Let’s say you’ve already heard about the benefits of Facebook groups from other business owners and now you want to try your hand at using it to promote your brand, products, and services as well.
Once you decide why and how you’ll use the group, it’s a good idea to set up some rules and parameters for potential members to adhere to. You can even require they answer a series of questions before you determine if they’re a good fit for the group. Proper vetting is important because the success and growth of your Facebook group really depends on consistent engagement in the group.
Rich: Before I even start this I have to say, so I was waiting on Josh’s bio form his lovely wife Jill. She’s got a little bit of an excuse, I think she’s like 14 months pregnant right now. But the bottom line is, I think you and I were chatting Josh for like 20 minutes killing time while Jill was sending over this email with your bio in it. It’s basically 2 lines long, so here goes the bio that we waited 45 minutes for from Jill who’s 17 months pregnant.
Josh: You know I’m not going to tell her this, by the way.
Rich: I’m going to send her a copy, and the transcript of this. Josh Stanton is the co-founder of Screw the Nine to Five, his and his wife Jill’s slice of the internet where they help entrepreneurs get more out of their business and life through simple strategies and how to’s. Josh, welcome to the show.
Josh: Great to be here and what an entrance, as well. You literally put me in the dog house by the way, I appreciate that. And so I’m going to show up in the exact same way. No, I’m super pumped man. It’s awesome to be here.
Rich: Great. It’s awesome that you’re here, and your wife is very pregnant so she has every excuse in the world. We were looking, we were doing research to see if I could pull a bio off the internet for you while she was scrambling around, and it turns out that you share a name with what appears to be an Australian surfer, also South Dakota’s premier expert on North Korea, which is just a strange thing for a claim to fame.
Josh: Some may say strange, but if you live in South Dakota maybe that’s a really well known person, maybe you have a risk of North Korea at your doorstep.
Rich: Or if I’m here in South Dakota and I’m going to put on a live in-person event on North Korea and I need a local expert, this guy is going to come right up.
Josh: Well I’ll tell you what, you’re going to get a lot of people to show up if you’re going to be talking about North Korea. I’ll tell you what, there’s going to be people lining up, that’s for sure.
Rich: How many people are there in South Dakota? I mean, I’m not making fun of that, I’m in the state of Maine that only have one area code because there’s so few of us here. Anyways, this is not really what we’re going to talk about.
So I asked you to come on because you run successful Facebook groups and I’m kind of trying to understand how businesses can do well with Facebook Groups with all the changes going on. So first Josh, tell me a little bit about your main group that you’re running on Facebook right
Josh: So we have a free group called the Screw the Nine to Five community – it’s actually the second iteration of this group – the first iteration had close to 50,000 people in the group and then things kind of adjusted. When we initially came up with the group there weren’t that many and so it wasn’t too spammy, but over time it grew really spammy. So we decided to shut it down and reopen it back up with a whole new set of rules to kind of keep the spam out.
Mostly we talk about anything to do with entrepreneurship, mostly online entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of information based around online marketing and things like that. But also other areas too, we’re totally happy to chat about the other areas of entrepreneurship including what it’s like to have a family as an entrepreneur, any other lifestyle aspects. And then another thing that kind of creeps in here and there I find interesting is a lot of chatter about health, too. So all these different aspects of the lifestyle of the entrepreneur is what we sort of focus on.
Rich: That’s interesting, because obviously health is something that we often don’t talk about but is so critically important to our success. I do want to come back to talk a little bit about how you’re running your group successfully, but while we were chatting we were also talking about the fact that you have been reaching out to some other Facebook Group owners to kind of see how they’re doing things because you were also curious. What are some of the biggest takeaways that you’ve had in conversations you’re having?
Josh: You know what’s been really fascinating? We want to put together a free resource on our site around Facebook Group marketing, so I just started the process of just reaching out to a few people. So I’ve spoken to 3 so far. Marc Mawhinney – who I know you’ve spoken to before – Arne Giske, and then another lady named Shannon Hernandez.
The two main groups which were kind of interested were Arne’s that’s over 40,000 people, and he uses more of a branding kind of play. He thought if he could bring enough people into this community and kind of talk to them, they can see me that I’m the owner of that group and so they’re going to be more likely to want to go and see what I’m doing and maybe purchase my products.
