Grow Your Business

A free Facebook group isn’t the magic bullet you think it is

You’ve seen Jurassic Park, right? The 1993 blockbuster hit?

Take a second to think back to all those scientists and the old dude with the white hair. They were so excited about sucking DNA from amber fossils and growing dinosaurs, not just because they could, but because they were going to make some serious coin as well!

I mean, what could go wrong?

Obviously, none of them seriously asked themselves this question, when creating the world’s first petting zoo of giant killing machines.

It was Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) who delivered one of the most famous — and buzzkilling — lines of the movie …

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

And as we know, Goldblum was on the money: T. rexes and velociraptors were soon scampering around freely, sampling the human buffet at their disposal.

Resurrecting dinosaurs really did seem like a great way to make money … until it wasn’t.

It’s the same with free Facebook groups, and today, I’m your Jeff Goldblum. I’m here to make you think twice before you unleash yet another free Facebook group into the world.

Depending on who you ask though, Facebook groups are either THE secret to growing your online business or a huge time suck that hijacks your calendar.

With an entire ecosystem out there that encourages you to build a free Facebook group, I’m not entirely surprised that so many entrepreneurs build them for their businesses without really questioning it. For example, in addition to teaching online marketing and mindset, Amanda Goldman-Petri teaches entrepreneurs to use Facebook groups …

… to quickly attract your ideal prospects and build your very own tight-knit community and engaged list of followers who “get you,” love you, and eagerly buy whatever you’re selling.

Some businesses revolve entirely around the idea that you need a free Facebook group for your business to grow. Caitlin Bacher helps “entrepreneurs start and grow profitable Facebook groups” and argues in a post that …

… most people believe they need to focus on building their email list BEFORE they start a Facebook group, which [according to her] is completely backwards.

Arne Giske, the creator of the free 30,000+—member Facebook group “Millennial Entrepreneur Community,” writes in the pinned post:

If you want more clients, a hugely engaged audience, and more sales quickly — building a FB group is one of the easiest ways to do that.

This “if you build it (a free Facebook group), they will come” approach sounds pretty awesome: massively grow your list, be drowning in new clients, skyrocket your sales, and make it rain dolla’bills … all by “simply” creating a free Facebook group. Sounds easy enough.

But is it really so simple to create, maintain, and engage a free community and use it to launch your business?

In my opinion (as a strategic community manager and the in-house community strategist here at GrowthLab): no.

No

Hell no, actually.

And today I’m going to help you dodge the free community bullet by highlighting the two major reasons Facebook groups actually distract you from taking action on what really matters for your business.

I’ll also highlight five successful entrepreneurs who pulled the plug on their free Facebook groups and why.

By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll know when to create a Facebook group for your business.

That’s right. There is a “yes” button for starting a Facebook group for your business. I’ll share two questions that you can ask yourself to know when a community IS actually worth your time and you can mash that “yes” button into tomorrow.

Let’s do this!

Reason #1: Facebook is a noisy middleman

Facebook is not your business; it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s. Your website and your email list are the cornerstones of your business and anyone who tells you otherwise likely has some sort of financial agenda for telling you so (aka … they have a program or service to help you build that free Facebook group that you must have).

Seriously though, why would you want to pour your digital foundation around something that you don’t control?

reaching people

When your entire business circles around a free Facebook group (list growth, client acquisition, etc.), you’re at the mercy of someone else’s rules. If Facebook changes ANYTHING, you essentially have to nod your head and go along with it or completely restructure your business.

new facebook algorithm

What to do? Focus on growing your email list with other techniques (GrowthLab recommends guest posting as a long-game strategy to stack traffic over time). Not to mention, when you send an email to your list no one steps in and says, “Hey dude…right now we’ll only show this email to 100 of your 1,000 email subscribers, but if you slip us some green we’ll make sure everyone sees it.”

Now, there are some limitations to email, like inbox tabs in Gmail for example, but Google isn’t asking you to slip them some green to get those messages sent straight to the primary inbox. So you might assume that a Facebook group creates a direct line of communication to your dream clients. Not so fast.

There’s another reason Facebook is a noisy middleman: what happens when your members join dozens of different groups? (Go ahead, look at all the groups that you’re a part of and have probably forgotten about.)

Not only does every Facebook user’s attention get pulled in all directions, they’ll usually do something to turn down the noise … which includes turning down YOU.

One option at their disposal is manually changing their notification settings to not get updates from you or your group.

*GASP*

turn off notifications

Yes … they CAN choose to stop getting notifications from your group. Think about that for a moment: you did the hard work of gaining that group member, only to have Facebook offer a feature that prevents them from hearing your message.

You might be expecting a thriving community of buyers from your efforts (we’re talking time and energy), when you actually end up with something that feels more like a prepubescent teen’s birthday party where only your aunt shows up. And the worst part is, you have no idea if your posts are being hidden.

With so many free groups available now (millions), members aren’t engaging as much as they used to. Which leads to my second reason for saying “PASS” on a free Facebook group.

Reason #2: Group fatigue

Are groups getting tired? No, but their members are.

Facebook introduced new groups back in October 2010, and Annie Ta Bennett announced on April 25, 2011, via an official Facebook post, “In the six months since our launch [of the new groups], people have created over 50 million Groups on Facebook.”

That was back in 2011 and in a six month window! With millions of groups to choose from, and so many members in each group … people have started to tune out.

