How to Build and Manage a Private Facebook Group

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Want a step-by-step plan for measuring, growing and monetizing your social media and community? Learn more about DigitalMarketer’s Social & Community Mastery Specialist training and certification program today.

February 02,2017 by
Suzi Nelson

So I’ll come right out and say it…

I love my job.

As Community Manager for DigitalMarketer, I manage more than 10,000 members (and growing) across seven private Facebook groups – answering questions, providing support, and bridging the gap between our clients and our business.

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These private, online communities have had a tremendous impact on our business.

Establishing a thriving online community within our client base meets a number of important business goals including…

  • increased customer satisfaction
  • reduced refunds
  • increased retention in our monthly memberships
  • increased sales generated by word-of-mouth recommendations

There is a lot of gold to be found in creating and maintaining a private Facebook group and offering it as a premium bonus with our products – so here’s how it’s done at DigitalMarketer.

Building and maintaining a private Facebook Group for our customers is comprised of six major elements:

1. Create an Exclusive Facebook Group

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Private Facebook groups are private for a reason – not everyone can join. There are certain qualifications that have to be met before the admin clicks “approve” to the join request.

Having some sort of qualification for admittance to the group naturally builds a stronger community – people feel like they are a part of a special club. They know they are all a part of the group for the same reason. If you only let the best in, you’ll only get the best of communities!

Exclusivity occasionally requires a thick skin on the part of the admin. You can’t let just anyone in. You will have to have to turn people away, you will have to have uncomfortable conversations with applicants who don’t meet the access guidelines, and you will have to be consistent with your requirements.

You’ll also need a system in place to remove those who no longer meet your qualifications of membership.

This keeps your member list nice and healthy.

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But the payoff is WORTH IT – you will end up with a community that is bonded by common attitudes, interests, and goals instead of an aimless, eclectic group with a variety of motivations and reasons for joining.

Facebook currently offers two options for creating exclusivity in your group: CLOSED groups and SECRET groups.

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Secret groups are not searchable via Facebook – that means no one but members (and in some cases, former members) can see the group name, who’s in the group, the group’s description and tags, or stories about the group in Facebook’s newsfeed. Anyone can join, but they have to be invited or added by a member or admin, depending on your group settings.

In contrast, closed groups are publically viewable. They can show up as suggested groups on newsfeeds and the title, description, and member list are visible to anyone.

At DigitalMarketer, we opted to create a closed group, so our customers would be able to locate our groups easier. This does result in an influx of requests to join from unqualified members, but the tradeoff is worth it – we let the world know that we have a tribe of thousands of digital marketing enthusiasts, and use the “publicity” of an exclusive group to build FOMO (“fear of missing out”).

As a result, our community can be positioned as a value proposition, and we can use it as a way to increase sales of our products:

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2. Establish Guidelines in the Facebook Group

It’s important to give your group some sort of direction on what types of conversation are encouraged (or discouraged) in order to maintain a thriving community.

Expectations of behavior…

  • provide a safe space for people to ask questions
  • offer support
  • and build relationships with our company and other members

While it can be tempting to create a list of what members can and can’t do, I suggest creating guidelines that describe how members can work together to create a healthy environment.

In my recent contribution to our Digital Marketing Home Runs of 2016 post, I explained how guidelines (as opposed to rules) created a better community experience…

Previously, our rules were a list of DON’Ts (as shown below):

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Creating some sort of behavior expectation is essential for creating a safe space in your community, but having a list of do’s and don’t’s can feel intimidating and aggressive to new members.

That’s why I created Community Guidelines with only two hard-and-fast rules (no promoting and no being a jerk), and then outlined eight standards of expected behavior.

This not only puts “rules” in a more positive light, but it allows members to take ownership of how they can influence and encourage great community behavior.

Here’s an excerpt of our guidelines:

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Will your guidelines look the same?

Of course not.

Take into account the goals and culture of your members and adjust accordingly.

3. Moderate Your Facebook Group

So what happens when someone breaks the rules? What if someone has a problem with another member? What happens when a member is unhappy with the group?

Moderating is vital to maintaining a healthy community – whether it is on Facebook or any other social media forum. If you don’t offer some sort of control over the conversation, others will control it for you.

With over 10,000 members in our DM Engage Facebook Group alone, rules are bound to get broken; and they are broken often. People get upset with other people and reach out for resolutions. Here are the basics of how to handle it:

  • Delete posts that break the rules. Whether it is someone being rude or pitching their latest Lead Magnet, the post gets removed as soon as I (or someone on my team) sees it. Many times I am sent links to the offending post and asked to make the final decision. The point is that we try not to leave questionable posts up for long – often they are only visible for a matter of minutes. This keeps our threads healthy and maintains that safe environment that our members enjoy.
  • Handle sensitive issues in a private message. If I delete a post, I usually send the author of the post a private message and explain why their post was deleted and make myself available to answer any questions. Ninety percent of the time, they didn’t realize they were breaking any rules or they posted in the group by mistake. Be nice, be firm, and make sure they understand that you’re not trying to be mean or unreasonable, you’re just keeping the group on topic so that the experience is better for everyone.

