A Facebook Group is a great way to communicate and share common interests, information, and opinions around a common cause or goal. Anyone can setup and manage a Group as small or as large as you want.
Facebook groups also offer many options to suit a particular Groups needs; you can make it public, private or secret, you can make admission limited or open, you can set guidelines for admission as well as for the Group members themselves. With the impending changes looming with how marketers can utilize Facebook, the Groups aspect offers another way to direct traffic to your other platforms, and even monetizing.
Rich: Marc Mawhinney is a longtime entrepreneur who’s on a mission to help coaches build successful businesses. He achieves this with his coaching programs, his podcast Natural Born Coaches, his Facebook group The Coaching Jungle, and his exclusive print newsletter Secret Coach Club, which you can find at secretcoachclub.com. He frequently makes media appearances and is a contributor for Entrepreneur.com. You can learn more about Marc at his website, naturalborncoaches.com. Marc, welcome to the show.
Marc: Thanks for having me Rich.
Rich: So let’s start by talking a little bit about your business and your program that uses a Facebook Group.
Marc: Yeah, in a nutshell my business is all about helping coaches get more clients without paid advertising. So that’s my thing, and I’m not in my 5th year of doing it. And I’ve got a Facebook Group called, Coaching Jungle, which is a little over 2 years old, there’s about 10,000 members in there as we’re doing this. I have an online program that helps people with their Facebook Groups as well, that’s called the Group Gold Program.
Rich: Alright, so in your mind what’s the value of a Facebook Group? Why not just a Facebook page, or why not a LinkedIn group, or why not some other type of forum?
Marc: I guess arguments could be made for any of those. But the reason I’m a big fan of Facebook Groups is, you know how noisy Facebook is and everybody has thousands of people that they’re connected with and the newsfeed is busy, and anything you post it’s not like everyone is seeing what you’re posting. And of course there’s changes all the time with Facebook’s algorithm, and unless you’re paying Facebook ads or boosting your fan page posts, that can be a difficult way to do it.
The reason that I like Facebook Groups is you’re building a community where you’re recognized as the expert, you’re the leader in there, and people get to know, like, and trust you. And people are spending more and more time in groups now. Zuckerberg has talked about the importance of Facebook Groups and that’s where Facebook is really focusing all their attention going forward. So I’m a believer that any online entrepreneur should be building a Facebook Group nowadays, especially in 2018 and with what’s going to happen in future years.
Rich: Yeah, we’ve definitely been watching the news lately with all the changes going on in Facebook and it seems like Groups may be one of those havens that are slightly protected if you want to keep communicating with people from a business standpoint on Facebook.
So I know that you help people set up their own Facebook Groups, what is the structure to creating a thriving, successful, Facebook Group? What’s your model?
Marc: Well the first thing I tell people is if you’re going to start a Facebook Group, make sure that you know that it’s going to take a lot of work. You make a commitment that you’re going to be active there, so Facebook Groups are really deceiving because they take about 20 seconds to create a Group and then you’re open for business. But it takes a lot more effort to actually get that group rolling because there are so many groups that are right now in purgatory or on life support. They’re technically open but there’s tumbleweeds blowing through there and not much going on with it. So it does take a lot of effort and I warn people about that going into it, this isn’t a get rich quick, open your group and clients start rolling in the next day. This is going to take a bit of work to get that going.
The first step with it that I recommend to people is be very clear who the group is for, don’t have one of these mushy groups where it’s really fuzzy on what the focus of the group is or who it’s for. I like having a keyword in the group name if possible. So for example my group is called The Coaching Jungle, I knew that since it’s for coaches I wanted to have either the word “coaching”, “coach”, or “coaches” in the title so people would look at it and know right away this is for coaches.
A lot of people shoot themselves in the foot before they even really get going because they don’t have a clear purpose of the group, who it’s for, what it’s for, or what it’s doing. And that’s part of the reason it doesn’t get going.
