In the 1940’s, American Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that belonging is an essential human need, which rings true for most people. We want to belong and interact with others who have shared experiences or similar interests. Tapping into this human need forms deeper bonds with those you form connections with.
Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary took Maslow’s theories even further and argued that the need to belong is fundamental for humans in order to form positive and lasting relationships. They go on to say that, “Satisfying this need requires (a) frequent, positive interactions with the same individuals, and (b) engaging in these interactions within a framework of long-term, stable care and concern.”
Facebook itself uses psychology to pull users in and keep them coming back to the platform. A lot of this is built on frequent, positive interactions. Mark Zuckerberg announced early last year that Facebook was beginning an overhaul to specifically put more focus on meaningful interactions between friends and family, knowing that one of their big draws was the sense of belonging people get out of using the platform.
Their first move was to prioritize posts by friends, family, and groups. Businesses everywhere let out a collective moan since paid advertising was thus being emphasized as the “only” way to ensure your audience saw what you posted. But with groups still getting a spotlight in users posts, they have remained one of the ways everyone from entrepreneurs to big brands can circumvent Facebook’s “pay to play” model.
Much like in-person meet-ups, Facebook groups enable those with similar interests, goals, etc. to connect, share information, help one another, and gain that sense of belonging.
Now that we’ve covered the basic psychological principal behind groups and the fact that it’s still free to create a one on Facebook, let’s get into how to really cultivate your company’s community with one.
Know your audience and your niche
Who’s your tribe? Who do you want to connect with? What knowledge or helpful information do you want to share with them? What is your niche?
Answering these questions are the fundamentals of marketing, but the thing to remember most about truly cultivating your community is that the people in it are not looking to be marketed to. That is not one of their “needs.”
They are merely looking for that belonging and connection with others. They seek knowledge and will often freely share their own knowledge with others in the group. If you cultivate an honest and genuine environment, a side effect is not just a very connected group, but also a truly captive audience.
For example, I belong to a Facebook group for people interested in Qi Gong, a form of ancient martial art. I found out about the group from an online instructor who also started and moderates the group.
Most of the members in the group are just beginning to become interested in Qi Gong or have only been practicing it for a relatively short amount of time. The instructor shares stories about how he became interested in Qi Gong, personal experiences he’s had, and different health struggles he’s overcome through his practice. He knows this audience really well because he was once a member of this audience.
Through sharing his knowledge and encouraging members to share their experiences, stories, and questions, he is cultivating a community, who just so happens to be his target audience.
Every now and then, the Qi Gong instructor will post something promoting one of his paid services, but it’s always an aside to content that at least provides some helpful tips. He usually does pick up a handful of new students for his paid courses every time he does this.
This works because he’s cultivated the group to accept him as a thought leader in his niche, he freely shares his knowledge, and above all, he’s genuine in his approach. He truly wants people, whether they are current students are not, to be able to receive benefits from practicing Qi Gong.
When you create your group, you too will become a thought leader in your niche. Use this power wisely and your group will flourish. Always be a human first and a marketer second.
Go “closed,” or even “secret”
For some next-level community cultivation, look into creating a private or secret Facebook group. If your group is public, it’s searchable and there is the potential to get members quickly if you have a popular niche.
However, those benefits are also the pitfalls. We’ve all heard of internet trolls and harassment online, and while bad behavior by individuals can actually happen in any type of group, it’s more prevalent in public ones.
With a closed group, it’s still searchable, but one must request membership and there are often qualifications you have to meet, and a stronger set of rules members must follow. Secret groups are not searchable and the only way to find them is through an invitation from the group.
I’ll typically recommend closed groups, as they offer a “safe space” for members to feel comfortable, open up and really connect with fellow members. Secret groups are best suited for “exclusive” members.
I’ll use the Qi Gong instructor again as an example. After being in his closed group for some time, I actually did purchase one of his webinars, and eventually signed up for his more lengthy, online Qi Gong course. When I did that, I got a personal invite to his secret group, the exclusivity of it narrowing the community down even further. These are people who are serious about taking their Qi Gong training to a higher level and have literally bought into it, through the instructor’s paid courses. The discussions are deeper, there is even more information and knowledge shared by the instructor, and members thrive on the back and forth communication.
Some final tips for cultivating a Facebook community
If you’re still feeling a little stuck about what exactly you can do to start and engage your Facebook group members once they start showing up, here’s a list of my top tips for cultivating your community.
- Establish guidelines and rules of conduct for your group. Stick to this and moderate it so that your members can feel safe and respected
- Set aside time in your day for the group. Thirty to 60 minutes is typical, but it can vary. When you’re just starting out, you may spend a lot more time on building up your community, coming up with content your members find value in, creating that sense of belonging, engaging, and moderating
- Grow your group organically. Don’t spam people to join it
- Encourage members to tell their personal stories
- Host regular live events where members can watch and interact with you in real time
- Encourage members to ask (and even answer) questions at any time.
- Post one thoughtful question relevant to your startup’s industry for members to answer every week
- Resist the urge to overtly sell your startup’s product or service to your group
- Always be genuine
If you’re interested in learning more about how to actually create a Facebook group, there are a ton of resources already out there, such as Neil Patel’s guide here.
Through cultivating a community in your Facebook group, you and your members will gain the benefit of belonging and creating lasting connections with other like-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll also strengthen your personal authority in your niche as a thought leader and create a naturally captive audience.