Facebook groups foster shared purpose, nurturing the seeds of trust that transform strangers into eventual customers for fitness and wellness businesses. Here’s how to get the most out of Facebook groups.
1. Don’t make it all about you
A Facebook group is a community of interest, not your business’s fan club — unless the members make it that.
I once posted a question about which ultramarathoning hydration vests were the best. I got instant recommendations for (and against) very specific brands and models from actual runners. That’s completely different from having your social media team post some marketing foofoo about one of your products.
You’ll get more mileage out of your connections by creating a group called “Girls Gone Paleo” than you will by creating one called “Dr. B’s Paleo Diet for Women.” The former is a group of people; the latter is a commercial brand.
2. Don’t duplicate what’s already been done
Before you set up a Facebook group, make sure there’s not another one pretty much the same. Search Facebook for similar groups first. Type your topic of interest — “diabetes” or “fibromyalgia” or “Ironman” or “sports nutrition” or “integrative cancer” or whatever it is in the search box at the top of the Facebook site. Include a city if you’re looking for local connections.
If a relevant group pops up, it might be better to join it, lurk and listen, and build your brand’s value by gradually engaging in conversations already underway.
If you do decide to create a new group, decide how private it should be.
3. Be specific about your group’s purpose
Match the purpose to your business interest. If your business offers hard-core conditioning for women, a group focused on fueling and muscle building for women in MMA is much more relevant than a group focused on “women’s fitness.” Sure, you’ll have fewer members, at least at first, but all those group fitness fans who love Les Mills aren’t your target customer anyway. Get Ronda Rousey to join and you’ll have instant credibility.
If your group’s membership skyrockets, you can always keep the focus specific by separating it out into geographies or other niches.
4. Invite founding members first
Communities of interest grow faster when they have more than one person or connection from which to grow. It’s very important that the first group of people you invite to join your group are ones you know best, and who will stay involved and post regularly.
Groups have a special advantage: all members are notified about all posts.
That’s not true for your personal page or fan pages for businesses. Facebook selectively displays only about 5 – 10% of all the posts in your network, based on which posters AND kinds of content (posts, videos, links, etc.) you most frequently engage with (click on, comment, “like”, etc.).
Keeping your founding members a tightly knit and closely connected group is important. Over time, they’ll help grow a strong and flourishing group, and your business will benefit from the connections they build for you.
5. Use multiple admins
People have to ask to join. It’s very important to approve the request right away. Making a handful of your most trusted founding members admins helps spread the responsibility, lightens the load on you, and helps create a sense of common purpose and ownership that can keep the group going.
Check their Facebook page before you approve them. Don’t approve people whose Facebook pages suggest that they’re likely to be spammers. If one slips through, kick ’em out of the group ASAP.
6. Invite your contacts to join
Start with the active list of customers and prospects who receive your email newsletter. Invite others likely to share an interest in this group as well — perhaps certain vendors, friends, customers, or clients. Don’t get carried away, though — be selective and only invite people to join when it’s truly a great fit for them.
Use other channels, too: flyers at the front desk, posted by water fountains and restrooms. Promote the group on your website and in your email newsletter. Announce the group at the beginning or end of classes or free seminars or webinars and encourage folks to join.
7. Post a welcome message as people join
If you run a bariatric pre-/post-surgery support group, a new member welcome message might say “Welcome Sharron, whose Roux-en-Y is scheduled in early November. She’s wondering if…”
Introducing people to each other helps them feel like they’re a part of something, and it encourages them to come out of their shell and get involved.
8. Friend people as they join
It’s often a good idea to friend the folks who join the group, too. For one thing, it’s one more opportunity to connect with them.
9. Pin a post at the top about the group
For groups with a fairly large and diverse membership, it’s great to keep a short post “pinned” or saved at the top that summarizes the rules and makes it clear why the group exists.
One reason to keep the rules at the top is that it’s possible that at some point, conversations will get off track and people who aren’t interested in those discussions may start leaving the group. You can always point folks at the rules and remind them gently to keep posts relevant.
Keep in mind you can always start another group for such discussions and direct certain members to it so that you don’t lose other members from your main group.
10. Participate in related groups
The people you want as members may already belong to another group. That leaves you a few choices:
- Poaching the group’s members by badmouthing the other group and suggesting yours instead. Yes, this actually happens. DON’T DO THIS.
- Wishing you had created the group first. POINTLESS.
- Participating in the existing group and letting people know over time that they’d be welcome at your group too.
