Facebook groups offer a great way for folks to get together and rally around a product, brand, or service, as well as other related topics. Success starts with the advice of Facebook Group guru Bella Vasta, who stresses the importance of starting with a clearly defined goal for your Group. From there, your longevity and success will hinge on how well you keep it fresh, valuable, informative, – give them what they want, need and deserve – and market it so that you’re not only retaining current members, but also enticing new members to join.
Rich: My next guest is the dynamic personality behind the one woman coaching company, Jump Consulting. Since 2002 she has been a trailblazer in the pet industry consulting business with multi-million dollar companies to hundreds of small businesses. She is an author, podcast host, blogger, and been featured on NBC, CBS, FOX, NPR, Entrepreneur Magazine, Social Media Examiner, and The Huffington Post.
After the birth of her 12 ounce micro-preemie daughter, she sold her pet sitting business and now lives out her passion to inspire, motivate, and challenge business owners through her speaking, coaching, and consulting. I’m very excited to have on the show, Bella Vasta. Bella, welcome!
Bella: Hi Rich, how are you today?
Rich: I’m doing excellent and I’m really looking forward to this episode. We are going to be talking about Facebook Groups. Now we heard a little bit about your past, but tell us a little bit about how you started to focus in on Facebook Groups, and why you love them so much.
Bella: So I’ve been actually doing Facebook Groups before they were cool. I started my Facebook Groups back in 2012. It was actually a couple years before I had my daughter in 2014. When we were in NICU and spending 8-10 hours a day, Facebook Groups really helped support my life, both business and personal. I think this is a really important story and lesson for people to kind of soak in, because personally I was in a lot of mama groups, I was in the micro-preemie mama groups, where I felt safe and secure and I could ask all these questions about all this new medical terminology and the emotion going through fighting for my daughter’s life, every day for 6 months in NICU.
But I also had my business groups where I was able to really talk and correspond and formulate awesome relationships with the people that were in there and still stay in front of them. And therefore keep both of my 6-figure businesses at the time going.
So Facebook Groups are really like an amazing support where it was a micro community – which Facebook is focusing on a lot right now – where we all were interested or moved by this same topic, and it just helped propel my life forward.
So I got into it that way, and then as time has grown, I’ve manipulated them in ways to use them as funnels, to help inspire and challenge – like we’re going to do today – people to kind of use their Groups a little bit better. Because Facebook, Rich, has really just exploded with Groups and they currently have 400 meaningful relationships, as they call them, in Facebook Groups and they want to move that to 1 billion by 2022. So it’s a really exciting time for Facebook Groups and I love being able to say that I loved them before they were cool.
Rich: Alright. So as marketers, how should we approach Facebook Groups? And by that I mean, are these ways of building an audience, or are these ways of actually making sales, or is it a little bit of both?
Bella: So I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as that. Because with anything in marketing, it comes down to strategy. So what do you want to make of it, and then you can kind of reverse engineer it.
I have this whole methodology called, “the front yard and the backyard”, and I have yet to have this analogy disproven. So what I like to say is that your Facebook page is like the front yard, that’s where it’s your message to the world. People might drive by front yards, they don’t really pay attention to the houses. As such, we’re also not having bbq’s in our front yard, or putting an in ground pool in our front yard, or hanging out in our front yard, because it’s really like that’s where our message is to the world.
Now in the backyard, that’s where we actually invite people in, where we usually have a theme, where we’re hosting, where we’re making sure that the burgers are still coming, the drinks are still flowing, and that the Wi-Fi is still on and Pandora is playing, because that’s our job. So I really equate Pages as the front yard, and our Groups as the backyard.
Rich: Ok. And so we’re actually video recording this. I know if you listen to the podcast as a regular subscriber you’re not seeing this, but Bella and I are actually recording this. And all of a sudden I realize that wearing my Spiderman t-shirt was probably not the best call today. And perhaps I should have organized my desk a little bit better. As you can see I’m actually a Spiderman fan, you can see my Spiderman water bottle there, and my Spiderman lamp right there, you can see my Spiderman cutout cardboard right there. You can’t see the Spiderman 1978 wall calendar, that’s still correct every 7 years, by the way. We’re recording this on the day the new Spiderman movie is coming out, so of course I had to wear the appropriate clothing.
