Category Archives: My Journey & Lessons Learned

How To Use a Facebook Group to Grow Your Business (Plus Case Study)

I was once kicked out of a Facebook group and I didn’t even break the rules.

Apparently I was the first person ever to be kicked out of the group – a title I am surprised (and a little proud) to hold. Surely I’m not the only rebel in a group of 6,000+ members?!

This is the story of what happened, shared as a case study of how to use a Facebook group as a sales and marketing tool (and what not to do)…

A few months ago, a friend and colleague added me to the group, I Work in Personal Development.

You probably know the drill by now – I expected an endless stream of posts, usually from the group owner, with very little to zero interaction and engagement – but this group was a bit different. This group appeared to be active. Buzzing, even.

The main ethos of the group is a free support place for personal development professionals (coaches, healers etc.) to get business and marketing support and advice.

The group’s creator appeared to be very active, constantly answering questions, encouraging people to share their experience and wisdom and cheering people on. What’s not to like?

And so I dove in, finding my feet and sharing advice, guidance, tips and my experience – as called on by the group leader (“Post your marketing questions here, and we’ll all help you figure them out”).

[100% truth from me here – of course I thought it might be a good place to find some potential customers and clients, as do many who join the group and share their businesses. This was entirely permitted and even encouraged.].

I had a few suspicions that this wasn’t just a place for free support during that first week when I saw a post along the lines of, “You guys know I don’t usually advertise my services here much BUT….[insert coaching offer]”, and it eventually became clear that the group was becoming a funnel for the paid, membership offering that was in the works.

Fast forward a few months, and I find myself being kicked out of the group for questioning one of the guru’s posts, in which he was advertising for free admin support, under the guise of finding people who resonate with his message and want to help build his legacy* and fulfil his mission.

* Legacy is all about ego.

I was not particularly happy about being kicked out for a difference of opinion and especially since I was still following the rules, enforced on me after a previous conversation (confrontation?) with the owner.

Still, as I reflected on this experience, I realised the lessons to take away from this. Not just for me, but maybe for you too…especially if you’re thinking of using a Facebook group as a marketing channel for your business.

Why Use a Facebook Group as a Marketing Tool

Using a Facebook group as a marketing tool to reach, connect with and engage your audience – and ultimately grow your business – seems to be a popular approach for a number of reasons, including:

  • It’s quick and easy to set up – technically there’s nothing tricky about it and you can be set up and ready to go in a matter of minutes.
  • It’s not the same as a page where the visibility of your posts can be hit & miss, and seen by only a fraction of the people who like your page; in a group, members see any and all content on the group ‘wall’.
  • You’re essentially ‘ring fencing’ your potential audience, and have their captive attention (somewhat – there are so many people who join so many groups and yet barely see/participate in any).
  • It appears easier and quicker than say building a mailing list and/or a website.

The I Work In Personal Development group creator is a raving fan of using Facebook groups as a marketing platform to ‘build your hungry tribe’ – as it’s worked reasonably well for him, he’s now espousing the benefits and encouraging it as a ‘must do’ for everyone.

BUT not so fast…

This is not the kind of strategy that will work for everyone, and from what I’ve seen and outlined below, there are some serious flaws in the approach, including:

  • The sheer amount of time and energy it takes to run a group that’ll convert members into customers/clients… Gauging this from the IWIPD group leader and some of his comments around this, he must vet 100+ people a week to select who is admitted, then spend X hours a day answering questions, not to mention the free consults/calls he offers. That’s some serious hours of unpaid work to convert people to paying clients/customers. Hours that many of us just do not have (nor want to spend) since there are far more efficient and effective ways to achieve the same or better results.
  • Controlling the content shared…Especially content which may offer competing alternatives/expertise/view points to what you’re offering and sharing – as you’ll see below this is a particular flaw experienced in and acknowledged by the IWIPD group creator.
  • The potential risk of losing it all…You do NOT own the group or the content you share in that group. It’s Facebook’s. And they could, at any time, decide to shut down your group or change the rules or do something random which could leave you high and dry. If you’re going to put all this effort into building a sales and marketing platform that converts for your business, it’s a far less risky approach to do so using a platform you actually own.
  • It’s not a quick fire strategy that yields immediate results…like any effective marketing tool, this is about building relationships and playing the longer term game. This group has been running for a year – it’s grown quickly but it’s still a year. If you want instant results (sales), this is not necessarily the best way forward.