For example, I’m a member of more than 40 Facebook groups and I’ve started to disengage (even from groups that I enjoy and value). There’s just too much noise, too much selling, and it’s not the best use of my time (personally or professionally).

Facebook group fatigue

Others go one step further to eliminate the distractions though. They’ll either purge their group lists (meaning your free group ends up on the chopping block), or they simply quit Facebook. Bye-bye.

So what should you be doing instead?

Focus on building your email list using techniques that don’t demand your attention daily (and indefinitely I might add), and save your “community” efforts for people who pay you for something. That way, when someone becomes a member of your group they’ll have skin in the game. They’ll have thrown their credit card at you, and you’ll be helping them solve a specific problem or providing support for something that is important enough for them to pay for.

Now. We’ve covered the two major reasons Facebook groups aren’t the best use of your time when you’re starting out, but let’s look at some real-life examples of successful entrepreneurs who decided to pull the plug on their free Facebook groups and why.

Jill Stanton: The free Facebook group overrun with marketers

Jill and Josh Stanton

Jill Stanton and her husband Josh run Screw the Nine to Five, where they help people start their own online businesses and leave their nine-to-five jobs behind. (All with a lot of inappropriate jokes and colorful language … aww yeah!)

On June 5, 2017, Jill announced on a FB live video that she’d be archiving her original “Screw the Nine to Five” Facebook group, despite the 44,000+ members she had amassed. Jill shared the reasoning behind the decision and what she said — casually — at the very beginning of the FB live is something that people often overlook:

What’s the right move? Should I shut down this group? Is there a purpose for it in our business? While I’m a community builder, I’m also a business owner. So everything you do, you need to make sure it makes sense for your business.

Let me say that again: “EVERYTHING you do needs to make sense for your business.” And for Jill, that 40k+ beast needed the boot. She went on to describe the community as …

… an echo chamber of noise, half the time. There’s people coming in doing veiled pitches, tons of market research, tons of ranting, and it’s just lost the magic that I initially set up this group to have. I’m taking back control and shutting this group down.

I reached out to Jill and asked how it got that way, and Jill shared:

It started attracting people who were looking to gain clients through FB groups and so it felt like people were coming in with a motive and sharing stories that felt more like veiled pitches than meaningful shares … Once I realized that, it was a no-brainer to shut it down.

What is she doing now?

She’s set up a NEW free group on Facebook, “The NEW Screw the Nine to Five Community,” with one big difference. She implemented extremely strict guidelines that leave no room for interpretation for online marketers looking to self-promote.

community guidelines

Now you might be thinking, “BUT DIANA!! Jill still has a free Facebook group! Shouldn’t I, too?”

You’re right. She does. But stop for a moment and ask yourself WHY you want a free community. You probably want the things we mentioned at the beginning of this article: to grow your email list, get more clients, make more sales, and connect with your audience.

For someone just starting out, an online community isn’t the most efficient way to accomplish this. Communities force you to commit daily time and energy to maintaining and engaging them, which leaves other business building activities untouched (which Nick Wolny and Sew Heidi demonstrate later on in this article).

Other options include writing an ultimate guide, guest posting, doing podcast interviews or being featured in magazine and TV media, like business & publicity strategist Selena Soo recommends, and the biggest advantage of these approaches is that you can stack them.

That’s right. You do a guest post and the link in your bio stays there, sending sustained traffic to your site without you lifting a finger after it’s published. As you do more over time, the links drive more and more sustainable traffic to your site.

Or maybe you write an ultimate guide (the best piece of content on the internet for your niche) and you establish yourself as the go-to expert as people share your work and start getting results. Using these approaches allows you to grow your business on a solid foundation that you own, without the constant pressure of having to engage and police a community of freeloaders that might never actually buy from you.

This is exactly what Nick Wolny did after closing his free Facebook group.

Nick Wolny: The free Facebook group distracting from deep work

Nick Wolny is an ultimate guide ghostwriter and content marketing strategist in the health and fitness sector. He helps business owners attract more clients and make more revenue over at nickwolny.com. He had a smaller group, “Texas-Sized Dreams and Dreamers,” which he put out to pasture.

Screen Shot 2017 12 12 at 21.44.14

He had his group for six months, and it grew to about 150 members and then stalled. I asked him why he set it up in the first place, and he explained:

I set it up initially to create a conversational element to my content. I also wanted to create a space where prospective clients could get to know, like, and trust me by seeing me interact with others.

Nick soon had a lightbulb moment and arrived at the same decision as our other examples: to close his group.

Paid groups work because everyone is connected by the course (and everyone is a buyer). Once I realized that, trashing the group was easy.

What’s even more interesting is how Nick is now using his time instead of engaging his free Facebook group:

[I’m] writing tens of thousands of words, balancing a full client book, and loving it. I did notice that in the first six months of 2017 I did almost no “deep work” — I just tried to engage my list and my group each week.

Now, I do almost entirely deep work. I recently went eight weeks without emailing my list. When I did email them, it was to drop awesome content. I doubled my client book off that email. Obviously, the ideal is to email regularly and build relationships with your community. Reprioritizing remarkable content over timely engagement has proven to be very lucrative.

Nick started his community because he wanted a conversational element to his content, but for Leonie Dawson, a free group wasn’t even her idea.

Leonie Dawson: The “Good Idea” free Facebook group

Leonie Dawson is the international bestselling author, artist, and founder of leoniedawson.com, where she applies her hippy ways to all things online business.