Bella: Oh my goodness.
Rich: I know, kind of a nerd, right? You probably didn’t know that when you first met me.
Bella: I didn’t, I just learned it right now. I think your actual Spiderman gear is the same as the Agents of Change gear that I can also point out.
Rich: Yes, there’s some Agents of Change stuff going on here as well, too. Anyway, so today we’re doing a sacrificial lamb. We’re going to be taking a look at the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Facebook Group that we’ve put together that I have to say has maybe been a little bit underrepresented in everything we do with AOC, and I want to change that. I want to be having better conversations with people, not just for the conference, but in general.
AOC is all about helping people reach more of their ideal customers, search, social, mobile, answering questions for people of all different levels of digital marketing. And so Bella, can you help us out?
Bella: I totally can! I have so many ideas for you.
Bella: I have some questions for you, and you kind of already starting answering it, because we want to make sure you’re going in the right direction. And this is what I would encourage any listener right now to think about.
Rich, what do you want this page to be? Because what I see in the ‘About’ section is different than the messaging I see in the Group. Why don’t you tell me so we can take it that way today?
Rich: Alright, so obviously we already have a Facebook page for The Agents of Change, which does a double duty. And you can help me figure out if I’m on the right track here. So Agents of Change is really two things; one is this podcast that we do every week, and the other is this annual conference that we have. I want to build and audience of people like me at different levels. People who are interested in digital marketing and want to bring their skills up, and develop a community where people can answer and ask questions without feeling embarrassed.
And then of course as part of this, you want to be promoting the podcast, and we obviously want to get as many people as possible to come to the annual conference. Does that help? Is that a decent answer?
Bella: It does. If you had to put those in a hierarchy, where would you put those three? Would it be first that they could answer questions, or first podcast, or first conference?
Rich: I have to prioritize those, huh?
Bella: And you can say you don’t know, too. First of all, I think this is amazing what you’re doing, I just have to commend you as a leader for coming out here and saying let’s go through it. I think this is really awesome of you.
Rich: Well thank you. I would like to say that it’s about community, and I really do want to help people. But I’ll be honest, I want to fill seats at the Agents of Change conference, that’s always my goal every year. So yes I want to build a community, but part of my goals are to make sure that we get 300+ people in the Abromson Center on September 20th this year.
Bella: Repeat that date again and tell us where we can get tickets.
Rich: Well, you can always get it at theagentsofchange.com website. And of course it’s September 20th for the conference, and September 19th for the pre-conference workshops.
Bella: Super, ok. So that’s what I thought you were going to say, I didn’t want to assume anything because there are so many Groups out there, Rich, that are, “Ask your marketing questions here”. But what makes you unique is that these are followers and fans and supporters of your podcast. And people have an incredible interaction with you at your conference. So I think those should take precedence.
So I think the very first thing that I would do – I mean, there’s a lot of things – but the first thing I would do is I would get a pretty link or a redirecting link, whichever ne you use. Because I think telling everyone to go to Agents of Change Digital Marketing Community is a mouthful, we’ll get confused in the whole thing, and unless you’re actually emailing me a link, it’s hard to follow. So maybe we want to say, aoc/group, and that will redirect you directly to the group. Because that’s also easy to say if you’re being interviewed or talking.
The next thing I would do is I would really take your ‘About’ section here. It says you’re a “Marketer/business owner/entrepreneur trying to make sense of digital marketing, trying to drive more traffic to your website and turn it into leads and business. This group is for you, it’s The Agents of Change everywhere, welcome to the community”. I would kind of revise this – and you already know this – but I would say, “This is where all the cool kids hang out as you listen to the podcast or you’ve attended or want to attend the conference. It’s a place where we can network together before and after the conference.”
I think if anyone is looking for a really good, there’s probably other people in your same situation looking for good ideas about this, Jessika Phillips – who I know you know – her group is incredible. Rich, after her conference two weeks ago, I think we had 20 attendees go live in the group talking about their takeaways. It’s on fire. And all of the attendees were also saying a welcome video or just introducing themselves, they were saying where they were going to meet up for dinner and lunches. But what Jessika does with that group in the interim, is that she pushes her weekly show, just like you have your podcast, into the group on a weekly basis. Not not like, “hey, look at me”.
