In the previous edition of Social Strategy, we learned all about Facebook's new Instant Articles feature and how they can be used in conjunction with a blog to drive engagements. While this is definitely an interesting new feature, Facebook is far from a one-trick pony.
While Twitter's list feature offers the ability for people to follow curated lists of updates, Facebook groups take this a step further, allowing people to join an open or closed community centered around a specific topic or theme. Groups are hardly a new feature, but businesses often prefer to create pages due to their curated nature; they directly control what they want their audience to see.
With groups, anyone can post anything, meaning they're far more effective for community-building efforts. One needs to only look at the infamous "Cult of Mac" surrounding Apple and their products to understand the effect that community can have on a company. By leveraging people who are already passionate about a specific brand or product, a business can create great word-of-mouth marketing so long as the community is promoted and advertised along appropriate channels.
What is the advantage of building a community? It gives your audience a platform to show off how they use your product, which is invaluable market research for future iterations – market research that is being provided free of cost from your most dedicated following. If your product enables people to do fantastic things, people will be more than happy to show off what they've accomplished. Using a group to build a following is a spin on the idea of user-generated content; people love to share, and by providing a place for them to share their ideas and feedback, as well as build relationships with likeminded people, it becomes far less about the individual product or even brand as it does about the community.
The desire to use a group instead of a page ultimately depends on the goal of the company. To reuse the above example, Apple has managed to create a strong community despite their "walled garden" approach – heavily controlled and curated. In using a public tool such as Facebook to try and build a community, a company needs to measure risk versus reward. A startup or small-scale business may want to create a forum for their advocates and fans to discuss the product, but a similar strategy may not be particularly viable for, say, a Fortune 500 company.
Before you get started with groups, two things are absolutely necessary. First, think of what you want to accomplish with your community-building efforts. Is there a direct result that can be achieved by allowing your fans to communicate? Second, get ready to be pushed because people will be more than ready to offer valid criticisms about your product or business. Listen to them, consider changes, and keep your audience updated. Not every idea will be a great one, but who better to offer ideas on how to improve your product than those who frequently use it?
Make sure you check out the next entry in this series in two weeks, and if you'd like to try SimplyCast's social media scheduling tools, sign up for a free 14-day trial.