…with that said, if you’re still keen to see if a Facebook group could work for you, here’s my advice on how to do that, along with specific case study examples observed from my experience as a member of the IWIPD group…

How to Make a Facebook Group Work for You

#1 Define Clear Business Goals

If you’re using a Facebook group as a part of your sales and marketing ‘funnel’ (i.e. a way to move people from free to paid offerings), be damn sure you have a clear idea of what your paid offerings are and how to convert people to these within your group.

This means you need to set clear boundaries around what you share and offer in the group, and how it relates to, plays with (and sells) your paid offerings.

You do NOT want to be in a situation where you are (and feel like you are) holding back because you don’t want to give away the farm for free. That benefits no-one, least of all you.

Instead it can be useful to recognise that value comes in many forms, including:

  • Your knowledge: This should almost always be free, in my opinion – it can be found so readily almost everywhere these days. The only exceptions are for very specialist subjects where the answers can’t easily be googled.
  • Your signature approach: You may want to keep this to your paid offerings 😉 But it doesn’t mean you can’t share the knowledge disseminated as part of your approach and keep the end-to-end experience of your approach for paying customers only.
  • Your energy and personality: Unique to you, this is also an intrinsic part of the value you bring to the table. Often free, it can also be a core part of a paid offering.
  • Your belief: Never underestimate the belief you have in someone or something as a key part of the value you offer.

Be clear what you’re ultimately aiming to sell, and build your boundaries around this.

I Work In Personal Development Case Study Example:

When a previously free service suddenly has a paid upsell, something’s gotta give…

The Good: While I can’t speak to the IWIPD’s specific business goals, I am sure they exist, and this group is a clear part of their marketing funnel.

The Bad: If a paid offering was relevant (the coaching sessions and the Academy), there was usually a subtle but noticeable shift in responses in the free group from “Here’s your answer…” to “Here’s some of the answer but for more, join the Life Change Academy or book a session” = holding back.

The Ugly: When I shared my customer journey’ graphic in the group to help answer some of the questions people were posting about product funnels, I received a direct message from the group leader asking if we could find a way to work together in a “mutually beneficial way”.

Not one for oblique communication, I tackled what I suspected was the real issue, and was asked that I “don’t share marketing content as this is in direct competition…people may not consider joining the Academy because they can get heaps of free content and your [sic] right that’s a flaw”.

I was informed that my content was not helpful because it pre-empted a webinar that was planned and apparently my content “devalues” what they were doing. Hmmmm.

#2 Set Boundaries and Enforce Them Consistently

It’s vital to set clear rules and boundaries for dealing with various scenarios in your group, including how you plan to manage potentially competing businesses.

Once you’ve set them, communicate them clearly AND enforce them consistently. All professionals worth their salt will respect being asked to honour a boundary, so the communication and enforcement of them is key.

I Work In Personal Development Case Study Example:

The Good: On the whole, the group was well policed for spammy and overly self promotional posts though a few crept through every week.

The Bad: While the boundaries may have been clear and respected by the majority of the group, they weren’t always clearly communicated nor consistently enforced – as evidenced by my ejection from the group.

The Ugly: I was specifically mindful NOT to promote my own services or offerings during my time as a member, and focused instead on adding value, answering others’ questions and sharing useful tips.

When I was kicked out, it was the result of querying whether best practice was being demonstrated by the group leader. No self promotion, nothing rude or hostile, simply a question.