So I saw that you did post, “You’re the first to receive this gem, the 300th episode.” I was listening, congratulations, that’s incredible. But, we want to really talk more about why should everyone else care that it’s your 300th episode, what am I going to learn in there? Or maybe a behind the scenes, or you can even do outtakes, maybe you can put the chitter chatter that you and I had before we officially started recording, and it kind of adds that voyeuristic that our whole society loves to do.
So it might be something neat, something different. And then the last post before that was May 21st, “If we have an after party after, where should we have it?” Well, a lot of people might not actually be from there or know. So maybe a polling feature would be better. Like, “A) this place that’s a local IPA brewery, or B) a posh, fancy place, or C) an outdoor sporting event”. Give me those three things and I think that you’ll elicit a lot more engagement that way, than kind of throwing it onto their backs.
There’s so much I could say. But to back up from that, it all comes back to planning your content. And I know a lot of us are really resistant to this – myself included – but it truly really does help in Groups when you can sit down and think, ok, for the next 4 weeks I’ll do maybe 2-3 posts a week, maybe it’s 5 posts a week. It’s up to you. As our friend Brian Fanzo says, “[inaudible] the expectations”. So you tell people what to expect. But if you can kind of do that and think ahead, I think you’ll have a lot more success because then you can start filling in the blanks as you are inspired. Make sense? Or do you have questions?
Rich: Yes. Well I do have questions already, but whenever we talk about things like developing an editorial calendar or how much content and what it’s going to be, there’s two questions that immediately come to mind for me. One is, how often or how much time should I be investing in this Group? And obviously everything comes at a price. If I’m putting that time in there, I’m not doing research into SEO somewhere else. Or whatever it may be.
And then the other question is, and this may be beyond the scope of this conversation, how much of this is coming from me, how much of this is coming from my team? Because I recognize that people know me, they’ve heard my voice, they may not know my team as well. Should we be leveraging me more? And I know that there’s probably not one clear answer here, but I’m just curious what your thoughts are, Bella.
Bella: Ok, so the very first thing for time, it goes back to what I was just saying. It’s how much time do you want to put into it. I suggest batching, because if we’re doing it individually every day it’s overwhelming and we begin to hate it. But if you sit down for 2 hours once a month and you get your basis in – your foundation – I think that’s a really great strategy, personally. That’s what I do.
In terms for who shows up there, one of my biggest predictions for this year with Facebook Groups, was that agencies are going to have to start hiring community managers and training community manager. Because while yes, it is you, there’s no problem with you saying, “Molly is our community manager”, and everyone gets to know Molly, and they know that Molly is an agent with your Agents of Change and she’ll get a little admin badge. So it’s ok to have somebody as that.
Another way to do it, and this is more recent because our Group pages will allow Pages in there. So if you have a Rich Brooks Public Profile, you could have your team post as that. However, you don’t get as many notifications if it’s your own personal profile rather than your Page posting. Does that make sense?
There’s a couple different ways to do it. I would really encourage you to pop in and maybe make it a once a week kind of thing, you just do it for 10 minutes. But you have a team so leverage it. Sit down and be like, “Hey guys, the conference is coming up in 2 months now, we want to draw up some excitement. Reach out to the speakers, find out if they could for 5 minutes go live about their topic in the Group leading up to it. Let’s also have a thread where we ask if they’re attending to introduce themselves. Let’s start another thread about where we’re going to eat, what it looks like, what’s the weather typically like, what do people where at the conference”.
All of these epic cues that you get every single year, this is all easily predictable content for you to be scheduling out.
Rich: And those kind of things like what to wear, where to eat, all that sort of stuff when you’re not at the conference, are you envisioning that as video content like and AMA type thing, or what would your vision be for that?
Bella: It’s however you want to do it. So you could do video but you also have to keep in mind that not everybody gets a chance to actually listen to a whole video, especially if it’s long. So while I think video is great in a couple minute increments, it also can create fatigue for the audience.
