If you’ve been into Instagram marketing for a while, you might have heard of Alex Tooby before. An Instagram growth expert, Alex started her Instagram journey in 2015, creating a bunch of successful accounts that gained recognition in the press with the speed of light. And when I say “gained recognition in the press”, I mean mentions in Time Magazine, People, Business Insider, Refinery29, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed — the list is endless.
Now, Alex is running a successful Instagram consultancy business. And yet, it’s not Instagram that we’re going to talk about today, but Facebook Groups. See, having learnt everything there is about Instagram, Alex founded a Facebook Group called Instagram Marketing Mastermind, which is one of the most popular Facebook groups about Instagram marketing on Facebook (currently listing 36,548 members).
If you’re thinking to open your own Facebook Group, you want to read this.
Because in this interview, Alex is explaining why your brand needs a Facebook Group, and sharing her own A to Z journey on how to run successful Facebook Groups for business.
How to Use Facebook Groups for Business:
Interview with Alex Tooby
Olga: Alex! While your target audience is clearly Instagram-focused, why did you decide to open a Facebook Group for community building in the first place? Why not stay on Instagram?
Alex: I opened my Facebook Group as a way to further connect with my audience and help them solve their problems. While a well written caption on Instagram can encourage users to comment and even ask questions, Facebook is a much better place to have a conversation and find the answer to something specific. When someone asks a question in my Facebook Group, I get to show off my expertise by providing an actionable answer and they have a positive experience with me — which often leads to the purchase of my products or to a word of mouth referral down the road. So, in short, Facebook Groups is a strong additional asset to my business. It helps me grow.
Olga: There’s a debate going on that millennials are abandoning Facebook, because it feels “too old” for them. Do you think Facebook still matters if you want to grow your business?
Alex: Hmm.. not sure if I agree with that one! I definitely think Facebook pages are a bit of a scam (organic reach is pretty much non existent) so if anyone was abandoning something it would be that. I do however think Facebook Groups are the way of the future. Like I said above, the group gives me a place to further represent myself as the authority in my niche and gets like-minded people together, who also happen to be my potential customers!
Apart from the more organic approach that groups represent, Facebook is the leader in online advertising. If your business is using, or planning to utilize ads then you NEED to be on Facebook.
Olga: Your group currently counts 36,548 members, and it’s super active. People are posting and interacting every day. How on earth did you achieve that?
Alex: It’s been some time in the making! I created the group in March of 2015 and let me tell you, things were pretty dead for the first few months. I was, however, committed to its success, so I would gather relevant articles and bits of helpful information to post as it grew. That meant that when someone did stumble upon the group, there was always some interesting content there for them to read.
Since then, I have constantly cross-promoted the Facebook Group on other social platforms, like Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. I’ll ask my Instagram followers to join me there or I’ll share the link on Twitter. I also make the Facebook group a requirement to access certain pieces of content I have. For example, I offer a free Instagram training and all of the “homework” associated with it takes place in the FB group itself. So if students want access to that, they have to join!
As the group has grown, people tend to suggest it to their friends or peers when someone is looking for help with Instagram.. but the reason why it’s so easy for them to recommend my group is because it’s focused on one sole topic. If I had a group that was the “Social Media Marketing Mastermind” it may not be as successful because of its very broad topic. When you niche down (and this applies to all platforms & businesses!), you generally see more success because the user gets EXACTLY what they were looking for.
Even after applying all the above, the only way to grow Facebook groups for business is to make sure that people get value from them. You’ve got to invest a ton of time into the group making sure everyone’s question is answered and you’ve provided some sort of actionable advice. Not only will the person remember you, but they’ll remember exactly where they were helped and share that with others.
- Facebook Groups are a much better place to have a conversation, because they allow users to find specific answers on specific questions
- With organic reach on the decline, Groups are becoming the future of Facebook community building
- When opening a Facebook group, make sure to focus on one sole topic. Don’t mix things together!
- Cross-promote your Facebook group on other channels: Instagram, Twitter, email, website — think outside the box!