This last strategy is especially smart if your group is about a related topic that’s not really the focus of the current group.
11. Invite other groups to post on yours
Get to know the members and the admins of related groups so that when the time is right they’ll be delighted when you invite them to post in your group.
Focusing your group on a not-previously-claimed interest area makes it easy to invite related groups to post on your site. An existing group for “Fibromyalgia Sufferers” or “Living with Fibro” is probably perfectly willing to let you invite their members to join “Fibro and Exercise” once you’ve participated in a low-key (i.e., non-promotional) way for awhile.
It’s one more reason to check whether a group exists before you create one exactly like it.
12. Encourage members to post content that really connects
Here’s what we mean. I run a Diabetes & Exercise group on Facebook. What content always gets a response? “Selfies” of blood glucose meter readings after a workout! We don’t care about recipes, or “diabetic feet tips” or any of that stuff.
Pay attention to the content that your group members really love. Then encourage folks to post THAT kind of content. Because they more they click, share, Like, comment, etc., the more members your group will attract.
13. Don’t invite everyone to events at once
This works just like the principle of inviting founding members.
Facebook will allow you to invite all of your Group members to an event (as long as your Group size is less than 300 or so. It gets more complicated after that.)
However, Facebook is always monitoring engagement. High-traffic posts will be more visible. So invite folks to events first who will actively respond to the post and help promote the event by posting follow-ups, cross-posting, and sharing with others both individually and in other groups. Then, continue building momentum by inviting waves of people.
14. When it’s quiet, use posts to pull people in
If your professional interest is nutrition, challenge members to post a recipe they love for an ingredient you hate.
Is your professional interest family health? Ask group members at what age you should you un-childproof a house.
Ask for tips on what people do to improve their mood after days or weeks of cold gray weather.
Start a check-in: “What’s the one best thing you did for yourself today.” Or, “The vegetable you ate today” or “Today’s workout.”
It doesn’t matter as long as it keeps members active and posting.
Don’t overuse this technique or people will start to tune it out. It’s best reserved for low-traffic periods.
15. Cultivate a connection
If you’ve got a story, share it. If your business specializes in aging services, nothing gives you more credibility than selectively sharing bits of your own experiences with your mom and dad, or your in-laws. You can tap your expertise, too, but the connection may not be as strong. In Facebook groups, empathy counts as much as credentials, and sometimes more.
16. Don’t pitch or offer unsolicited advice
Your group is generally not the place to pitch your programs and services. And definitely don’t PM group members to pitch them. We recently saw a wellness practitioner participate for several months in a wellness group as just “one of the guys.” So far, so good. Then she suddenly PM’d a bunch of group members to pitch them on her weight loss program. The result: instant complaints, instant and total loss of trust, and a warning that if she ever did it again, she’d be permanently removed from the group.
Offer tidbits of knowledge, not books, lectures, or classes, as answers to specific questions, and most likely, someone will ask for more.
17. Build trust by becoming part of the community
Don’t create or join a group just to post an ad.
One client of ours lurked on a Facebook group nearly a year, patiently standing by while members of a particular wellness-focused Facebook group flailed about, attacking doctors, nurses, the health care system, the federal government, and specific medicines before someone finally stood up and asked “does anyone here actually have a solution that works?!”
Our client had been waiting for that moment, and during that time had offered a great deal of empathy and friendship. She posted a link to her site as part of a longer conversation about the topic, and the group’s administrator had no problem with it “as long as the poster made her associations with the program known.”
18. When presented with a problem, offer solutions, not products
Is it discomfort doing certain exercises during pregnancy? Back pain after walking around the block? Bruised toes after running?
If the discussion in the group is about a problem, make sure your comments are on point. Facebook groups are not Costco. People don’t join them so they can buy commodity products. If your product fixes a problem, it’s an answer. If it doesn’t, it’s an ad.
19. Talk about something besides your product
The nice thing about Facebook groups is that they really are about the community. If you’re truly a part of that community–if you’ve built lasting relationships with the people in it–you’ll have something else to talk about. Mentions of your professional interest will arise naturally.
For example, if you run programs for women and babies, and there’s a thread about swollen feet, you can mention in passing that “one of the women in our YogaMom class swears by swimming and lying on her left side when she sleeps.”
20. Promote related causes
If your product is for people with specific health concerns, think about participating in Facebook groups established by related non-profits.
The bottom line: Facebook groups can help wellness businesses nurture conversations with prospective customers. It starts by connecting around shared interests relevant to your professional focus, and cultivating the seeds of trust.