Rich: So I know that you’ve talked about growing a Group, creating a Group, and engaging and monetizing. Can you take us through those steps, starting with creating? I mean you’ve talked about a few of the things you want to do right out of the gate, what other things should we keep in mind when creating a Group?
Marc: Well when you’re starting the Group there are a couple of different options of how you can set it under the ‘settings’, there’s three. In Facebook you can choose to have a Secret Group – which I don’t recommend – that means nobody can find it and it’s off the grid, basically. So I don’t recommend doing that.
On the opposite extreme there’s a Public Group that anybody can see everything that’s on the wall and it’s very open and I’m not a fan of that either.
I like the middle option, which is a Closed Group. In a Closed Group you have to be a member to actually see what’s going on in that group. You have to request membership and so there’s some controls there. And then once people get in they are a little more open to sharing and engaging because they know that not every Tom, Dick, or Harry on Facebook can see what’s going on unless you’re a member in that Group.
So I recommend going with the middle option, which is the Closed Group. And I’ve actually seen a lot of newbie Group owners that don’t even realize that they set their settings to ‘secret’. I had one the other day that said to me, “Marc, can you check out my group for me?” He bought my program and asked me to check out his group and give feedback. So I asked for the link and it wasn’t showing up, and I knew right away what was going on, he had it set as ‘secret’ as opposed to one of the other options, which should have been ‘closed’. And he had been operating that way for a little bit and couldn’t figure out why nobody else was coming in or anything like that. So that seems very basic common sense but unfortunately a lot of people do fall into that trap.
The other thing when you create it – besides the name of the group, which I talked about – I think it’s important to have a feel for the group when it comes to design. Spend a little bit of time, get a nice banner done up for your group. I like doing theme days, I’ve got images for each of the theme days that gets conversation going.
Rich: Can you give us an example of that?
Marc: Of the theme days?
Rich: Yeah, like what kind of themes are you running?
Marc: Yeah, sure. And I have changed them up a little over the two years, I’ve eliminated some theme days and replaced them with other ones just to get the right mix. The most popular one is “Promotion Friday”.
Rich: I wonder why.
Marc: Of course, go figure. The reason that a promotion day is important – and I’m sure we’ll get to this later – you want to really enforce the rules for your group. You don’t want it to be spam city with everyone spamming the wall. We’re very strict with no links, no promotion, and all that stuff. If you have a promotional theme day it sort of releases a little bit of pressure and they’re not feeling like they’re going to get away with stuff on the wall because they know that Friday is coming up and they can post their links or whatever they’re promoting there on Friday. So Promotion Friday is very important.
We’ve got a day where you can share tips for other people in the group, that’s on Tuesdays. Wednesdays is “Ask a Question”, Thursday is “Share Your Content”, you can share blog posts, if you’re on a podcast you can share the link to that. An interesting one which I’ve been pleasantly surprised with has been the Sunday theme day which is where you “Share a Book” that you recommend that other people read. Sunday was generally a quieter day for the group because people are out doing family things, they’re not sitting on Facebook as much. Previously I didn’t have a Sunday theme day, I just had a Saturday one which was for the whole weekend. I added the Sunday one and that’s definitely helped keep the group busier.
The other thing for creating – which I think is really important, Rich – is I recommend grabbing a URL for your group. So you know when you start your group Facebook gives it an ugly as hell URL? It’s not pretty, so I recommend that you grab a domain. With mine I bought thecoachingjungle.com, which forwards to the ugly link. So if I’m on a podcast like this it’s much easier to spit out that URL as opposed to the ugly Facebook one. And that’s something that very few Group owners do but I think that that’s an important tip.
Rich: Seems like very cheap branding at $15/year.
Marc: My god, yeah, it’s a no-brainer.