Olga: What’s the biggest every day challenge of managing a group with a large membership?
Alex: As your Facebook group grows, you’ll go through various stages of challenges — with the most common being spam. Even if your group doesn’t allow self-promotion, you better believe people will break that rule often! We all want our Facebook groups to grow and become popular, but the time commitment required to monitor the group’s quality can be taxing.
For me, at this stage, it’s trying to control the poor advice sometimes given by members of the group. When numerous questions are asked every day, at any hour of the day, you can’t always be there to chime in with the best response, which means someone else is likely to take over as the “guru”. This can be amazing in some cases as everyone has different experiences and insight — but sometimes the advice given can be just flat out bad! I then have to go in and correct the advice given without hurting feelings and hoping the person who asked the question hasn’t been steered in the complete opposite direction of where they should be going.
So my advice: when you see that your Facebook group is becoming bigger than you can manage yourself, hire a team member in a different time zone, to make your best attempt to stay on top of everything and ensure that the quality of your group doesn’t suffer as the group itself grows.
Olga: How did your business benefit from having a Facebook Group?
Alex: Greatly, I think! While metrics are a bit hard to track, I know that by having the group I gain multiple things. For instance:
- Constant exposure of my name and business (not only through my posts but via the cover photo as well!)
- More opportunities to show off my expertise and wow my audience (taking the time to answer questions for free helps build the trust my audience has for me)
- The opportunity to market my products to my audience, whenever & however I want (perks of being the boss!)
- A place to quickly survey my target market (perfect for determining what content I should create next)
- A lead generation machine (when someone asks to join the group I request their email and add them to my list)
Note that Facebook Groups don’t have a proper consent checkbox, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be GDPR compliant if you want to use Facebook Groups to grow your email list. Before approving new members into the group, ask them if they agree to receive any email communications from you and ask them to manually type YES, if they do. GDRP implies a clear and affirmative opt-in action, freely given with full knowledge of how the user’s data is going to be used.
Olga: Is there something you would have done differently when you started your Group?
Alex: No, I don’t think so! If anything I would have done something differently half way through: be more present.
When I started my Facebook group, I had to work hard to always be present and posting to keep it alive. Then, as the group grew, it started taking care of itself by others posting the content for me, which was great BUT, it also led me to not being present enough and, even though someone joined my group, they may have not known who I was or what I had to offer.
So, the last few months I have been focused on personally showing up more so that people don’t forget who I am and so my business can continue to receive exposure.
Olga: How do you define a “Facebook Group strategy”? What are the steps of the process?
Alex: As with any strategy, you first need a goal. Determine what exactly you’re trying to accomplish by having a Facebook group, then decide how you’re going to do that. What content can you share that keeps your audience interested? What will make them want to share it with their friends? Then you need to determine where and how you’re going to promote the group. Facebook groups take time to grow so having a solid marketing strategy is key. Consider adding the group link to your Instagram bio, sending out an email to your current audience asking them to join, promoting it in other Facebook groups (where applicable), or asking friends and peers to share it with their audience.
Olga: Last question: What are your best 3 tips for any business out there, thinking to create a Facebook Group?
Alex: Pick a specific niche or topic to separate your Facebook group from the rest. You always need to be specific, and that’s rule number one (and the ultimate growth tip). After that’s done, you can follow these three main takeaways:
- Show up consistently. Even if you only have two members. Tag them in a post and ask them a question. Post content even if no one reads it. Act as though your group has hundreds of members until it does. If you quit this process early, your group likely won’t make it.
- Don’t do what everyone else does. Just because groups do weekly threads (motivation monday & promo friday ring a bell?) doesn’t mean you should too. Recurring threads often just attract people who want to post their content on the appropriate day — these aren’t real, active members. So, try different things, find out what works for you and stick with that!
- Don’t be over promotional. Don’t use the group solely to promote your products or services. You need to be selfless for a while to build up trust and rapport with your audience. Focus on giving away free content for a while before you start promoting your paid offerings.