Screen Shot 2017 12 04 at 12.47.42

Fun fact: I bought her workbooks for 2017 and 2018 and I love them. It makes planning my days/weeks/months and year far too fun and doodly. (Apparently I have an inner hippy.)

20glqd

So when I saw that she had a free Facebook group for people using the workbooks, I dove right in.

Then … Leonie went on a social media sabbatical and archived the group. D’oh.

Leonie is still running her paid Facebook group for her membership program, “The Academy,” and another group for her newest venture, but the time and energy that this behemoth of a free group was demanding wasn’t worth it anymore, so she pulled the plug.

In an email she sent to her list, she explained:

at this stage, I will NOT be reopening the workbook Facebook group. It’s been a relatively new side-bonus, one that was invented by one of my past employees that wasn’t in alignment with my original vision. I understand it was a happy place for many people for a time, and I am grateful for that. I take my role as space-holder and energy-upholder for community spaces very seriously, and I will not hold a space half-heartedly.

She never intended to create this free community, and only did so because a past employee had suggested/invented the idea.

Remember: half of the fun of running a business is building a life and company you want. If running a Facebook group becomes a chore, explore why and consider killing it so you can focus on other areas of your business, like promoting deeper connections like Melyssa Griffin opted to do.

Melyssa Griffin: The free Facebook group blocking deeper connection

Melyssa Griffin helps online entrepreneurs who are “createabitionate” (creative, ambitious, and passionate) grow their online businesses to make more of an impact over at melyssagriffin.com.

She created a free Facebook group, “Online BFFs,” back in 2015. Yet again we are faced with a free Facebook group that was massive — 70,000 members massive.

Screen Shot 2017 12 04 at 12.19.45

So why did Melyssa pull the plug? She lays it all out for us in a blog post, “Why I’m closing my free Facebook group (even though it has 70,000 members).”

I haven’t been as present in my group as I was able to be when it was first created. As we move into a new chapter (and as I pursue a model of community that creates deeper connections), we are looking to form events, masterminds, and workshops in the near future — ways for us to bring a sense of true community to all of you, with lasting relationships.

She goes on to say:

As much as I’d love to help everyone (trust me on that!), I know my time is best spent focusing on the students who have invested their own energy in my courses and membership program.

So essentially, she’s providing community for her paying clients via the private Facebook groups for her “List Surge” and “Pinfinite Growth” programs. Groups for people serious enough to throw money at her to help solve their problems.

Do you see a pattern?

Entrepreneurs are trading in their free Facebook groups for activities that better support their businesses AND not to mention make them feel good while they are at it. Sew Heidi wasn’t feeling her free community and she is now dedicating her time to projects that bring her joy and ROI.

Sew Heidi: The free Facebook group lacking ROI

Sew Heidi is the founder of Successful Fashion Designer, and she helps ambitious fashion designers get ahead in their careers and earn more money.

Screen Shot 2017 12 12 at 22.02.12

She set up a group (that grew to 750 members) because …

… [I wanted to build] a more intimate relationship with my audience and gain exposure to people who may never find me otherwise. […] When people do discover my resources, they often tell me “I wish I found you years ago!” so I know it’s my responsibility to help them find me. I thought my free FB group would do that.

Sound familiar? I bet it does.

But it wasn’t as easy as people said it would be, and it wasn’t a lot of fun either. Heidi paints the reality of managing her community:

At first, people loved it and responded. But after a few weeks, those [engagement] posts would get just a few likes, no comments, and if you scrolled through the feed, it felt like all you saw was my pathetic attempt at forcing engagement. I started hating that, so I quit and let the group just run itself. That’s when there started to be weeks of crickets, random home sewing posts, and insanely vague and impossible-to-answer questions.

The community not only wasn’t adding to her business, it was making her feel bad. But once she pulled the plug, Heidi was able to focus her time and energy on other parts of her business that actually create a much better experience for her as a business owner and ROI for her business.

Heidi is now running a podcast that she adores. She shared that she is getting “feedback through the roof and my listeners absolutely love it — sometimes the reviews bring tears to my eyes.”

And like Nick, she said:

I’m also focusing on writing epic pieces of content to provide huge value bombs on topics no one else talks about, like the 20K+ word “Ultimate Guide to Being a Freelance Fashion Designer.”

So what does this mean for you?

I hope that by now you’ve mentally hit pause on creating a free Facebook group (right? RIGHT?), and are thinking about other ways to better invest your limited time and energy in your business.

But hold on a second. I did promise you a “yes” button for a Facebook group, didn’t I.

So, when IS it worth your time to start a Facebook group?

The two questions you must ask yourself to know if you should build a community

I cover this in more detail in chapter 2 of my ultimate guide, “The Ultimate Guide to Building a Profitable Online Community From Scratch,” but here are the 2 questions:

  1. Do you have over 1,000 email subscribers?
  2. Do you have a course that has more than four modules or is more than four weeks long?

If you’d like to know why those two questions are important, take a lookie-loo at chapter 2 of my ultimate guide here.

look at chapter 2

Now, if you answered no to either of those questions, stop right there and focus your time and energy to turn those two “no’s” into two “damn right I do’s.”

Then you can get to work creating an online community that:

  • Supports your paying students in nailing their goals
  • Collects testimonials without even asking
  • Helps you get raving fans for life

So there you have it. There’ll be no community dinosaurs running around your online business island, distracting you from taking action on more important work.

Now I’d like to hear from you. If you were thinking about creating a free Facebook group and aren’t anymore, what are you going to do instead?

