Managing a Facebook Group

When it comes to having a presence on Facebook, individuals have personal Profiles or Timelines, companies and brands can set up Pages, and anyone with a Facebook account can start a Facebook Group. A Group on Facebook looks similar to Pages and Profiles with a few key differences.

The assumption of a Group is that people are joining for conversation. Some conversations do happen on Pages, however, if you are looking for a forum to host more in-depth discussions based around common topics, Groups may be a good choice.

Groups, like any online community, require much more attention and management than Pages in order to keep the conversations going. Pages should be monitored and the community cultivated there, but the expectation of engagement is less for a Page than for a Group.

If you are the admin of a Facebook Page, your identity can be “hidden” from public view. If you are the organizer of a Group, your identity is visible within the Group. You can assign officers of the Group and their names will be visible as well.

While a Facebook Page is meant to be public-facing, a Group can be private or Closed but also can be Secret meaning that it won’t even show up in a keyword search. Many existing offline groups and organizations set up Facebook Groups to conduct business and discussions online and not all are open to the public. You have controls over who can join and who can post to your Group.

Facebook Groups consist of a “wall” or “Timeline” like personal accounts and Pages. They also offer a Members section, Events listings, the ability to upload Photos and also Files. Files are a feature exclusive to Groups.

Before you even start your Facebook Group, ask yourself the following:

What are you hoping to achieve with an online community? Some appropriate ways to leverage an online community are to get informal feedback or as an online focus group. Online communities can be useful for brainstorming new ideas or for organizing for a shared activity or event.

How much time do you have to devote to your community? Online communities take time to start, cultivate, grow and leverage. On the time-commitment scale, online community building is on the longer side of time requirements. A good online community manager spends at least a few hours throughout their day checking in on the community. More time is needed when actually making the community “work” for you.

Who on your team has online community building skills? You may be a strong communicator, you may write a mean press release, and may even have your own personal Facebook profile and feel comfortable posting status updates. However, none of these skills automatically translate into being a good online community builder. A good community builder has more than great communications skills but they also have the personality to bring people together under a shared message or mission and encourage meaningful dialogue.

What are the rules of your community? Like any online forum, you should have some ground rules for appropriate behavior and for the consequences of inappropriate behavior. Put these rules in writing and make sure community members can access them from a prominent link on your Facebook Group.

Some commonly used concepts of online community building include:

Seeding or posting conversation starters that are compelling and inviting to others to chime in.

Weeding may be required to keep conversations on track or to weed out negative behavior that might create a hostile environment and kill the community.

Cultivating conversations so they blossom is needed on a continuous basis because a lull in conversation can kill momentum. Plus, cultivating an online community into a fruitful marketing mechanism takes finesse and a fundamental respect of community dynamics and of community members themselves.

There is no single right way or wrong way to manage an online community because it depends on the Group’s purpose and the interest of its members. Be clear from the start as to the purpose of your Facebook Group and your expectations of your community members to avoid conflicts in the long run.