When it’s you and it’s really pointed and direct, “HI this is Rich and today I’m going to tell you what you can expect, that you can wear, what the weather is and where the event is”. And you literally just do those bullet points, that’s cool.
But you also have your team so you could create a brand guide or some graphics already printed and you could just slap that on there and you’re just posting that. So that when someone is scrolling through and they click on photos – people do that, they click on the photo – and they want to see what’s going on and just scroll through to see the speakers, last year’s attendees. We can kind of see from that what the conference looks like, but not everyone is also going to do that, too. So don’t be afraid to create graphics that are just answers about the conference.
Rich: It’s easier with flyte new media, you can make a million flight jokes, this is a little bit trickier.
Bella: Totally. So yes, that’s what I would do. It all comes down to, what does Rich want. If Rich wants to go live every Friday and do an AMA, then go for it. However, I think in terms of just the conference, I think sharing your stuff in for like a 30 second video from you, is going to have a little bit more effect than the other one I was just showing you. Because it’s your personal thought and it’s not so rehearsed. Right?
Rich: Right. Also, I usually don’t do podcasts with my shirt off like that one.
Bella: I was going to say, wow, you’ve been in the gym.
Bella: Another tip I have for you is your cover profile. So if our goal truly is the podcast and the conference, I don’t know a thing about that here. I would add something to this somehow. What are the dates of the conference again?
Rich: September 19th and 20th.
Bella: And where can I get a ticket?
Bella: I hope that’s ok that I keep asking you.
Rich: I need to hire you.
Bella: Ok, so I would put that on there. But something else that I think a lot of people fail to do. When I click on this, do you see the description is empty?
Rich: I don’t see that description, it’s empty.
Bella: Exactly. So I would definitely put, “Buy your ticket for 2019” here. So just keep it fresh. Don’t be afraid to keep updating that cover with what’s coming up so that people know to look for it. And not only that one, but let’s go to The Agents of Change Group. If you really want to get a lot of people into this Group, so this is great, but let’s look at this photo again. So we can buy tickets here, so you are doing it.
Rich: Just for the people who are only listening, we’ve switched over to The Agents of Change Facebook Page, and Bella clicked on the header image which included a photo of Mark Schaeffer, Dana Malstaff, and myself, along with the date on there, and there’s actually a description here like the kind you were recommending for our Facebook Group as well.
Bella: Exactly. So you did it here, you get a gold star. The only other thing I would add in here is a big arrow when you start to get ready to build your group. How many messages are you getting on your Facebook Page?
Rich: Well, we are running some chat bot stuff right now, so we’re getting some. But we plan on changing that message there.
Bella: Well normally when you run the chat bot ads, the actual ads that send messages in that ad that go to your page. So when you’re ready you can change this to say, “join group”. And I would do that and I would even create a little bit of an arrow or something that kind of draws attention to that to get more people into that group.
Rich: So one of the options instead of “send message” is “join our group”?
Bella: Uh huh. Exactly.
Rich: Ok, excellent.
Bella: And once they do get in the Group, do you have 3 questions that you ask people?
Rich: You know, I joined so long ago, I’m not entirely sure if we do. SO that’s a very important question to find out.
Bella: We can talk in general, then, for all the listeners. So when you have a Facebook Group, this is the best thing ever, and a lot of people don’t really know what to put so they just kind of put fluffy questions. But you guys, these questions can really help you create content. So when you wonder what your people want to know about, ask them pointed questions.
First of all, get their email so that you’re not on rented land. Second of all, ask them what’s their biggest challenge around whatever it is, how many podcasts have you listened to – do you know that we have a podcast – will you go subscribe? Maybe they won’t, but it plants that seed in their head.
I love asking what their biggest challenge is. What will happen is you’ll start seeing a lot of themes, and then when I was telling you about planning your content, you can really figure out what to actually be posting in that Group based off of what they said when they came in.
Now if you go to bellavasta.com/gf – for ‘group funnel’ – I have a video that shows you how to take all of that information and automatically put it in a spreadsheet, so you’re not copy and pasting it which takes a long time.
Rich: That’s awesome.
Bella: It’s the best thing ever, and I use it in all my Groups. There’s a one-time fee and you can use it on as many Groups as you want.
