I’ve been managing various internet groups for years. From bulletin boards & forums to Google groups and interactive mailing lists to What’sApp groups – I have been a part of internet ‘communities’ of all kinds almost since there was an internet (did I just date myself here?).
As such, I have had the opportunity to see first hand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to corralling these types of loose knit internet communities of the like minded. I wanted to share some of my top tips to help those that already are or are considering taking on the founder/admin/moderator role within groups on Facebook.
Whilst there is always an element of self moderation in these groups, I have found that most tend to operate best under a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ style of management. This means that there is a strong leader (or possibly small leadership team) that sets clear guidelines for how the group will be run, enforces these rules fairly, justly and consistently and also strongly vets admissions (and clear process for admission approval) to help ensure a good fit for the group culture you are trying to create. First it’s important to understand what a Facebook group is – and isn’t.
A Facebook group differs from Facebook profiles and pages in that it is more like a forum for users to create, share and discuss content around common interests, hobbies, sports, causes, events and the like. There are Facebook groups for almost any interest you can imagine, from gardening and beekeeping to tramping and community groups. To understand the key differences between groups, pages and profiles, check out the excellent article here.
I am a member of about 20 groups centred around my personal hobbies, interests and local community. My groups range in membership size of under 20 to a gardening group with over 8k members! There is no limit to the number of members a Facebook group can have, making it a handy Facebook fan or friend engagement tool.
Now, without further adieu, here are my top 5 tips for running a Facebook group – successfully.
Tip 1: Select the Right Privacy Level
This is absolutely critical to both how easily (or not) your group is to find via Facebook search as well as what limitations are placed on being able to add people to the group. There are 3 levels of ‘Groups’ – Public, Closed and Secret.
Public – Anyone can see the group, its members and their posts.
Closed – Anyone can find the group and see who’s in it. Only members can see posts.
Secret – Only members can find the group and see posts.
For specific details on all privacy settings associated with group types, see the FB matrix for groups here.
Because of the privacy implications of group settings, it is critical that you understand these settings and that the group type is clear to all members and that they agree to these settings on joining the group.
One additional consideration here is how members get added to groups based on privacy level. Again, the basics are: For all types of groups—Public, Closed and Secret—group members can add their friends. Other people can request to join a public or closed group and be confirmed by a group admin. You can invite people you’re not friends with to join the group by clicking ‘Invite by Email’ in the top right of your group.
Basically, you can only invite friends to join a group. If you have their email address you are probably already their FB friend so this feature seems a little redundant to me. Bear privacy settings in mind when determining how you’d like members to be able to join your group and how exposed your/their content will be as a result.
Tip 2: Write a Great Intro Blurb
On the right hand side of the group page is a section called ‘About’. This is your opportunity to tell the world (if the group is an open or closed group anyway) why your group is so awesome, what it’s all about and what kind of experience they can expect if they join. This is your group ‘elevator pitch’. You are limited to 3000 characters so make them count.
I would recommend you also mention when the group was started, who started it and who the current admins are, just for transparency sake. You should also cover any member admission conditions you may have in place so that it is clear and there are no embarrassing declinatures (or worse, ejections) required.
If your group is secret, then this blurb is only visible to members so is less critical as you will solicit for members in different ways other than your group intro & Facebook search. However, I still recommend you set the basic focus, tone and expectations of the group in the intro, even for secret groups.
Tip 3: Write Clear Guidelines & Pin Them
It is very important that group members have clear rules (guidelines sounds much nicer don’t you think?) they can reference if they have a question about how the group operates and what your expectations are of them as members. I have seen groups that do not do this and they never run as well as those that do.
Groups that have lightly involved or absentee founders/admins often do not set clear group guidelines and as a result they often see lackluster member growth. Like it or not, the founders/admins bear the burden for leading the group by example and this also means making the hard decisions, like writing the group guidelines and then enforcing them.
There are several ways to create the guidelines/rules but remember, only 1 post can be pinned to the top of a group at a time, so I suggest you make it the guidelines post and leave it at that. You can write a fresh new group post with the guidelines in it and then pin that but I find that the better way is to go into the ‘files’ section of your group and create a Facebook document with the guidelines in it.
Once you save the document, it will automatically create a post to the group referencing that document and you can then pin that as the top post. When that post is clicked, members are then taken to the document which is much more readable than a standard post would be. It is also easier to update later should it be required than a standard post.
My guidelines document/post typically includes the following:
Detailed group background
Goals of the group
Regional focus (eg: this group is for members living in New Zealand etc), if any
List of current admins, with details of admin authority and what level of admin control/intervention members can expect to be exerted over the group (eg: from virtually nil to tight control and monitoring of group posts and content)
Guidelines around member business or social solicitation within the group (eg: what is considered spam and how it is dealt with etc)
Information about group resources available to members and how to access them (like the files section, group search etc)
Tip 4: Select Good Admins
When you start out, you can usually admin a Facebook group on your own. As membership grows this becomes more difficult. Never underestimate the potential time sink a Facebook group can be. It is not out of the ordinary to spend an hour+ per day on running a Facebook group, even a relatively small one. They become more self sustaining content wise as membership grows but then your time focus shifts from building the group to managing it.
At some point, you will likely need additional admin support and if you don’t set this up at the start, you can watch your group closely and then select from the existing membership (assuming they agree to be an admin of course). Select admins based on your own criteria but for me, they need to be available fairly frequently, be active participants in the group, be drama free and have different personality characteristics to me so that I have a variety of viewpoints and approaches covered by the admin team.
Empower and support your admins publicly and save any disagreements or judgement calls for private admin discussion which leads nicely into my final tip…
Tip 5: Create a Separate Admin Group
This is a genius tip I learned from an admin in another group. At the same time you create your main group, create a second admin group. This group will always be set to secret and the only members will be you and your current admin team.
This creates an easy way for admins to discuss admin issues and decisions in private and outside a bulk private messaging session. Once an admin decision has been made, it can then be made public in the main group without admins airing their dirty laundry along the way.
As admins come and go, you add or remove them from the admin group as required. The benefit of this approach is that the admin group is searchable like any other Facebook group meaning new admins can search for old topics or admin discussions/decisions, centralising and archiving admin activity over time for future reference.
I also create an admin guidelines document and pin this in the admin group so admins have a clear framework to follow and work with that I can support and encourage. This helps ensure consistency in the way admins manage the group so that it’s fair for all. This creates trust and respect for your admins within your membership.
BONUS Tip: Intervene Early
If you see a post/thread running amok and generally causing a major disruption to the group, intervene early. Don’t let it run for 250 comments expecting members to sort themselves out. More often than not, the thread gets more and more heated causing hurt feelings or worse. You can be firm without sounding heavy handed. Use phrases like: ‘I think we’ve covered all the ground on this one, let’s put it to bed.’
In this way you are acting like a good group member without invoking admin authority directly. Obviously, if a post continues to drag, then you can start deleting comments or the entire thread if you think it’s warranted to keep the peace.
So there you have it, my top 5, er 6 tips for running a Facebook group successfully. I hope you have found these tips useful. If so, let me know in the comments and also share some of your group experiences if you have them.
Thanks to digital marketing expert Jason Greenwood for this post. You can find him here.