Back in 2008 two passionate Coca-Cola fans named Dusty and Michael accidentally created the first branded Facebook Page. Over the last 10 years that page grew to serve over 107 million global fans, the page went from one free image of a Coca-Cola can to housing thousands of made-for-social promoted posts. This growth closely aligns with the historical trajectory of the Facebook platform itself, as the role of Pages transformed from a place users can connect with their passions to a tool brands now use to drive mass awareness. However, while a lot has changed since the first Coca-Cola Page, users continue to be the most powerful voice on the platform. This is why Facebook Groups are becoming a staple marketing tactic for brands looking to boost advocacy and cultivate engaged communities.
Starting with Facebook’s revised mission statement from last June to ‘bring the world closer together’ and most recently with their algorithm update to value users over brands in the News Feed, the platform is rapidly adapting its features to ensure that users like Dusty and Michael continue be the most important part of the platform and are constantly served with opportunities to connect with someone new or old.
Branded Facebook Groups are one of these updates. While Groups have lived on the platform since 2010, Facebook only recently made it possible for a brand to own a Group. Unlike your standard Facebook Page, Groups are more democratic. A user’s post is weighted the same as one from the brand. This means that fan contributions don’t get hidden in the post comments and have a chance to claim before-the-scroll real estate.
Why Groups are Growing
The Facebook News Feed has become both a personalized and crowded landscape. The level of personalization has led to increased user expectations for curated content that is relatable to their specific interests. On the other hand, the platform has grown so quickly that the News Feed sometimes feels unmanageable. In the last fourteen years, users have grown their personal networks to include people that they may no longer have similar interests with. The sheer scale of the platform is causing users to crave smaller communities that provide a more communal platform experience. Groups provide both customized and communal benefits as they allow users to sign up for the things they want to talk about with people who care.
What can Groups do for your brand?
Increases advocacy. Groups harness brand conversations that are occurring throughout the platform and unifies them in one place where brands can become active participants vs. bystanders. Within Groups, users are exposed to alternate perspectives and new information, providing a well-rounded recommendation, use case or conversation around the brand. Unlike standard Facebook pages, these conversations are started by consumers themselves, making the engagement more credible and valuable. The more helpful, insightful and secure a user’s interactions are in this space, the more likely they are to continue their engagement.
We can measure the effectiveness of Groups using ‘talk rate’ or the percentage of a community that is actively talking monthly. We’ve noticed that talk rate is stronger within groups, but we’ve also seen an uptick on talk rate on the Pages that are utilizing Groups.
Drives time well-spent.
Historically, marketers have focused on (i.e. using Facebook Canvas ads instead of driving to a microsite), but now marketers are focusing specifically on how users are spending their time on the platform and ensuring that it is a positive, communal experience. The number one reason people are on Facebook is to connect with friends, family and likeminded users. The closer brands are to their target audience’s ‘reason to log-on,’ the more impact the brand can have on the consumer.
Reveals credible audience insights.
Groups can be mined for actionable insights to inform your brand’s larger platform strategy. Not only are we privy to fan conversations that reveal their interests, pain points and opinions, Group insights also provide the most popular days and times that these users are available on the platform along with their age, gender, and location. Though these are similar metrics that are available on standard Facebook Pages, Groups provide a better indication of when your audience is most engaged versus when they are consuming content more passively. This data can be used to help inform a day-parted media strategy or inspire content buckets that reflect what is being discussed within the Group.
Pinpoints power fans.
In exporting Group Insights, Group admins have access to the names of Group members, how many posts they’ve contributed and how many times they’ve commented in the group. Keeping a record of this engagement can help indicate your brand’s most dedicated advocates, which can be tapped for premium brand experiences, product feedback, influencer opportunities and more.
360i’s Facebook Group Best Practices:
Creating and maintaining a Group on Facebook requires substantial resources and time to be successful. Based on our experience in building successful Facebook groups for our entertainment clients, here are our best practices for executed a successful branded Group Page:
- Keep your group rooted in insights. Successful groups are inspired by existing conversation themes or proven brand truths. For example, the show The Sinner on USA network saw that many of their fans were theorizing in their post comments, so titled their Group ‘The Sinner—Why Did She Do It?’ to play into this trend.
- Give people an incentive to join & a reason to stay. Share content and experiences that provide additional value than the brand’s main Facebook page. This can be anything from exclusive content to new perspectives on a specific interest area. Bloomberg’s Group ‘Money Talks’ does this well by hosting a ’30-Day Money Challenge’ where members are challenged to fulfill different budgeting tasks and financial strategies each day. The rules are detailed within the group and members can rally together as they progress.
- Let fans lead the conversation. Fan posts should make up 70% of all discussion within Groups. The brand’s role is to lightly provoke conversation when organic conversation dies down.
- Actively listen to the community. The community may start organically talking about other brands, interests, and related topics. Instead of stifling this conversation, consider incorporating these interests into your media targeting to reach likeminded users on the platform.
- Be prepared to moderate. All groups should have official community guidelines and a from the brand should moderate conversation to ensure they are not violated. While brands should be overseeing the community, it is important that they have a responsive messaging strategy that helps answer any brand or product specific questions and rewards user contributions.
- Don’t push or sell. Groups are a dedicated safe space for people to talk, not to be sold to. If overly promotional, your Group may see a decline in participation. However, brands can act like a fan to provide exclusive experiences (i.e. Facebook Lives with celebrities, never-before-seen content, etc.) and provoke rich conversation that the user can’t get elsewhere.
What to Expect:
If this feels like déjà vu, it’s because Groups are acting like Pages did back when Dusty and Michael created their Coca-Cola fan page. Just as fans flocked to find their favorite brands in 2008, users are flooding to Groups to satisfy their interests and make the platform’s 2 Billion users more manageable daily.
As of now, Groups are in phase two of Facebook’s (1. User adoption 2. Organic brand features 3. Monetization). While we expect that Groups will continue to be people-focused, we are also anticipating platform updates such as ads that live within groups or group targeting. In preparation for these forecasted advertising opportunities, we recommend getting closer to your community and learning more about their ‘reason to log-on.’ This will help authenticate your Group and optimize towards time well-spent, despite how involved the brand may become.