On the flip side, maybe you disagree? I’d love to hear from you as well. Healthy discussion is always welcome!

Share your thoughts in the comments and I’ll also be answering any questions you have about building a community in the first 24 hours so be sure to ask. I’d love to help.

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There Are 50 Comments

 

Love, love, love this post (and not just because I’m mentioned in it!). Thank you Diana for shedding light on what could be called a very controversial topic and for having the courage to write this.

My favorite part was from Melyssa about her focus on students who have invested in themselves. We can give and give and give all day long – and a lot of us do give away 90%+ of our content for free. But at some point, we need to put our energy into those who are seriously committed.

No questions for now, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your candor and honesty 🙂

I’m glad that you enjoyed the article Heidi.

As someone who has been through the process of staring a free group, trying to make it work, and having to “kill it” in the end, you know the importance of spending your time and energy on activities that you enjoy and offer value to your audience at the same time.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree, Melyssa’s focus on helping students who have invested in themselves is spot on. 🙂

Oh wow this was a really eye-opening piece.
I’m one person who needs to shutter down my FB group because I’m no and no on both questions of email list of 1,000+ subscribers and course with modules.

Originally, I got started with the idea of a Free FB community bc was under the impression from the “gurus” you have to build like and trust with an audience and if they see you constantly giving away awesome, content, tips and education people will undoubtedly come to you to solve their problems with wallet in hand.

This never happened.

I felt it was more of how much help can I receive from this free group without having to purchase any products/services.

I also noticed there was very little engagement and despite my best efforts to make this happen the group was silent except for one or two people.

It just became a chore and was not fun.

FB really does hold all the strings and why should I work so hard to build up their community while neglecting my website where it has been ages since I wrote a post.

Thank you for making this post and getting people to think about whether a FB group even makes sense in the first place.

For me it’s not the thing to do right now and as soon as I send this comment I will figure out how to shutter my Free FB group and work on what really builds my business and that’s deeper content, case studies, and growing my email list to 100 subscribers and surprisingly my YouTube channel is growing the fastest too.

This is awesome to hear Jason. Being able to create space for awareness and a new perspective on free communities is exactly what I wanted to accomplish with this post.

As for the ‘gurus’, they aren’t wrong per se. You DO need to establish like/trust with your audience and readers…there are just many different ways to accomplish that.

While building a Free Facebook group is an option, I don’t believe it’s the best choice…mainly because it isn’t 100% YOURS.

The key part about your comment is “it just became a chore and was not fun”.

That’s a huge red flag. Your business should be fun. Sure, it won’t be rainbows and lolly-pops 24/7 but you should enjoy what you’re doing to help your audience. (Writing articles, hosting a podcast, writing ultimate guides, guest posting, creating info graphics etc).

As for shutting down your group, it isn’t as hard as you think.

This ties in with Myth #10 from my first ultimate guide: “Once I create a community I’ll be married to it for life”. https://www.dianatower.com/myth10

Spoiler alert…it’s not true.

Just ask Heidi, Nick or any of the entrepreneurs featured here. What I would recommend is writing up an announcement post, a week or so before you plan to archive the group.

Make sure that your message focuses on their needs and how closing the group will allow you to serve them better.

You can also invite everyone to join your mailing list as that is how you’ll be offering useful content to help them moving forward.

Then when the day comes, archive your group and move on.

I know that it can feel scary to close down a group, and you might felt guilty…like you’re letting them down, but honestly…they’ll either not really notice (harsh but true) or they’ll simply get over it…like the many members that are no longer in the Facebook groups that I feature in this post.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and take-aways from the article Jason. 🙂

Great article Diana! Too early for me to decide on whether to have a FB group or not but this article will definitely help me make the decision when I get there.
For now, it has helped me re-order my priorities and keep my focus on the important things like building my list. And has also put my mind at ease that I don’t have to worry about a FB group at this stage. Thank you x

Thanks for sharing your experience Shubangi and I’m SO glad that this piece has given you some peace of mind.

No one should feel pressure to create a community for their business. It’s something that should come naturally when you’re looking to offer more value and a VIP experience for your paying clients.

Focus on building your list in “stackable” ways…not something that needs constant attention. Writing guest posts, ultimate guides (highly recommend), going on podcasts…these are all strategies that require effort upfront, but then require little to know effort in the future.

BTW…I’m really excited to see where you take effortlessallure.com. Your article on “the 3 piece rule” seriously made so much sense. Loved it.

This is an excellent reminder to build your business upon the solid rock of your own website/e-mail list, and not on the ever-shifting sand of someone else’s platform, Diana!

I, too, realized that I was spending so much time trying to “engage” on social media, that I wasn’t creating enough meaningful content in a lasting place like my own website. I knew that you were right, that what I really want is to create the stable and evergreen foundation that I know my business needs. So I followed your advice and skipped the freebie group–thanks for that!

I am finally putting the finishing touches on my ‘Ultimate Guide to Cooking with Children!’ I do plan to get back on social media to share news of the launch in a couple of days with my friends there, but that will be with an eye toward building up my own e-mail list (well beyond that 1,000 benchmark you suggest). I’ll also spend the bulk of my time afterward answering questions and writing down the feedback from my Ultimate Guide in order to flesh out my first online course, the 12-week PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD workshop! 2018 is going to be so much FUN!!!

Hi Karen,
So good to see you here and I love your comment so much. Build on solid rock..not ever-shifting sand. AMEN!