Bella: I can keep going, I have a lot of notes, if you want.
Rich: Yeah, let’s keep going, please. And for anybody who’s listening that thinks Bella is being cruel or mean to me, that is not the case at all. I told Bella to rip it apart and tell us everything that we could be doing better.
Bella: Ok, so something else. With your podcast, tell me Rich, are you driving a lot of people to your website? Do you want a lot of people to go to the website, or are they just typically subscribing on their devices?
Rich: I’m guessing that the people who are subscribing to the podcast are doing it through whatever podcast tool they like, whether it’s Apple Podcast, or Stitcher Radio, or whatever it may be. And there’s not great stats when it comes to signups and stuff like that when it comes to podcasts.
Bella: Right, I know. Isn’t that annoying? It is so frustrating. I experience that, too, with my own podcast. But what I would say is that you have a file section and there’s only two files in there right now. And it’s someone else’s notes from your conference two years ago. And so perhaps – and you could accept or reject it – but even today I’m sure you’re taking notes as you talk to y our guests, I saw you jotting something down. That could be a behind the scenes special thing, like, “Do you want to see my personal notes form this podcast?” You just turn them into a PDF and throw them in there and label them for that right podcast. Because maybe people that are actually in the Group are just nosing around and saying, “What podcast is that?”, but then they might go back to it. So it’s just something extra that the normal world wouldn’t ever see.
I’m all about being the destination. I’ve got these little stickers, because I believe that all of your social media should be like that. Whether it’s your actual Group, like a destination. I sit down because I want to see what’s going on in Rich’s Group today. I want to see this conference is coming up and that’s where I want to go to for information. That’s where I want to find out if someone wants to share a room with me while we’re there. So you have to figure out unique ways that you can utilize the features that Facebook is giving us.
Rich: Alright, sounds good. So what other things are we doing wrong that we could be improving on? And also you’ve given us a couple hints on how we might grow our Group, assuming that’s one of our goals. So I’m curious about, I’ve got a closed Group so people have to ask permission to join it, is that how you recommend doing it? And with that non-open Group, how should we get the right kind of people to join us?
Bella: I’m definitely a fan of closed Groups. I think public defeats the purpose because everyone can see it, you just can’t post unless you’re a member. And private no one can see it unless you invite them. So you kind of want people to stumble upon this.
What I would do to get the right people in, every time you sell a ticket, ask them to join the Group. On your podcast I would invite people to join the Group. But again, in order to do that you need to do something like, agentsofchange/group, and it will bring you directly to the Group. And I think that would get people, because essentially what you’re doing is you’re getting people that love you, that love your brand, that have been to the conference, that listen to your podcast, that want more of Rich and Agents of Change in their life. And so everywhere that you interact with people, you want to be introducing them to the Group. I think that’s how you can get people in there.
Another thing that I would do is, one of the things I did is I looked at announcements, and one of the announcements is from you which was super great. But it was from 2018 and it was really dated and was also talking about the 2018 conference. At the beginning you were showing all your swag, which is cool, but let’s do another announcement more new, and then also in the description you’ve got to just remember sometimes people can’t watch the whole thing. So you want to put your Cliff’s Notes all the time. This is what this is, this is what this is, here’s the link for this.
Rich: Ok so first of all, on the screen we can see a video of me from last year where I am doing all my swag. So here’s the thing, if I were doing it today I’d also have captions because I do captions for all my social media video. But would you also recommend that I basically take the transcript of that video and then put it down in the comments for people who are like, “it’s not just that I don’t want to hear you, I literally don’t want to watch you, I just want to be able to read the content”? Is that the best approach, do you think?
Bella: I would say it depends on what you’re saying. If you have those three points and you are having a call to action, just put those bullet points, I don’t think you need the whole entire transcription.
Bella: I would say transcription for just content SEO stuff for your podcast on your website, not necessarily in Facebook. But definitely, rev.com or whoever it is that you use are great for getting those, and I totally agree with putting that on.
And use those announcements. Like right now the announcement might be, you have a ticket sale going on right now and it’s an early bird something. I was listening to that on the podcast before we were here on episode 300. And I was listening to the fact that we have early bird tickets. So I don’t know when this is coming out because I don’t want to date us.
