A recent trend among direct sellers is to create a private Facebook group for customers. Those who promote this strategy point to increasingly small views on Facebook business pages. That is true; however, in order to do business on Facebook you are required to have a Facebook business page no matter what.
There are also many reasons not to try to do both. I've compiled a list of concerns I have and why it's crucial not to keep adding things to our workload as demonstrators. The following are my opinion based on both personal experience with a group, ten years doing business on Facebook, and general social media practices and advice.
Please note two things:
IF a Facebook private group for customers is currently working for you, then you should listen to your gut. I do hope you'll read through the article, however, and make sure it really IS working for you and not against you in the long-term.
Also, remember we're discussing CUSTOMER groups here, not team groups or a private hostess club or some other sub-group of your main customer base. FB groups DO have a purpose. I just don't personally recommend them for your customer base at large.
- Private is just that—something that cannot be seen. New customers won’t be able to find you in a group like they can on a business page. They can’t send you a message you will be certain to see. They won’t join something they don’t even know exists, or that they cannot see inside to know what it is like. People prefer to try before they buy, and you just removed the possibility of trying you out to see if you’re a good fit. Don't build walls!
- Chatting should be done in public!!! How many of us learn something by reading thread responses or other people’s questions we were also wondering about. Camaraderie and enthusiasm that is contained to a private group will never be contagious. We want the fun to spread, not be boxed in. Your personality and brand is meant to be seen in your public responses so people can decide they like you. Chatting and relationship-building in public is free, priceless advertising.
- Groups cannot do advertising or boosting. ONLY business pages can do that. Facebook’s magic for small businesses lies in the ability to advertise targetedly and very inexpensively. You just stole FB’s main super-power when you focus on a group rather than a biz page. Facebook still won’t show all your posts to your group members. That’s a myth. Facebook still manages what we see in our feeds no matter what we think we’ve selected to be notified about. Short of advertising, there is no concrete way to get posts in front of eyes.
- You are investing a huge amount of time into something that you ultimately do not own. This time would be much better spent maintaining your biz page and building your blog and newsletter. If anything happens to Facebook, or their policies change again like they do every two months, you’re completely and 100% at their mercy. You should never ever rely on one platform, especially one that is FREE. Focus your time on what you OWN, or someday you may come to deeply regret it.
- The more you ask of customer, the LESS LIKELY they are to do it. Don’t ever make them click twice when once will do.You don’t want to be directing customers to a Facebook group when where they need to go is your blog, which should be your home base on the web. Facebook hates links away from FB. It wants to keep you there (makes sense). So you’re in the position of sending people multiple places for information.
- It’s just one more thing to manage. It may not seem like a big deal, but every time you add something you have to maintain and moderate, you are committing yourself long-term. Don’t set yourself up for failure if you’re already trying to juggle it all. Consistency is the NUMBER ONE problem demonstrators quote as to why they have trouble with managing social media. Some say they’ll just manage both. Realistically, you probably won’t. And you’ll be left wondering why neither thrive.
- You should never EVER add people to groups without permission. I instantly unfollow anyone who does this because it’s SO annoying. So now you’re asking them to join multiple things again and trying to chase people down. Some will join, but most won’t. LESS is more. Your professional email list, with its double-opt-in, is the ONLY thing that should be exclusive. Separating people just makes for more work.
- Private groups can’t be linked to Instagram. One of the best partnerships out there is the ability to run posts simultaneously on FB biz pages and Instagram. That is a powerhouse move every time you promote it on both. Again, that’s an ability of only business pages, not groups. This is likely to be true of ANY FUTURE PLATFORMS that partner with Facebook for business reasons. Why? because that's how Facebook makes their money. They are not a charity. This is reality for business owners. You get what you pay for, and if you don't pay for it, you are lucky you get ANYthing.
- Groups can’t go viral!!!! Someday, if it has not already happened to you, one of your business page posts will unexpectedly garner a huge amount of interaction and engagement. That can never happen in a private group. We need to be putting our attention and resources into things that can spread, not stagnate.
Bottom line: have ALL the pros and cons in mind before you add anything to your workload. If you want to start one, set a probationary period, after which you will quit without guilt, if it’s not working for you.
I quietly deleted my VIP group after just two months when it was obvious I was working harder than ever and still not having interaction and increased sales. Not a soul noticed!!! That tells you how ineffective the customer group concept was for me. "Forced" social media interaction is, in my opinion, unsustainable.
Conversations that occur naturally, in the moment, without walls or hurdles, are the best feature of social media. Paid, targeted advertising is the second. And viral contagion potential is the third. Remember those three things and you can't go wrong when deciding what types of social media platforms are going to work best for YOU.