Your experience is SO common too. The idea that we try to engage and engage on social media…trying to get traction when we could create something epic that will simply be there (like this post for example).

Cheers to building stable evergreen foundation for your business. Your ultimate guide sounds like it’s going to be awesome!

PS: Having fun with your business is key. Keep it up.

reshanda Yates

Even already knowing how you felt about free Facebook communities, I was still shocked to hear some of the horror stories from people who killed theirs.

It’s still quite common to assume that starting a community is a natural step to growing your following and I confess, with so many people constantly telling me to my face, “You should start a Facebook group!” often the only thing stopping me is the (Diana’s) voice in my head saying “NO!”

The temptation is real!

It IS common to assume this. That building a community is a win “no matter what”. It can be a win…if you do it strategically, but that takes consistent time and effort which honestly, most people don’t have the luxury of when starting out.

You can’t slap up a group, schedule “engagement posts” and have your members walk away with something of value or make them feel like a VIP. Community is so much more than a digital room on Facebook.

I’m glad that my voice is in your head though (heehee)…now you can see the NO button too along with my voice. 🙂

The temptation IS real…but you can punch it in the face…with the no button. BOOM.

What a fantastic article, Diana!!! CONGRATS!!! This totally helped me rethink my next moves with my FB group and refocus on the areas of my business that get the most ROI. Thank you!

Thanks so much Gladys. I’m glad that it’s helping you rethinking things. I know that you have a free Facebook group, which was originally part of your book launch (a community for a specific purpose #fistbump).

How are you finding things with it now? Do you feel it is supporting your business goals and offering your audience value?

DIANA! Your voice is the only voice I ever hear when it comes to Facebook groups. I’m not ready for a Facebook group yet, but only because you saved my behind when I read your first Ultimate Guide! Phew. I am grateful! And I’ll be the first to come knocking on your door when the time is right!

Oooo Clarissa! You have no idea how happy this makes me. I feel a new tagline for my website forming…”Diana Tower, helping entrepreneurs dodge the free Facebook group bullet…since 2016″.

It’s funny that you say that though, because my first guide, “The Ultimate Guide to Building an Profitable Online Community from Scratch” https://www.dianatower.com/ultimateguide1 should really be called, “The Ultimate Guide to NOT building a Community”. Haha.

SO many people have told me that they decided NOT to pull the trigger after reading that guide.

Can’t wait for you to create a banging community for your paying clients. Those mama’s are gonna be so lucky to have the VIP space you create for them. 😉

Yup, totally agree on that. Ownership and control are key. People are setting up shop on Etsy, Shopify and amazon. Suddenly they get suspended. And it turns out, conversation is not the way to overcome a brick wall. Similar to facebook. Vendor lock-in, they have you where they want. For Facebook, even if you set notification of a group to zero, nada, zilch and nothing, you still get a few of them. And if you set them to STFU on your browser on your PC, good chance, the app doesn’t give an excrement from an unknown species. A lot of mistakes can be made starting out your business, better to avoid them upfront with some good advice ;-).
BTW, I would love to see more of your drawings in your posts (the skateboard in the back).

Hey Kyle,

That’s also another point that isn’t addressed directly in this post…that you can get shut down or locked out.

I know for myself, once I was messaging members of a community I manage and apparently I was doing t too quickly so my ability to send PMs was blocked for almost a day.

NOT the most productive thing to have happen.

As for drawings…great point. I love me some doodling. You can see some of what I’ve done on my post about Forefront (IWT’s live event). I did some letter doodles for some of my colleagues. https://www.dianatower.com/forefront

As for the skateboard, I didn’t draw that, though I wish I had. I love it! Fun fact: I secretly want to learn how to skateboard (but need to work on falling…damn it hurts) but in the mean time…it’s art. 🙂

I feel like you liberated my soul. I’m just working on my first online business and Fb was huge question for me. How to use it, how to maintain and control it. I feel like passing the final exams at college 😀
This makes a lot of sense, I was struggling with this like weeks ago.
No Fb until 1000k+ subscribers and first big course. Yep.
Many thanx! 😉

Well Roland, you just made my day and added another cool role to my linkedin profile. Community strategist and soul liberator!

Damn…that sounds badass!

It’s nice knowing that you can simply say “talk to the hand” to a Facebook group for a while. Not only that…you NEVER have to build one on Facebook…you have options.

This depends on your audience but Slack is a fantastic option as well, especially if you’re walking your students through a live program.

Enjoy your soul Rowan. 😉

Fantastic article! I learned the hard way about free Facebook groups and just pulled the plug on mine. I am a relationship/breakup coach. And my group became a therapist’s couch and an all-around gripe session for women. My uplifting FB lives were ignored. LOL. I’ve gotten ALL of my paying clients from my email list. The people who were serious about getting help never joined the free group. So, it was a no brainer to shut it down. Thank you!

Congratulations for pulling the plug on your free group Janae! I’m not surprised that you had that experience, though many people don’t realise that that is the community they are creating. Simply a place for people to come together and complain…but not take action. How are you spending your time now?

Although I don’t have a course, my free group dramatically lowered the burden placed on me to answer a bunch of questions in my inbox because others in similar positions (preparing for the bar exam) are helping one another.

I do get some messages in my FB inbox now, but it’s another way to get personal with my audience with an actual face attached to each other.

