February 2, 2022
When I started my coaching business I started a free Facebook group.
It was a fantastic space and I adored using it for years. It was a great place for me to build up trust with my audience and show them what I was capable of and I am confident it was a big part in converting browsers into buyers in those early days of my business.
When I ran the group at its peak of activity I offered free training on a fortnightly basis, 5-day challenges to help wellness entrepreneurs with things like getting set up on Pinterest to promote their business, celebrated wins with the members and did a totally open Ask Me Anything thread giving out tips and advice totally free.
Like everything I recommend for business growth, I was consistent in talking about it and linking to it and constantly added value to the community that appeared inside.
The numbers also rose because Facebook was sharing it – I discovered people would join who had never heard of me, but identified with the purpose of the community and saw it on a list of recommended groups. It was a great way to get in front of a new audience that wouldn’t have found me otherwise, a rare perk of the Facebook platform which often doesn’t give us much help at all in reaching the people who need us (more on that later).
On the surface of it, that could seem a pretty insane decision. To walk away from so many potential leads. I bet if I told you there were 850 ideal clients all together in one space waiting to hear from you then you’d bite my hand off to get to them!
Over the last 18 months the group activity has dwindled, absolutely by my own making (the less I post and share, the less others post and share). And whilst the members kept coming, the content, nor the conversation was there to match it.
The final nail in the coffin for me with my free Facebook group was someone new joining who had recently heard me speak at a networking event.
She had loved my talk (on 3 lessons I’d learned from taking a social media break) and was excited to connect with me beyond this. She’d obviously found my free Facebook group and excitedly joined, introduced herself and presumably started to have a look around at what the space offered.
I did not want this group which has now become quiet and where I no longer show up regularly, to be a representation of me, my values and how I support people.
Whilst it has historically been a place that fully embodied me and my business and how I work, increasingly I have taken all the bits that work and get results for the members and moved them into my paid-for programmes and communities. Leaving the free Facebook group a bit of an empty shell.
Nowadays my podcast, my Instagram comments and DM inbox and my mailing list are places where I dish out value and content in free ways. Not this group.
When I was getting started, just like you I had a small audience. I needed to get in front of people as often as possible to prove what I was capable of and build trust. To show what I knew and how I could help.
A free Facebook group was perfect for that and I dedicated myself to it.
I am now a different business owner. From those small acorns, the tree of my business is growing (if you like a nature metaphor!).
Given the amount of content I have consistently produced across other channels like my podcast, YouTube channel, blog, mailing list and social media elsewhere, I don’t need a Facebook group to prove anything.
As I grow in my business, the methods I use to market myself need to change to adapt to the different stage I am at. It feels weird letting go of something that’s served me so well historically. But what got me here won’t get me to the next stage.
Quite frankly we all only have a limited amount of time and brain cells to spend on our business.
I certainly know my time and brain cells lately have been spent trying to work out what a 14 month old will eat for her next snack or meal for example, leaving slightly less free to spend on business and marketing.
Ideas galore I’m already not acting on, the last thing I want is to have something like a dying free Facebook group nagging on my mind that I know needs a lot more time and attention than I can realistically give it to make it what I want.
Closing the free Facebook group down feels like it has freed up so much space in my head. I no longer have it on my ‘long finger’ list of stuff that needs doing. The load is lightened.
As many of you will know, I’ve been on a crusade over the last year to reduce my social media time
I don’t believe excessive social media use is healthy and ultimately the most frustrating thing I find about it is that it’s actually distracting and unproductive.
And let’s be honest, Facebook is the worst. The feed is cluttered, there’s messages from random groups you forgot you were even in and posts from old school friends you’ve long since fallen out of touch with. Not exactly a conducive work environment.
After reading Cal Newport Digital Minimalism I gave my Facebook feed a huge detox last year, unfollowing organisations, leaving groups and unfriending ‘friends’ I wouldn’t even say hello to on the street.
Ultimately I would love to come off Facebook completely. Currently I’m still on it to facilitate the communities I host there, and for a very small handful of really useful, highly engaged business communities I’m part of.
It’s hard not to feel you’re missing ‘easy opportunities.’ But if I’m honest with myself, I barely use Facebook effectively now as a business-building tool, will that ever really change as my business grows? What am I hanging on for?
Worst case, I can come back to the group. I’ve only paused the group (this used to be called archiving, Facebook changed it recently) which means that whilst currently no-one can now join or post there, I could un-pause it and reinject some life and attention if I wanted or needed to.
I don’t see that happening personally. But ultimately as I tell clients, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision and if for whatever reason I felt this was a mistake, I can always undo it.
If you’ve got one or are considering starting one, I do want to share with you why I think keeping (or starting) a Facebook group of your own might well be worth your effort:
If you are in the early stages of your business you won’t have a huge audience to speak to, yet.
Creating a bespoke community where you channel ideal clients and specifically answer their questions and give them great tips and support in a private space can be a brilliant starting point for a client base.
If you’re starting out and you don’t want to pay for a community or teaching platform (there is absolutely no need when you’re at the beginning), then Facebook groups are a fantastic first step into audience building.
This is a blessing and a curse, but for the most part if you’re at the early stage of your business, using Facebook groups as a way to start building a community is a good idea because people are often on the site or app anyway for other things.
This means you don’t have to teach your ideal customers new habits, lure them to a new place or point them to a platform they’re not familiar with.
Facebook is very much a known entity, people are largely used to logging in on a semi-regular basis anyway throughout the week and can understand how to interact and get value from the group without engaging too many brain-cells.
The downside of this of course is that you don’t have people’s full attention. Because Facebook is cluttered and you have to fight and be smart to override the algorithm and get seen by your members.
This isn’t a tip about starting or running your own Facebook group, but more an argument for staying on the platform itself and utilising other groups.
When I was searching for ‘best client acquisition tips’ online recently (I was putting together a list for a client and wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything obvious!) I noticed a common tip across virtually every article I came across:
If you find the right groups (quality over quantity) where your ideal clients are congregating and are highly engaged and searching for help, being there to answer them puts you in a great position to be seen as an expert.
If you join groups and answer people’s questions and join in conversations on your specialised topic, people are highly likely to see you being helpful and come and check out your own Facebook page, group or offers.
And whilst most groups have a ‘no promotion’ rule (which I wholeheartedly agree with), just being a genuine, helpful and friendly person on a consistent basis in relevant Facebook groups will get you noticed.
Because every day my ideal clients were asking questions and sharing their problems in safe spaces that other people were facilitating where I could learn what they were struggling with, and then go away and create content (a social media post, video, blog post or product) to answer it.
Rather than just trying to imagine what your ideal clients need from you, you could be in a group where they share it in your line of sight every day and give you an unending stream of content ideas. You’ll never not know what to say ever again!
I hope this has been an insightful look into my thought on Facebook groups and my ultimate decision to close down my own free Facebook group.
I think connection is vital when you’re building a business, but in future I’ll be doing this away from Facebook and in a dedicated community platform I have more control over. Watch this space!
If you still want to pursue your own free Facebook group (I totally support that if it’s right for you!) I wrote this blog post about why Facebook groups can be your secret weapon in business, so have a read of that too if you want to use one as part of your marketing strategy.