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This also goes for members who are seeking a resolution to a problem with other members.

I always move these conversations to private message – it gives the issue my undivided attention and keeps the conversation between me and the involved parties.

The last thing I want to encourage is a public argument where anyone can weigh in. Situations are much easier to resolve when it is between one or two people than between one and 10,000 people.

(NOTE: Want a step-by-step plan for measuring, growing and monetizing your social media and community? Learn more about DigitalMarketer’s Social & Community Mastery Specialist training and certification program today.)

 

4. Connect People With ___________

My role as Community Manager has three main functions:

  • connect people with content
  • connect people to people
  • connect people with products

The more you make connections for people, the more beneficial the group will be to your customers — and thus the organization.

Here’s an example of me connecting people to content.

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I actively set aside time each week go to through DigitalMarketer’s content (and believe me, there is a lot of stuff to go through): blog posts, certifications, courses, webinars… you name it. The more familiar I am with our content, the better I can help people in our group.

Here’s how I keep myself organized so I can point our group members to the right content (in this case, our blog)…

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The search feature on our group page is also my best friend – it helps me locate the best members to answer specific questions.

For example, this community member was looking for people who lived in Thailand to give some recommendations:

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So I just did a quick search in the group…

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And found several people to connect him with!

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Lastly, in many cases, our members ask which of our products they should purchase to solve an issue they are having.

I’m not a pushy salesperson by any stretch — but it is part of my job to be familiar with our products and services so I can assist with these queries.

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5. Open/Close Feedback Loops

Effective community management revolves around feedback loops – and these are particularly effective using the Facebook tagging system.

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I constantly keep an eye out for these loops.

There are all kinds of feedback loops that occur in our groups: technical loops, customer service loops, content loops… and I can easily tag another team member to “loop” them into the issue and get a resolution. It’s stellar customer satisfaction, plain and simple.

It also helps us identify content gaps, product gaps, and even acquisition strategies for our business.

For example, our DigitalMarketer Lab community repeatedly suggested a referral program for our product – and within a week of launching, we had over 300 requests to join our membership!

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6. “Selling” Your Facebook Group

“Selling” is in quotes for a reason…

You cannot sell access to your group.

This is against Facebook’s Terms Of Service and will land you in Facebook jail.

Basically, you cannot make a business model around using Facebook’s services. If your group is found to be in violation of this, Facebook will not only remove the group, but could very easily ban you from joining Facebook again. That would be highly inconvenient.

To address this hiccup, we position our private Facebook groups as free bonuses for paid content. Our members have a real product that they have purchased from us, and we use that purchase as the key to our (100% free) gated communities.

Please, please, please don’t break Facebook’s rules. It will end badly.

Here’s a clip from the email we use to welcome our new customers to DM Lab and letting them know about the Facebook group…

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Here Are the Numbers for DigitalMarketer Engage…

So, how many people do you need before you launch a private Facebook group?

I hate to be vague, but there is no “magic” number – I would say have a good 1,000 potential members before you look into establishing your online community.

Back when this post was first published in June 2015, our private Facebook Group for DigitalMarketer Lab had approximately…

  • 12,000 paying members
  • 50% have joined the private Facebook Group called DigitalMarketer Engage
  • 19% – 20% of Engage members are actively involved in the group during any given week (the rest don’t visit or, when they do, they just “lurk”).

So, based on these numbers, if you have 1,000 customers you’d like to pitch a group to, you can expect…

  • 500 to join the private group.
  • 95 to 100 people to like, comment, share, and otherwise be involved in your group during a 7-day period.

Our metrics hovered here for a while – 50% of paying members joined the group, and 20% were active overall, and I recommend that new customer communities use these as a guideline when determining the best time to launch their own groups.

However, as DigitalMarketer Engage has grown as a community, our numbers now look more like this:

  • Over 13,400 paying members
  • 75% have joined the community
  • A steady 20% of members are active in any given week

The increase in members who joined the community is evidence of the changes that happen when you actively invest in creating a healthy, productive space for your members to connect.

Private online groups are a fantastic way to add value to customers and meet important business goals like reducing refunds and increasing retention.

Do you have a private Facebook Group for your products or services? Are you thinking of starting one?

(NOTE: Want a step-by-step plan for measuring, growing and monetizing your social media and community? Learn more about DigitalMarketer’s Social & Community Mastery Specialist training and certification program today.)

Ask the DM team and 10,038 other members in the DM Engage Facebook Group!

Not a DM Lab Member? Learn more here.


Suzi Nelson

About Suzi Nelson

Suzi Nelson is the Community Manager at DigitalMarketer. She has a degree in Journalism (Strategic Communications) from the University of Kansas and is an avid defender of the oxford comma. You can find Suzi connecting with our customers and followers across any of DigitalMarketer's social profiles, and in our DM Lab Facebook mastermind group, DM Engage. Connect with her on Facebook.

View all Posts by Suzi Nelson