The reaction and response wasn’t well communicated (I received no explanation or direct contact), and isn’t consistently enforced (I have seen people post FAR worse than I posted, particularly on the self-promotional/competing aspect, and remain in the group).

#3 Respect Valid Input & Interaction

If you’re going to run a group to promote your own offerings, be clear on the boundaries of what you permit others to share, post and comment.

Too much limitation and restriction will inhibit conversation and interaction, and not enough will open you up to competition.

At this point, I think it’s worth mentioning that while you may have significant numbers in your group, not all of those members will be the right fit for you and what you offer. They may however be a good fit for a similar, possibly competing professionals in the group.

Accept that not everyone is right for your business, and respect other colleagues’ paths, opinions, energy and offerings, and the ability they may have to serve those you don’t/can’t.

I don’t feel I should need to point out that there is usually more than ONE (your) way to do things; even though it may be your group, keeping this in mind and respecting others’ approaches is a must.

I Work In Personal Development Case Study Example:

The Good: The group creator regularly invites members to share their advice, experience and knowledge to help fellow members solve their challenges on numerous threads each week.

The Bad: After my offending activity, I found myself ejected from the group within minutes. No explanation. Nothing.

The Ugly: Not only that, all comments were deleted on that post and when a colleague/good friend of mine posted a follow-up thread in the group asking about the reason for my removal, the entire thread was also deleted to prevent new members who’d be joining the group from seeing this ‘not typical’ thread.

I cannot express quite how unethical and so NOT best practice this is…if you invite opinions, thoughts and free speech, DO NOT censor opinions that disagree with your opinions/actions, however ‘bad for business’ they may appear.

#4 Use External/Group Goals to Motivate

A smart way to galvanise a group is to set group goals; these can be individual challenges that everyone participates in to improve their own situations or they can be group challenges that everyone participates in to improve each others’ situations.

Another smart approach is to encourage the members of the group to help you reach YOUR goals. Whichever you choose, you’ll need to show sustained enthusiasm and drive to get people participating.

I Work In Personal Development Case Study Example:

The Good: The group’s owner does this very well. He uses a weekly schedule and a prompt for each day of the week (which is shared in the group header graphic).

There are also ongoing calls to action to help spread the message, invite others into the group and help grow it – with a focus on bigger and better – all of which have resulted in a 6k+ (and growing) group. He’s used his passion and energy, and the value that he and group members provide when questions are asked, to build a strong referral engine.

The Less Good: There are regular weekly threads to like each others’ pages and comment on each others’ blogs.

I can see the driver behind doing this but in reality, I question what impact this really has on the businesses of those who take part – it’s largely for superficial/vanity metrics designed to look good, but yields very few bottom-line benefits, I suspect.

#5 Show Up. Fully.

This ‘Facebook group as a marketing strategy’ is not for the shy and retiring; you need to be present, active and highly visible. There’s an energy present when a group leader is also present, and it’s noticeable when it’s missing.

For this strategy to work for you, you need to be present; this is not a set and forget approach to building your business.

What that means in reality is that you likely need to be in there every day, numerous times a day. And pre-scheduling posts to go out automatically will not cut the mustard here…remember, energy.

I Work In Personal Development Case Study Example:

The Good: The group leader shows masses of enthusiasm and energy. He’s a high energy, high adrenaline guy (from the outside at least) and it shows in the way he shares – with impassioned calls to action, big visions and his personal story.

He often starts posts with phrases like “HONEST POST:” “HONEST QUESTION:”  and he uses a lot of rhetoric to get people going. He’s very compelling, if you’re drawn in by that kind of languaging.

The Bad: His presence is required to keep things rolling – he’s in there numerous times a day, on the weekends and even on his holidays. It’s appears to be almost a full-time job, and I’m not convinced how sustainable an approach this really is.