Whereas Shannon has a much more direct sort of place. Every single month she uses a tool called GridX – this is really fascinating – and she identifies anyone who hasn’t posted in the group over the course of the month, and she removes those people from the group. So she’s focused solely on engagement. She really wants to make sure people are engaged there. And what she’s found is every single month for some reason she keeps pulling back to about 250 people, and it doesn’t really go beyond that. But then she has this really cool way of channeling people towards her services as a coach.
So it’s much more focused on trying to speak to people individually, whereas Arne’s is more of this branding type of play. It’s been really fascinating learning the different strategies that these different Facebook Group owners are using and it’s kind of cool. A lot of these are really easy to apply if you already have a group as well.
Rich: Alright, so I’m kind of fascinated by the fact that you had what seemed to be a very successful Facebook Group with huge numbers, and then you just felt it was getting too spammy and you basically shut it down and rebooted it. Why couldn’t you just change the rules and say we’re not going to accept this behavior anymore? Why did you feel it was important to start fresh?
Josh: I think we didn’t know about a tool like GridX at that time. If we did I think we would have set different rules and said, “Look, here’s the rules and If you’re not posting we’re going to remove you from here.” Whereas at the time it just seemed like it was going to be a pain in the butt to literally remove potentially 20,000 people form the group, it just seemed a lot easier to restart it. We just put out one post to the whole group and said, “Hey guys, we’re actually moving over here. If you’re still active and interested in being a part of our group, then link on this link and request access to this new one.”
And then straight away we went from 45,000-50,000 people down to about 5,000 when we kicked off the new one. So we kind of resurged the energy and also gave them a chance to be like, this is a completely different group, completely different rules, it’s not going to be like the old group.
Rich: That’s actually great and it’s really funny because it does seem that – at least the marketers that I’m talking to – numbers are always going to be important but it’s not just always about the biggest numbers possible. You can get better engagement in a group of 5,000 or even 250 than you might with a group of 50,000, which sounds great but maybe is not giving you the best kind of results based on your business goals.
Josh: Yeah. So it’s kind of interesting, one of the things that I would actually consider in restarting our group again, and the reason is after learning a lot of different things from the group owners I’ve been chatting to, it’s very important that when you do start a group now that you make it really clear that this is your group and that you will be pitching your products and selling your products and offering people a chance to take you up on those.
We didn’t do that in this current group right now, so what I’m finding is there’s a very large subsect of the Facebook group audience who are people that are just lurking and they are just trying to get business off other people in there. So if they see someone post about something that they have a service on, they’ll jump in there straight away and PM people and say they offer this as a service. They’re almost like sharks.
Whereas I think it’s important when you do start a group now that you think anyone who joins this group is a potential customer of mine. And if you’re starting a group without that in mind, you’re probably going to just get a whole bunch of people come in and not really participate and just try and be there to take advantage of it.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. And so for your group then, you’re creating this area where entrepreneurs can come and talk but you absolutely are trying to get them into your funnel for Screw the Nine to Five.
Rich: Ok. So you had mentioned one of the ways that you were able to regroup this group is you went to the old group and said if you’re serious about having real conversations come over here. Let’s imagine that you or somebody else you’re working with doesn’t have that, how do you actually start a group and get people to show up in the first place?
Josh: So one of the things that I’ve learned from speaking to a number of group owners and we’ve seen it ourselves, is that the growth of the group is really dependent on the engagement of the group. So if you have a really highly engaged group – people are posting, people are commenting – even if there’s hardly any people in there, Facebook is going to serve that up in the “recommended groups” section in the sidebar. Also, if people are searching in the Facebook search bar for anything to do with your group – by the way this is a great tip, too – make sure, and this comes directly from one of the people I spoke to, Arne, he said make sure that when you are creating your group that you are ensuring that there’s some kind of relevant keyword to your particular niche. Does that make sense?
Josh: So it’s like with Screw the Nine to Five community, our keyword basically is just “screw the nine to five”, we’re playing more of a branding-type of play. If you’re just getting started and you don’t have an existing brand or any awareness around that, I recommend trying to think of some kind of relevant keyword to your particular niche so when people search for it your group may come up in the search results for it.
