my group to my email list. My audience knows that I am a huge fan of community and the power of connection, so that is a topic and call to action that tends to resonate. If you don’t have an email list started, setting up an opt in with the link to the group delivered in the confirmation email is a good start! Plus, don’t forget the basics – social media shares of your group and potentially a call to action graphic in your sidebar.
Branding Your Facebook Group
Whatever the goal of your group may be, branding that is consistent with your blog goes along way towards building your online presence. Cover graphics and images for regular threads or topics should have consistent color scheme and typeface to your blog design. The language – including the name of your group – should also be recognizable as related to your blog.
Revisit Your Why
It is likely that after your launch, there will a time when your group stutters. You will lose members, conversation will stagnate and you’ll hear crickets when you post a conversation starter.
It’s ok. That’s part of the growing pains.
Focus on delivering value – return to the WHY of your blog or business. Who are helping? How are they benefiting? When the focus is on community and serving the needs of your audience, it will fulfill the original appeal of social media networks – connection (plus make some wonderful friends along the way!).
Are you ready to launch your group? Tell me about it!
And if you need more support or have more questions about launching your group, pop on over to Balanced Blogging so we can chat about the best way forward for you.