Rich: The bottom line is, the earlier you buy tickets the better it is for pricing. And the bottom line is I think what I’m hearing is, that’s one other thing that we can be talking about as well within the Group.
Also, there is stuff that we’re doing on a daily basis, and a lot of the stuff is videos because we’re creating videos for it. It feels like part of what I need to get more comfortable with, if I really want to build a strong community, is being a little bit more open, a little bit more vulnerable, showing some of the behind the scenes stuff that maybe I didn’t think was super valuable but other people think it’s totally cool and they love watching how we’re actually putting everything together.
Bella: Yeah, I mean think about Mike Stelzner with the journey. Everyone really loves seeing the behind the scenes of him building that conference, that was really interesting. So again, it goes back to the strategy of – you probably preach this yourself – I pick 5 different buckets or topics that you can tell your team, “We really love behind the scenes stuff, so get out the camera and go live really quick”. Or, “We really love tips and tricks that we want to talk about the conference”. And then that will prevent it from being what it is right now, where it’s just kind of all promotion and it’s all about you. It’s kind of just talking at people rather than kind of inviting them into the conversation, and it’s all about the same thing, there’s not a lot of variety.
So that comes with the strategy and what you want and if you feel like you’re comfortable being a little more vulnerable or behind the scenes or sharing, or maybe you can interview one of your clients on there. A two-way interview like, “What were you like before you came? What were you able to do together? What are the results?” And it could be a monthly show, you could do so much, it’s really dependent on what you want to do.
Rich: Absolutely. This has been great. I know you had pages of notes, any last couple things that is information for us but would be good for our listeners, too, if they’re struggling with their own Facebook Groups?
Bella: Yeah. So I’ve written a lot of blogs on it on bellavasta.com. But with your Group, too, I think one of the major purposes – and remember, the first question I asked you was “Why?” – so you can use Groups so many different ways. I think you can use Groups as a funnel, it can be a catchall just to get everyone and anyone in there, and then you want to move them to the next Group. Maybe it’s a little bit more of a niche.
I’ll give you a quick example to kind of illustrate. So I have a Group that’s called Jumpstart Your Pet Business, for anyone that has a dog walking or pet sitting company in the world. But then I’ve got another Group underneath that, I Own A Pet Sitting Company With Staff. So most people are on a unique transition there where they’re going from solopreneur to having staff, and they all have unique questions and struggles and challenges. However, I also have very unique products and services for them at that point, too.
Bella: And then my next one is what a lot of people have, is the paid Masterminds. Or what I learned from my workout Groups were Popup Groups. Those are Groups that are 4-6 weeks, they have a start and an end date, they’re kind of really intensive. Sometimes you can take product you already have and do it there, or maybe it’s just the challenge. Wave.video does this really well with their video challenges.
But what happens is, because it is so intense, that people don’t want to leave after that, they want more of you. And you can just dump them back into the top of the funnel, go back to the main Group that they did, or have another offering.
I’ve done a lot of case studies, Rich – this is really exciting – 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% plus engagement in Groups that are done right, like Baby Got Bot, they have a couple thousand people in there. Dana (Malstaff) – who is going to be speaking at Agents of Change – is another one, her Group is off the chain, too, with Boss Moms. So it all comes with having a strategy and talking with your people and give the people what they want.
It’s exciting. You can get the most engagement in Groups is you just do it right and you’re not on Pages anymore. Pages are…you still need a front yard, you can’t have a backyard without a front yard, you still need it. However, I really truly believe – and not just because I’m so involved in the platform for our Groups – but I truly believe that Groups are definitely where it’s at right now.
Rich: Awesome. This has been great, Bella. You mentioned a number of links, we’ll include all those in the show notes. Where can people go if they want to learn a little bit more from you online?
Bella: Yeah, I’d love to hear from you. It’s bellavasta.com, and you can also reach out to me I have a Facebook Group on Facebook Groups, and you can actually go to bellavasta.com/group to get into it.
Rich: Awesome. And we’ll get out own vanity URL set up in no time. Bella, thanks so much for stopping by today, I really appreciate it.
Bella: It’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.