So those are two main areas. But engagement is super important. If you have a really big group but low engagement, it’s not going to be served up in the different areas I just mentioned there. Whereas you could have a group of 100 people but everyone is chatting in there, that thing is going to show up so much more than a group of 10,000 people where hardly anyone is actually engaging.
Rich: So we should be focused more on engagement than actual group size, is definitely what I’m hearing here.
Josh: Yeah, and that’s what Facebook has made very clear as well. I mean their goal is to keep people on Facebook, so they’re going to obviously help you out if you are providing them with that.
Rich: Alright, so we get started, we set up a group. Do you have any thoughts on do we make this group public, do we make it closed, do we make it private?
Josh: So we’ve seen closed groups tend to be the best. Public groups you’re going to get a lot of spam. Secret groups obviously can’t be found but closed groups can be found, but they have to request access.
Rich: So I think secret groups are probably best if you already have a product or service, and the Facebook group is an add-on to that service, rather than using that to generate new potential leads. Would you agree with that?
Josh: Yeah, definitely. And I think a lot of people use secret groups for a bachelor party weekend and stuff like that. So a closed group is definitely the way to go.
Rich: It does seem that a lot of the people I’ve spoken with, closed groups are for business. Now for you, do you have a policy where anybody can accept a new member or do you or an Admin have to approve whoever is going to join the group?
Josh: So the way it works right now, you can actually ask 3 questions before someone requests access. So our policy is if they don’t answer those questions then we actually decline them access to the group. A really good strategy which we’ll start adopting soon – this is something that Shannon that I mentioned uses – every Tuesday and Thursday is when they let in their new group members. And what they’ll do, it’s a really amazing strategy for anyone getting started, what she’ll do is she’ll let them in but then she’ll drop a post and tag in those new members as a welcome. It just says, “Hey I want to welcome the new members who have just joined today”, and then she’ll tag all those different people. It’s kind of cool because then she has kind of a welcome committee show up every single time and it creates a new set of engagement. That’s a really simple strategy that I think a lot of people should use.
Rich: That’s clever. So the 3 questions, I didn’t know about this. So when somebody says they want to join your group, how does that work exactly? Like do they see the 3 questions that the group owner wants you to answer?
Josh: Yeah, exactly. So when you click on ‘request access’ a pop up box shows with those three questions.
Rich: Would you mind sharing what your questions are?
Josh: Yeah. So the first one is, “Do you agree to our rules?”, and we have a link to the rules. That’s the first one. If they say ‘no’ we don’t let them in, or if they don’t answer. It’s also optional too, so if they don’t answer then we don’t let them in as well until they say ‘yes’.
The second one is we ask people – and we’re going to adjust this one – but we would ask people where in the world they live. We just want to kind of gauge where most people are joining us from in this group.
And then the third one is, we have a product called Screw U, which is our premium membership community, and the third question is we just say “On a scale of 1-10, how interested are you in learning more about Screw U?” And so people can put down 1, they can put down nothing, they can put down 10. So you have to answer those questions to be let into the group.
So the third one is the pipeline question. When someone answers a 10, we’re going to reach out to them and say, “Hey, would you like to get on a call so we can maybe discuss to see if you’d be a good fit for our community.” So those questions are two-fold. One, it’s a good way of determining if people are going to actually show up in the group or if they’re going to be lurkers. If people don’t answer the questions they’re probably not going to be that serious of a member inside the group. The second thing is you have a chance of actually funneling them through to your products and services.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. So now I’m thinking, you’ve got this membership group, I believe it’s called Screw U?
Rich: So how do you get people to jump from the free Facebook group over to your paid membership and apply to join there? Like, how are you pitching this within the group to say, “Hey, the conversation is right here but it’s even better in our paid membership”?
Josh: So I would say the area to take advantage of the most is your pinned posts in a group. So when you create a group you can choose to set one pin post that appears at the top of the group. So in there we will just mention that there’s an option for you to upgrade, go to Screw U to learn more and click on this link to check it out.
The other way of doing it – I believe probably the best way – would be to offer some kind of bridge between that group and your membership or whatever your product is. A really good type of bridge would be like free training, a free webinar or something like that. But also free content, too. So if you’re producing a blog post or podcast and you know that you’re funneling off the back of that to offer products and services, then drop that free content in your group. That way you’re not dropping a link to your sales page and just saying, “Here, buy this thing.” You’re actually saying, “Here’s a bunch of free content, if you’re interested check it out”, and then from there that starts the flow or the pipeline towards your products.