It may not be a huge revenue driver, but it’s still valuable. I find testimonials, and I can make my answer to a question visible to a lot of people instead of just 1:1 via email. There’s rarely self-promo either (there’s nothing to promote). It still makes sense to me at this point.

Hey Brian, as long as it makes sense to you, provides value for both you and your members and you ENJOY it. Awesome.

There are many different ways to engage with our audiences and share content. All of them take time/effort. It’s finding the right one for you.

For example, I launched a podcast recently and many experts might say that that’s a bad idea. Heck…GrowthLab published an article specifically saying DON’T do it right before I did!

https://growthlab.com/thinking-of-starting-a-podcast-dont/

Launching a podcast takes a sh*t load of time behind the scenes and it isn’t a huge revenue driver.

Two things though:

1. It’s NOT the cornerstone of my business (that’s my email list)

2. I LOVE it. I love interviewing entrepreneurs that I know and adore in a fun and authentic way. I also love solving problems for my audience using audio (and now video as well). Truth be told I even enjoy the backend work of designing images, editing etc. (Yes…I’m a weirdo).

The trick really is to find something you love doing, so that you’ll DO IT…consistently. If you enjoy engaging with your members in a FB group…go for it.

Just don’t make your entire business dependant on that group (like so many people seem to be doing these days), as it could disappear or change at any point…and without warning.

I’d love to know more about your business Brian. You mentioned that you don’t have a course. Are you offering coaching/tutoring (for people preparing for the bar exam)?

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience Brian and looking forward to learning more about what you’re working on.

Hi Diana! I didn’t see your comment until now when I happened to look. GrowthLab/Ramit should enable a way to get notifications for new comments 🙂

You’re very right about doing what works for you and doing what serves your audience best.

Regarding your question, to clarify, although I don’t have a traditional video course, I do offer outlines, guides, and other tools.

I do coaching for free 1:1 over email and messenger (and via blog posts and weekly emails if you count them). I don’t explicitly offer it, but if people do email me, I’ll respond to all of their messages until it looks like they’re just using me as a Q&A ATM 🙂 Thankfully, a lot of that has shifted over to the community, because now THEY know what to do and are willing to help one another.

There are many options out there, but I believe that the trust I foster with my readers and the word of mouth that they spread help with the sales. $51k last year with $29-79 products — not bad IMO!

Do you have a link to your new podcast? Would be interested in checking it out. Thanks Diana.

Hey Brian,

That’s a great point (getting notifications for comments).

Here is what I am wondering though.

Rather than solving a potential problem (lots of emails) with a free community, have you considered providing paid coaching?

Either via email, Whatsapp or even live calls? It sounds like there is a need for it from what you’re saying. Though who knows if people would pay…worth a test.

You could test the idea of 1on1 coaching and also group. I’d reach out to my readers to gauge interest and test it.

I would be curious to know how many people buy from you because of their involvement in your group vs reading your content on your site/email list. Are you able to track this?

Having a free group can help you bottomline, but in your case it could actually be taking money away from your business…by cannibalising a potential coaching service/membership.

As for my podcast, you can check it out here dianatower.com/show 😀 Let me know what you think.

Hey Diana, this is something my business partners and I have been debating, and your article has helped a ton! Thank you!

(We have a private group hosted on our own website, mind you.)

Do you have any advice about how to deal with the fact that only a certain percentage of our members taken advantage of the community? I mean, is it bad if some members who don’t take advantage of the community are essentially subsidizing the members who do?

Customer A buys the $200 program and is happy without ever engaging in the community, but essentially only uses $150-worth of what we sold him.

Customer B buys the $200 program and takes advantage of the community. He uses $250-worth, which makes sense for us financially as customer A left $50 of extra value on the table.

Is that… good? Ethical? Wise? (Both types of customers seem very happy, if that helps.)

Hey Shane,

I’m so glad that this post helped you. Before I answer your Q…one thing. I clicked on your name to hop over to your website and it said the IP wasn’t working. http://www.bonytobombshell.com’s server IP address could not be found.
DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN

BUT https://bonytobombshell.com/ DOES work.

You need to go into your domain provider and make sure that the www. version redirects to the non-www version.

I’m not sure if that’s technically what the process is called but I remember having to do this when I first set up my website (with Hover).

Back to your question.

“Do you have any advice about how to deal with the fact that only a certain percentage of our members taken advantage of the community?”

I do, now here’s the deal. You’ll always have “lurkers”. Some people just aren’t interested in engaging that much in a community. They purchase a product that happens to come with the community, they follow the course and walk away happy. Also, their definition of “engaged” could be much lower than what you would consider engaged.

As long as you’re providing enough value in the course material to justify spending $200…they’ll be happy.

Also, just because someone leaves $50 of value on the table doesn’t mean someone else is suddenly getting $250 worth of value.

At the end of your comment you mention that both “seem” happy. Can we dig into that a little? Have you hopped on calls with people who are engaged and others who aren’t, to talk to them about their experience?

If you have spoken directly to them, done surveys and other forms of customer research and THEY are telling you they are happy…there is nothing to worry about.

If you haven’t gotten direct feedback from them, I would recommend it. That way you can know what they think for sure.

Also, as I said before you’ll probably never have 100% of your clients using the community but if you notice a large percentage of students not using it…then it’s time to reach out to them and find out why.

Maybe your on-boarding needs to change to emphasise the community.

Maybe you need different guidelines to evoke a certain emotion.

Maybe the user experience could use some work.