Rich: I did have a question. I’m sure even within the Closed Group are there different levels of how people can access the group? Like, I think I’ve been in groups that all I need to do is just ask to get in and I automatically get allowed in, other ones the Admin has to let me in, and other ones anyone in the Group can say “yes”, how does that all work?
Marc: Right. You’re right, there are ways that you can do it where anyone in the group can accept anybody. Obviously I don’t recommend that one because it can get to be a wild west. I recommend having it so that you have just yourself and if you have a team of Admin that only you can do that. You’ve got some options where you can set some questions so anyone requesting to join the group has to answer a series of questions. I don’t do that personally with my group because I didn’t want to hinder the growth.
But I do have some clients that use that because they’re a little bit tighter on who they let in. So for example one of my clients has a group that’s strictly for men, he’s a men’s coach. He wants a certain type of man and he doesn’t want to have 10,000 users in his group, he’s very happy with a 200-300 person group. So he sets of a list of questions and criteria to go through. So it really depends on what your goals are with the group but that’s an option as well, you can have questions for people requesting admission.
Rich: Alright, so the size of the group kind of leads us into growing the group. Some people might be totally satisfied with 200-300, some people might look for 200,000. SO if we are looking to grow our group, what are some of the tactics or techniques or strategies we can use there?
Marc: Well you’ve got to talk about it all the time, and I think most Group owners don’t talk about it nearly enough. They might post about it a handful of times and expect people to come rushing over, and it doesn’t work that way. So when I started my group in late 2015 I wouldn’t shut up about it and I still don’t shut up about it to everyone I’m talking to and interviews, I’m constantly mentioning The Coaching Jungle. It’s the current ad that I have on my podcasts – I have 2 podcasts, and interview-based podcast and a solo show – it’s the ad for sponsoring each of those shows to drive people to the Facebook Group. So I always say that I’m kind of like a mother that won’t shut up about the baby and everything that the baby does is great. That’s what I’m like with the Facebook Group, I’m constantly plugging it.
Another way to get people over which is underutilized and people don’t do it often and it works really well for me, I do a lot of Facebook Lives inside the group. Every time I do a Facebook Live I share it over to my personal wall where I’ve got a few thousand friends and a couple thousand followers and I’ll say, “Hey, I shot a video on Facebook Live in my group today talking about xxx, if you want to check it out go have a look.” And when people click on that ink of course they have to actually request to join the group to get in to see that video. So that’s another great way, every time I do Facebook Lives and share it on the personal wall and get people coming over that way as well.
Rich: Cool. So basically your Facebook Group is not Fight Club, you should be constantly promoting it, and also you want to create some premium content is what I’m hearing. And then you can promote that premium content outside of that arena, but ultimately we’re trying to drive people inside that group. Does that make sense?
Marc: Yeah. And there’s a certain tipping point – and I’m not sure the exact number – but personally for my group I found that once I got to 1,000 members it really took on a life of its own. And we started to see a lot more posts on the wall and questions being asked and people jumping into conversations. So in the early days it’s going to be more for you as a group owner talking a lot, and I recommend you do post a lot. I post 3-4 times a day inside my group and I think nowadays it’s not enough to post even once a day I don’t think that’s enough for a group owner. You have to be in there and you have to be active.
Rich: So that seems like a big time investment and I’m sure you know more about coaching this then just about anyone, but you must struggle for content. Honestly, when you say that to me – I love digital marketing – but honestly could I come up with 3-4 conversation starters every single day?
Marc: Well I cheat a little bit, so one of those 3-4 posts a day is a theme post, which is automated. I don’t use social media schedules for any of my Facebook stuff, the only time I use it is for that theme day and it goes live at 8am Eastern every single day. And the reason I do that is if I’m late getting back from the gym in the morning or I get tied up on something, I don’t want to worry that I forgot to post the theme day for today.
So one of those posts per day is the theme day, which is zero work for me because it’s plugged into here and it goes automatically and recycles forever. Usually one of the posts I’ll use my… I did daily emails to my list, I’m a really big fan of daily emails. Usually I’ll post a daily email into the group as well, so there’s another one right there, that takes care of two of them. So suddenly I only have to come up with 1-2 instead of 4.