The Ugly: Promoting a Facebook Group as a MUST DO strategy if you want to use Facebook to promote your business (as the group leader does) ignores the fact that people have different strengths, weaknesses and approaches, never mind different businesses.

If you prefer to be more behind-the-scenes and you don’t enjoy being upfront and centre, you will likely find this type of marketing approach exhausting. Similarly if you can’t commit to consistent, frequent activity to keep your group going and buzzing, it’s highly likely this won’t work out to be an effective approach for you.

As we know, one-size-fits-all advice rarely does.

#6 Track the Stats That Matter

Remember that this is a marketing strategy – one you’re using to (hopefully) fill your business and provide value at the same time. Therefore it stands to reason you need to keep one eye on the stats to measure how successful and effectively this is working for you.

Things like overall size of the group do matter, but you also want to keep an eye on:

  • Conversions – the # of people in the group who become customers/clients.
  • Interaction and engagement – since these are an indicator of the true size of your potential audience/market.

You’ll also typically notice that only a tiny fraction of a group will interact all the time – this is normal though it also makes it largely a numbers game (the same as many other marketing strategies).

Keep a close eye on how your activities are working for you and how much they’re truly impacting your bottom line; if you don’t, you’ll fail to notice whether this marketing strategy is actually effective and whether your time would better be spent on a more fruitful approach.

I Work In Personal Development Case Study Example:

The Good: From figures shared in the group, the group leader has made around AUS $80k from the group this year. Nothing to sniff at.

The Bad: It’s worth noting though that the launch of the recent Life Change Academy wasn’t the highest converting launch I’ve ever seen. Based on the numbers shared, from just over 5k members around 100 joined. That’s a 2% conversion rate. Not earth shattering by any means.

[Note: I get a better conversion rate from my mailing list so the argument that FB groups like this provide you with a more engaged and direct audience doesn’t necessarily correlate in my experience.]

In this group, for the few months I was a member, it seemed perhaps 20-30 people regularly engaged with the rest dropping in and out sporadically. Again, %-wise that’s not a huge number given the size of the group.

Part of the group’s success is also a weakness – there’s almost too much activity each day, with a number of members having shared (privately with me) that they find it overwhelming.

The Ugly:  The group leader also shared the number of (often free) consults and calls he holds – seemingly between 10-25 hours a week. That’s a LOT of calls, many of which are presumably also aimed at converting people.

I would want a MUCH higher conversion rate for this number of free calls…if indeed I could carve out the time for double digit free calls every week.

If you divide the amount of income by the likely number of hours worked to generate this income (including other time spent on other business admin/the creation of the Academy’s content etc.), that $80k doesn’t look like the best return on investment. We yield a better one with FAR fewer hours.

In a nutshell, so you’re clear on what it takes to make this happen, here’s a run-down of what you’ll need to do to make a Facebook group work as a marketing tool for you:

  1. Create a content sharing strategy and framework/schedule that adds immense value; never hold back. Give your all but be clear on your upsell and how you’ll hope to convert people to paying customers.
  2. Define, set, communicate and enforce clear boundaries when it comes to who you let in, and what and how you invite them to share in the group. Balancing these to also encourage activity and interaction is the tricky part!
  3. Be present, passionate and active in your group. People will notice if you dial it in or auto-post. Show up. Daily.
  4. Build a self-perpetuating referral engine – ask people to share the group and invite others in; vet them carefully before you accept them (this may seem time consuming but is well worth it).
  5. Have something specific to upsell and cross sell them to – and do this in an authentic, transparent way.
  6. Track your stats so you know what’s working and what’s not.

If you’ve been thinking that a Facebook group is a magic bullet to help you ‘build your hungry tribe’, think again…

Like any good marketing engine, a Facebook group takes planning, strategy, ongoing feeding, nurturing and lots and lots of action. It is NOT for everyone.

P.S. I’ve summarised this almost 3.5k word post in a handy infographic…

Growing Your Business with a Facebook Group