There are many thing that could be causing people to not be engaging (hard to tell without seeing your community), but doing some investigation could help you know for sure what’s going on under the hood of your community.

As for being good, ethical, wise…you can’t force people to use all of the course content and to engage…that is their decision.

I’d say you’re fine…as long as you do the research to know what is going on and also know that some lurkers is ok.

PLUS…what does “engaged” even mean. I bet if you asked someone who you think isn’t engaged if they are or not…they might think they are (because they read the posts and give them a thumbs up).

Being clear on what you mean by engaged will help get you some clarity as well.

I hope that helps and if you need any clarification just let me know. 🙂

First of all, you are such a stitch! I love your humor, lightness and jabbing. Plus I agree with everything you say. I recently started a FB group and have wondered many of the questions you brought up.

However, I’m not going to let go just yet as I want to explore some possibilities for it. Right now, it’s a place for people who like to hang out with me and each other to do that. I’ll keep all of these thoughts in mind moving forward.

Hey Linda, Thank you for your kind words. I love making community fun.

As for your free group, knowing when to pull the plug or keep going is a personal decision.

No one is going to have the same experience, as it depends on your motivation or WHY. In your case, your using it as a place to hang out…which is very different from someone who is using a group as the cornerstone/foundation of their business.

From what you’ve said it sounds like it’s something that you enjoy and even if it isn’t adding to your bottomline directly it’s adding value to your audience and to you. 😉

I’m glad you liked the article and thanks for taking the time to share your perspective. 🙂

Cracking article Diana. I have built a number of location specific LinkedIn Groups which have been instrumental in growing my business.

In essence they are the same as Facebook groups in terms of functionality but they have some big differences in terms on structure and engagement.

I especially love the “send an announcement” feature which allows me to send a messages to all groups members once every 7 days. This is good when it comes to promoting workshops i’m running.

Hey Andy, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. “Cracking”. What a great expression! Love it.

I don’t have experience with LinkedIn Groups but having the ability to send an announcement to the WHOLE group each week is awesome.

The only thing with LinkedIn is that it will greatly depend on your audience and if they are also there. For example I have a LinkedIn profile but like I said…I have no experience with the groups cause I don’t use them.

Truth…I didn’t even know they had groups. If your audience hangs out there then this could be interesting but then again…the same argument applies. You business foundation should be built on something you control (your email list)…everything else is gravy…but shouldn’t play a leading roll in your business play.

You said your groups were instrumental in growing your business…can you explain how? Super curious. 🙂

Thanks for sharing your insights and I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

Thank you for such an interesting article! I was wondering what your opinion is of group chats. I run one on WhatsApp that (so far) is going really well. It’s very small, has a strict no promo rule and there are only a handful of posts a week so people don’t feel overwhelmed. I haven’t had any sales from it, but it’s a positive place to exchange ideas and isn’t causing me any stress.

Hi Grace,
You’re welcome! As for your question…it’s a good one but my answer is going to be the same as free groups.

Group chats are a fantastic way to provide coaching/support to paying clients. I know of several coaches who are providing support via small Whatsapp groups (5-6 clients) rather than making a Facebook group.

Would I create a group chat for free so people can “exchange ideas”?

Nope.

It also will depend on what your goals are. So let me turn this back to you. What is your goal with having this group chat? How does it help you and your business?

I would argue that whatever your goal is, that there is a different way you could achieve it, that respects your time and energy more.

Unless you’re specifically using the group for something (like getting feedback on a course you’re making) I would say the time and effort you put into it isn’t the best use of your time.

On the flip side though, if having this group is easy for you, gets you the information and results that you need to achieve your goal and is not a huge time commitment…then “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

My challenge for you is to take a step back from it and ask yourself if there is something else you should be focusing your time one, that would “move the needle” more for your business.

Would love to here what you discover. 🙂

Hi Diana, fantastic article. How does this advice translate to physical product sellers. I can see how having a list and having course content should be priorities for coaches, as someone who is building a ecommerce/ physical products business FB groups do tend to help (or so I have heard from other physical product sellers). Do you have an equivalent 2 questions for ecommerce sellers ?

Hi Bipin,

First let me say, I don’t have experience with physical products and the impact that groups have on selling them, so I’m not the best person to answer your question.

Here are some thoughts though that could help.

First off…let’s define “community?”

A community is a place where people with a common interest go to hang out, and discuss this common interest.

Additionally, these people tend to overcome a boundary/barrier or two. So for example…a group created for women doing Yoga, who have had children.

Everyone in the group is unified in that respect because they are mothers who do yoga. So that brings the community together. Everyone “gets” each other and can offer support and insights specific for their experience.

That group will probably feel more intimate and closer than simply a group for ANYONE doing Yoga.

Now…imagine if you made a group for Calvin Klein underwear. Do you think that anyone is going to go into that group daily to share and rave about the underwear?

Maybe. Or are they simply going to buy the underwear and wear it?

Community is meant to bring people together to discuss something…and physical products MAY not be the best fit for this.

That being said, I HAVE seen groups for products that seem/appear active (though that does not mean it significantly helps the company’s bottomline).

One group example is InstaPot. They have a Facebook group with 1.2 MILLION members…and this is what the community provides:

“Here you can interact with the international community of Instant Pot users to ask questions, post unique recipes, get useful tips and generally share the joy of cooking with this revolutionary multi-cooker. ”

I can see it as being a way to encourage customers to use it more (as they share questions, recipes etc), gather testimonials, see what problems are coming up to improve the product etc). I also see it as a way to promote the product as someone might visit the group to see what all the fuss is about.

