How do I make my Facebook group or fan page interesting?
I run a Facebook group and am considering switching it to a Facebook fan page, but I don't think it'll address my basic problem: how do I make a Facebook group or fan page interesting and lively to my online community? Do I need to have giveaways? Spend an hour each day making new postings? What's the secret, Dave?
[This is not only a great question, but a fundamental one for anyone creating or maintaining an online community. I know, because I have the Ask Dave Taylor Fan Page on Facebook. As a result, rather than answer it myself, I asked my friend Patrick O'Keefe, author of the book Managing Online Forums, to tackle your query. Here's his splendid, thoughtful answer... ]
Facebook Groups and Fan Pages are a sort of repackaging or continuation of something we've already been doing in other online community spaces. So, when thinking about this question, it can be helpful to consider how you might keep an online forum or chat room active. After all, the Wall on your group is similar to what some would call a shoutbox and your Discussions tab is, more or less, a forum.
When it comes to keeping them interesting, there are a lot of different directions you can go in, limited by your own creativity. With that said, here are some ideas that came to mind when pondering your question:
Participate and Make it Routine
Your participation in your group has a direct impact on how interesting it is. You can't expect to set a group up and then just let people talk amongst themselves indefinitely. That creates a host of issues.
For one, there is less overall activity. If your group is based around your company, product, brand, personality or something along those lines, having no interaction with you can lead to participants feeling unappreciated. Plus, there is always the danger of something inappropriate being posted that you won't have removed because you weren't there.
Instead, you should be a constant presence on the page, posting messages, responding to others and encouraging and monitoring discussion. Make it a regular thing, a routine; like checking your e-mail or reading your favorite blog.
A simple way of generating interest is to ask questions. Put a call to action in your messages and the things that you share, asking for the reader to do something, even if it is as simple as asking them for their thoughts. Provide a prompt. When people answer, thank them for their replies.
Host Events on Your Page
Due to the live, fresh nature of Facebook, it can be used as a platform for scheduled events, aimed at drawing a bunch of people to your page at a given time. Here are some examples:
If you're a company that creates a product with constant technical support requests, you could host a question-a-thon. Encourage people to ask questions of your product or company at a specific time with the promise that company executives, technicians, etc. are on hand to answer them as soon as they're posted.
You can invite an expert or special guest of interest in the subject of your group and have them answer questions on your page for a set period of time. If you're a sports group, you could have a writer from ESPN or an athlete. If you're group is about growing your business online, you could invite Dave Taylor. If it's about architecture, you could host a noted architect.
You could play a game where you ask people to post pictures of given objects (authenticated in some way) in real time and the people who complete all of the challenges (or something along those lines) are all entered into a giveaway for a cool prize.
Whatever your niche, you can come up with an event to host that will resonate with your audience.
Highlight the Contributions of Others
Everyone wants to feel wanted. Part of keeping it interesting is embracing the people you do have now and appreciating them. Not only that, but when they do great stuff, share it with everyone. Showcase cool contributions made by group members and draw attention to them.
This encourages further contribution by not only the person highlighted, but by others who would like to be highlighted. It's a great way to reward people for doing great things.
Moderate and Kick Out the Cancers
Watch out for people who disrupt or damage the environment that you want on your page. Bullies and jerks can intimidate others and can change the tone of your page and scare people away. Don't be afraid to cut them off, in order to maintain your focus and ensure that your targeted participants are comfortable.
Go Beyond Just Text
Text is the backbone of most every Facebook group in existence, but other content can provide a good change of pace - visually and otherwise. Post polls and share photos and videos.
If this is a company page, post photos of your people in action, of your office, of events. If your page is about a leisure activity, post pictures of you engaging in it and encourage others to do the same. One way to encourage photos is to have themes.
If you were a martial arts page, you could have a theme of everyone posting a picture of themselves in their stance, or of them doing a certain kick or wearing their uniform.
Integrate Your Other Online Presences
Does your company or organization create a lot of content online? Or maybe just you as an individual: do you create content relevant to your group? Maybe you have a blog, a YouTube channel, maybe you write tutorials or articles. There's no reason that these outlets should not be at least partially integrated into your group.
Every blog post you make or YouTube video you upload, that is related to your group, is potentially a discussion topic that can be brought up. If you have a directly relevant publication that you maintain, don't hesitate to feed it directly into your group. Notice I said directly relevant: be careful of feeding anything and everything. It must be focused on what your group is about.
Take it Easy with Apps, Boxes, etc.
Facebook apps (applications) are cool, no doubt. But, they can be a problem when they take the focus away from the area where you want people to actually participate. In general, before adding any additional elements, apps, tabs or boxes to your group, you should consider how it really adds to what you have right now and what you really want to accomplish.
For example, would you prefer a page with 7 different apps and tabs, all of which have little or no activity, or would you rather have one Wall that has moderate activity? It's really about showcasing what you do have, which makes you more attractive to potential participants. Don't spread yourself too thin. Focus on doing one or two things really well; and then you can expand off of that.
Run Offline Events, If You Can
I love the internet. But, I also love meeting people in person. Meeting people in person allows you to grow relationships so much more quickly. I've been able to meet Dave a couple of times at conferences and I'm glad I did. Honestly, if I hadn't met him in person, I'm not sure I'd be writing this right now.
The point is this: offline makes online better. Online makes offline better, too. They enhance each other. If you grow group relationships offline, they'll be stronger online. So, if you're community is based around a certain area - or if there are a bunch of group members near you - hold a meet-up. Take pictures and video of the meet up and post them on your group (more content!).
If you're page is about a company or a product, invite people to your headquarters or a local restaurant or establishment for some face to face time. You can even use this time to let people try out new products, to get their feedback and to make sure they feel like an insider and a person who is a part of your community. This can only lead to good things for your Facebook group and, more importantly, your online presence.
Finally, I want to tell you to go deeper, if you have the activity to warrant it, in two senses. The first sense is Facebook itself. The Wall is usually a place for shorter comments, not longer posts, like you might see on online forums. On Facebook, you can add a Discussions tab, though I don't believe it is as intuitive as the established and well known format of forums.
That brings me to the second sense: don't stop at just Facebook. Look beyond, to other platforms, to your own structured community on your own website. Having people on your own site allows you to do more with them and can allow you to have even more meaningful relationships.
This also allows you to have a more interesting Facebook group because you can share content between your on-site community and your Facebook group and use your group as a means of promoting your website-based community.
This isn't right for everyone. For some, it's best to stick with a Facebook group or similar. But, for many others, stepping beyond just Facebook will allow you to benefit even more.
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