It’s definitely doable and there’s lots of options. You don’t have to share a big thousand word post or anything. Maybe you’re putting a pole in the group asking a question, you do market research, Facebook Groups are one of the best ways to do free market research to find out what your market wants if you’re looking to feed a starving crowd like Gary Halbert talked about. So there are lots of options there. It seems daunting to post 3-4 times a day, but once you get going it’s not as bad as you think.
Rich: And you’re also using Admins as well?
Marc: I am, yeah, right now. I was up to 3-4 unpaid Admins and what I discovered wasn’t great – not to knock them – but unpaid volunteer people do not treat it as seriously as I would or as a paid team would. So I’m actually in the process of hiring an OBM on the team and they’re going to be monitoring 24/7 around the clock once an hour popping in to it. I wouldn’t do that unless you have a large group, but 10,000 people spamming the wall while I’m asleep, I can’t stay awake 24/7. So right now I have a small unpaid Admin team, but that’s going to be shifting over shortly to a paid OBM.
Rich: Ok. And so as you’re looking at this – the changes to Facebook – and one of the things we’re hearing is that it’s not just going to be about getting some ‘likes’ and some comments, it’s going to be about starting a conversation and getting people to kind of comment on each other’s posts and that there will be a lot of threads. Have you changed any of your fire starters – for lack of a better word – or conversation starters, to kind of take advantage of this or are you still kind of doing it the way you did 2 months ago?
Marc: I don’t know if I had to change mine a whole lot. I was never the type of person that had to resort to gimmicks or tricks. You see those people on Facebook that would be, “What’s your mood right now? Comment with a gif”, or, “Who would win in a fight, He-Man or Hulk Hogan?” These silly little things that have no business purpose whatsoever that trick people to engage once so they see more of their stuff. I never did any of that stuff anyway so it’s not going to affect me that way. I know it’s going to affect some fan page things, but a lot of my stuff I decide as a group I do on my personal Facebook anyways, so I’m already connected with people and it’s not my fan page or my brand. Even though I have 5,400 on my fan page I don’t do as much on there as I do on the other ones, ironically.
I get more business from the other ones so it’s not going to change my business a whole lot, but I think the people that are resorting to the little gimmicks and lean heavily on those, they’re going to be the ones that that are affected.
Rich: Right. Or, “Give me an Amen”, that’s another one. So I feel like we already talked a little bit about engaging, but are there other things that you do in the group to kind of stimulate conversation or get people coming back to the group on a regular basis?
Marc: Yeah. One of the things that works really well is I’ll tag people into posts and comments. So let’s say for example that someone has a questions that’s right up your wheelhouse and I know that Rich is a guy that can answer that, I’ll tag you into the comments. I know people who are experts on webinars and I’ll tag them into it. I know people who are in the book writing world and so on, so if I ever see someone posting on the wall and I know someone else who can add to that conversation, I’ll tag them in and they’ll jump in. That’s another underutilized thing, people aren’t doing that at least as much as they should be.
Another thing I did in the early days but I can’t do now since the group has grown so much, but I would individually private message some of the new people that joined the group, “Hey, thanks for joining the group”. It wouldn’t be a copied and pasted type thing that you’re just bombing out to everybody, but I would do it in select cases and say, “Hey, I’d love for you to contribute to the group, it looks like you have a lot of add”, and invite them to take part and have people get active in the group just by that personal message. They’re not used to getting a Facebook Group owner sending a real message, not something that’s copied and pasted.
Rich: Exactly. So now monetizing is something that I think a lot of Facebook Group owners are a little nervous about, nervous about selling to their Group, they feel like maybe this isn’t the place to sell. What is your take on that?