So what you need to ask yourself is what is your GOAL for the community, and is it the best approach for you to achieve those goals (taking into consideration what you enjoy doing, and what your clients value).

I hope that helps a bit and thanks for asking your question Bipin.

Are there any platforms outside of Facebook that you’d recommend if we have #1 and #2 completed?

Hey Jeff,

Indeed I do. For communities that are a bonus or come with an online course or coaching program I would recommend:

Facebook for a course that is 100% pre-recorded (like the Zero to Launch community).

Slack for programs that offer pre-recorded content and/or live sessions throughout the course (like what Primoz Bozic does for his Ultimate Guide System).

A simple Whatsapp group chat for small coaching focused groups.

Things to note…FB is free (for now) but you don’t really own it which freaks me out personally.

Slack is free, but later on when you’ve got a lot of messages or you have a lot of people you eventually will need to pay…but then you won’t need to worry about FB algorithm changes.

These are the platforms I work with and help clients provide VIP experiences for their clients on.

There are others that I would like to eventually explore though.

Do you have any other platforms that you’ve hear about Jeff, that have you curious?

This is a great post for a number of reasons. Personally, I have stopped going on Facebook at all because of the negativity everywhere. I use to have a number of groups that I engaged in but the number of people in damn near every group makes it hard to engage meaningfully.

Am I the only person that misses forums? Facebook Groups killed them off and I loved them. They were my favorite type of internet community as they were generally specialized and then each subforum made it further specialized. Facebook groups is just one long thread so everything gets pushed down quickly and with a super-large group, a post can be well below the fold in seconds.

I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post Randy!

I agree with what you’re saying about Facebook. There is a lot of negativity and massive groups don’t feel “connected” anymore. Everything feels impersonal these days.

I miss forums for courses…that’s why I love Slack as it allows you to create a channel for each module of your course or to divide up your questions into different rooms.

Rather than having everything on “the wall”.

You CAN work around this though by creating a “mini-forum” post in FB but most hosts don’t (which is a shame).

I think the biggest lesson here is that community is not a one sized fits all bandaid to business.

Thanks for reading Randy and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Thanks Karen. While social is important and can be a great addition to our businesses, we should never make it the cornerstone of our business. Talk about building on sand.

Glad you enjoyed the article.

The gif work is on point. Great read and one less stopper that I can use as an excuse to finally start my business.

I’m glad you enjoyed the GIFs. That’s one of my secret pleasures. Making custom GIFs. If you want to see something awesome, you can check out ALL my GIFs here.

I sometimes load the page and simply watch myself. It’s kind of hilarious. (Is it weird that I do this? Nawwwww).

https://giphy.com/channel/dianatower

Time to start that biz dude. What are you working on?

Hi

Great article – I was just thinking of doing this – because there are plenty of folk out there advising that this is the right thing to do. But I don’t have an email list and I don’t have my course modules created so 100% I can see that FB groups can just be another unwelcome distraction.

So, Diane, that’s great food for thought and I’m pretty sure I will hold off on the group and focus on something less flaky.

Hey Jules,

Glad to here it. I feel like you just inspired a new blog post idea. Why building a free FB group is flaky and what to do instead. haha.

While some people would argue that you can grow your list by using Facebook groups (which technically they are correct) the amount of work, energy and thought that goes into group to engage and mange a group isn’t how I would recommend spending your time in the beginning.

Save your community juice for your paying clients.

Glad you enjoyed the article and dodged this distraction bullet.

Thank you for cutting through the FB fog!
Free is never really free. Free FB groups cost you time, energy, committment……that you’re contributing to someone else’s business.
And isn’t this what we all want to be free from?
Isn’t it why we’re a part of Ramit’s community & creating our own businesses?

bassey Simon

Thanks for this timely “infovention” (intervention information). Do you mind if I share this with some local business owners that we are helping in our group little group?

Great post Diana. Loved how you went against the popular mindset and gave a different view, backed by people how have strong credibility (rather than just saying, “trust me because I say so”).

I started a free FB group some time ago, but I’m already feeling that it’s not quite the right thing for me.

That said, I won’t be actively list building for now either. First, I wanna focus on prospecting to get clients. Once I have a strong income bed, I can start building my list. As far as I’m concerned, list building is secondary at this point in my life.

Dear Diana,

From what you say, creating a community seems hard but it’s impossible when you waste your precious time on shiny “solutions” or must-haves.
Focusing your time is so important; I really appreciate the cautionary warning.
I’m eager to hear more.

All the best,

Jenifer

I totally agree with you and I don’t even have an online business! I run an English Language school in São Paulo Brazil and got really involved in social media as a whole. Snapchat, podcasts, blogs, facebook groups, facebook lives, you name it. I did them all. I soon realized that I was spending too much time thinking what to post next that I let my business slip up. I didn’t manage the cashflow so well and soon was in debt. My clients simply left because I didn’t give them the attention face to face because I was too busy trying to talk to them online. I really wanted to start an Online course and turn my business into an online one but as time passed I realized that people connections are done better physically rather than virtually. I practically pulled the plug on all my online projects. I did keep a facebook page, website and Instagram account which I post weekly but that’s it. My school is growing again thanks to word of mouth. Of course I did not give up totally on online communication but I am still trying to blend my business with a sustainable strategy for online and offline media.

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