Rich: Are you doing anything like Facebook Live? I’m not even 100% sure you can do this but I’m assuming you can do Facebook Live from a group. Are you doing any of those kind of interactive pieces in your group?
Josh: Yeah we used to. We started running a Facebook Live show but we weren’t getting a lot of traction out of it. So we decided to pull back from that. But I mean, yeah, that’s another example of that great bridge. You’re getting on and you’re discussing some kind of topic related to your product, and also related to something your members would be interested in. You’re providing a ton of value and channeling them towards your products. Facebook Live is a great way of doing that as well.
Rich: Yeah, I was thinking about if we’re using Facebook Live as an add-on to another thing that we’re selling – like if you’ve got a paid membership and a Facebook Group as part of it – you might be able to do interviews or some other value-adding content that people could either watch live on Facebook and participate in, or they could watch it afterwards and them you could also put it up to your membership as well.
Josh: Yeah, the only think I will say about Facebook Live is that it’s on Facebook’s platform so it’s very distracting. What we’ve been seeing is over time people aren’t really watching our Facebook Lives very long, they’re kind of tuning in for a little bit. It’s not been that effective, what we’ve seen is that someone takes the action to leave Facebook – like, clicks on a link to go and register for a webinar or clicks on a link to go to a blog post on your website – we’re seeing a lot better results in that because we’re removing the distraction of Facebook. So I don’t know if that’s something that everyone would see, but that’s what we’ve noticed anyway.
Rich: Interesting, ok. So you closed down your first group and you reopened a second one. How are you dealing with what you call “bad behavior” in that new group? Are you warning people, just kicking them out, and how do you find out about it because you mentioned these people are sharks so you can’t be seeing every bad behavior in the group?
Josh: So moderators is one thing you have to take advantage of, as you grow in size you have to have moderators willing to report things. Also, it’s quite easy to report posts now in Facebook, I don’t know if you noticed that. In a group we get a lot of people reporting things, our hardcore members will report something, so they know what the rules are. Usually if someone does something that goes against the rules it’s reported right away, we remove it straight away, and then we remove them from the group. We have a zero tolerance policy with our rules, if you break any of the rules you’re removed from the group.
And then sometimes people will PM us and apologize, they’ll say they didn’t realize they made a mistake. And if it’s clear that they learned form it then we might let them back in, but straight away we remove them.
Rich: Alright. And how much time do you spend in these groups, are you pretty active, are you in there every day?
Josh: No, I’m not that active in there. I would say our group maybe makes up 20% of our marketing. The thing about groups that is really fascinating, I think if you focus entirely on groups at the beginning of your business – if you’re a service provider, consultant, coach, whatever – I think it’s actually a fantastic way of initially getting traction in your business. But the one thing I don’t love about it is that you’re building up Facebook’s content, you’re building up Facebook’s platform.
Whereas I think over time as you grow into a bigger brand, there’s more benefits to growing out your own website and your own content pieces as opposed to just focusing all your time on Facebook. It’s also really distracting spending a lot of time in there if you’re wanting to go to the next level. I would say Facebook groups are really fantastic for initial traction and business.
Rich: That is an interesting take on that. So this has been great, Josh. I definitely learned a few new things I want to put in my own Facebook group. Tell the people again where we can find you online.
Josh: So two places. I would say the best place is to check out our website, screwtheninetofive.com, you can see everything that we’ve got going on over there. I’m hoping that by the time that this comes out we might have the Facebook Groups Post, that free guide, done. So if we do we’ll shoot you through that link. Other than that we have a podcast and you can subscribe to tht at thescrewshow.com.
Rich: Awesome. Josh, thanks so much for stopping by and good luck on your new edition to your family.
Josh: Thanks man, I appreciate it.
Business Blogging 30 Minute Webinar: Click here to register now!
Josh Stanton has done the hard work for you and through experience and research has figured out what does and doesn’t work in Facebook groups. Find out more about his business and products at his website, as well as his Facebook group page. And be on the lookout for a guide he is in the process of putting together that is aimed at those wanting to know more about Facebook Groups.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!