Marc: I sell like crazy to my group. But I think that you have to set that intention early on. So I’ll tell you a quick story that a past client of mine did and he shot himself in the foot. Luckily he corrected it eventually but he went through a lot of pain and stress. He started a Facebook Group – he was in the podcasting world – and when he opened the group up he and the other owner that opened it very proudly declared, “Hey guys welcome to the group. We’re really excited about it. We’re not going to sell you, this isn’t going to be like the other Facebook Groups. We’re here to give value, value, value. Don’t worry, you’re not going to be sold to.” And the minute I saw that I thought, oh god, what are you doing, that’s horrible.
Anyways, he’s a very nice guy and would give you the shirt off his back, but he grew the group to up over 1,000 people and he hadn’t monetized it. Everyone was reaching out to him for tech support, podcast advice, so he’d hop on Skype and spend all this time helping people and he wasn’t monetizing it. And I said to him, you’ve got to get that swung around and we talked about that and he started trying to monetize it and there was blowback, they were rioting. They were saying, “Hey man that’s not cool, you said you’re weren’t going to sell!” And he had a whole lot of, I say, “freeple” and “cheaple” in that group where people were never going to open up their wallet or at least not much to pay him.
Just recently he ended up leaving, he dropped it and left it with the other guy to handle it and he started his own group and he’s doing it the way I do it with my group and the way I recommend that everyone do it. He’s very up front in the beginning, “Hey look, I’m going to be selling this stuff here and if you’re not cool with that you should leave.” I actually have that in my Group rules on the right hand side of the group. I say, “No promotion except for the assigned threads promotion stuff. By the way, I’ll be promoting my programs, products, and services. If you’re not cool with that you should leave.” And I don’t get any blowback.
I also do give a lot of value in that Group, it’s not all buy, buy, buy. People will give you a wide birth if you’re giving them something that’s helpful and something that has value. But you definitely can’t be afraid to sell. If you’re not monetizing your Facebook Group, shut it down, there’s no sense doing it.
Rich: Alright, so obviously there are going to be a bunch of different opinions on this and there’s also going to be different approaches. So have you seen models work where somebody might be selling something elsewhere and then the Facebook Group is just a place where people can go and talk? Like maybe you have an online course and then you say you’re also going to be answering questions in the Facebook Group, or something like that.
Marc: Yes. Yeah that’s different than as your main Group. I have 2 online programs and they each have a Facebook Group as a bonus. So you have to be careful with your sales copy and stuff, you can’t charge for Facebook Groups – it’s against Facebook’s Terms & Service – but I’ve seen people do this, “Join my Facebook Group it’s got all these awesome people, only $9.95”. You can’t do that, you could get shut down. The way to do it instead is you offer the big Facebook Group as a bonus, “Hey, join my program and access into the Facebook Group just for the paying member.”
And I do that as well in those 2 groups that are smaller than the paying customers, but I don’t sell to them because they’ve already bought. I mean, I do a little bit of upsells but not like I would with the Coaching Jungle people. The Coaching Jungle I view as the top of my funnel so I’m trying to drive everybody into that group, and an awful lot of my clients and customers come from that group.
Rich: Awesome. This has been great and I’m sure a lot of people are interested in ways of building and monetizing their Facebook Groups. Where can we learn more about you, Marc?
Marc: Well my main site is naturalborncoaches.com, and the program I mentioned earlier that I have that’s a Group Gold online program that’s helped a lot of people get their groups grown and monetized, and I’ve set up a page for anyone listening to this show. They can go to naturalborncoaches.com/aoc and they can check out the program.
Rich: Nice! And we’ll have those links in the show notes as well. Marc this has been great, I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your wisdom, and thanks again for your time.
Marc: Yeah, thanks Rich.
Marc Mawhinney is an expert in the area of Facebook Groups and loves to teach businesses and entrepreneurs how to grow and monetize them. Check out his website for more info, as well as his Gold Course he offers on the subject.
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!