In the spring of 2017, Ell Duclos found herself in a lonely position. She had started a blog covering lifestyle, beauty, and motivation, but found the blogging journey to be a lone endeavour. That’s when it occurred to her—she needed to develop an online community of bloggers!
Today, that community, famously known as the Boss Girl Bloggers Facebook group is an engaged circle of 36,813 members.
Wondering how Ell grew her group with like-minded people while also working full-time as a server? To dig into Ell’s growth formula, I reached out to her and had a chat about her top tips, mistakes she made as she widened her online circle, and her recap of how she grew her Facebook group from zero to over thirty-six thousand active group members.
Let’s dig in!
But first some basics:
Facebook groups vs Facebook pages
Before you create a Facebook group and work on spreading the word, it is essential to be clear about the difference between Facebook pages and groups. Not long ago, Facebook pages enjoyed the limelight. However, a series of changes in the platform’s algorithm reduced page reach. This means the number of people seeing your posts has now gone down.
Lucky for us, Facebook groups can help reach a wider audience without having to spend heavily on ads. You can choose between keeping your group closed (private), public (anyone can see the posts in your group), or even grow a secret community.
However, you mainly need to keep in mind that growing a Facebook group is a different matter than growing a Facebook page. For one, you need to offer a lot of value or “FREE valuable information”, as Ell simplifies it, in your Facebook group.
And two, you need to plan a relationship-building strategy to grow your audience and win leads. Put another way, Facebook groups aren’t places to toot your horn and promote your products or services. Instead, the focus should be on engaging with your audience.
How to grow your Facebook group from 0 to 36K+ members without spending a dime?
Facebook groups saw a growth north of 40% in 2018. More than half of Facebook’s 1.4 billion users are part of groups. So it makes sense to leverage this, doesn’t it?
A Facebook group can help you establish yourself as a subject-matter expert. For instance, Ell is widely known for her expertise in growing blogs organically. Her followers look up to her to solve hiccups they encounter in their blogging endeavour.
Brands, on the other hand, can use Facebook groups to build brand loyalty by showing their human side and sharing what they stand for. What’s more, an engaged Facebook community is a great place to learn about your audience, know their pain points, and plan your content around the feedback you get.
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Are you ready to grow your newly created Facebook group? Read on to find out how you can run an impactful, engaged community online starting with setting clear objectives.
What are your objectives behind the Facebook group?
Did you take the time to draft your objectives when you created your group? Kudos to you if you did so. You’re on the right track. If you didn’t, it’s never too late to highlight your goals. Ask yourself:
- Who is your target audience?
- What do you want to achieve with your FB group?
- What results are you expecting from your group?
- What is the shared interest you want to build this community around?
Having a clear answer to these questions gives you a direction to move forward. You’ll know exactly whom to invite or attract to your group, which interests you share with your group members, and that what outcomes you want to achieve.
Ell had a clear mindset as she got to take the first steps to grow Boss Girl Bloggers. Her objective was to create a “space for women who were also going after turning their blog into their main source of income.” And a “space where other bloggers could feel comfortable asking questions and not feel so alone on their blogging journey.”
That’s pretty specific, isn’t it? With her aim clear, Ell was in a good place to invite people she wanted to connect with.
How to plan a growth strategy for your Facebook group?
You don’t have to be an expert strategist. You only need to address three important questions that will lay your action plan moving forward:
- How are you going to offer value to your group members so they can benefit from your group?
- What kind of content will you create for your Facebook group?
- What are you going to do to promote your group?
Here’s a truth bomb: nobody joins your group unless they know what’s in it for them. When it comes to Ell’s group, bloggers know that it is a safe place for having their blogging problems solved. Here’s an example:
Besides, members realize that Boss Girl Bloggers makes their blogging journey less lonely. In fact, Ell has been loud and clear about this in her group’s description:
In a nutshell, Ell focuses on offering value by sharing tips to grow a blog, posting collaboration threads to engage and bring bloggers together, and answering any blogging queries that new bloggers may encounter through their blogging journey.
So it’s clear – you need to work on offering value for growing your group. This is easier to decide if you’ve already paid attention to what shared interests bind you with your audience in the previous section on setting clear objectives.
Once you have these shared interests, you can work on creating content around them and decide your posting frequency. For instance, Ell shares interests in blogging and matters related to it with her audience. So she knew what content she needed to create since the start.
Now that you’ve got a glimpse of what content to create and how to offer value to your audience, let’s talk about promoting it.
How will you promote your Facebook group?
Facebook group promotion strategies are a dime a dozen. The real deal, however, is in being consistent in your efforts and reviewing them regularly to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Ell used the same learning approach. She highlights, “When I first started my group I would reach out to other bloggers privately. This quickly became time-consuming and I needed to shift my focus.”
That’s where Ell changed her Facebook group promotion gears and decided to “invite people to join my community in all of my blog posts”. She continues, “I also made sure to include a link on my website. Since Pinterest marketing has always been my “go-to” I made sure to use Pinterest to spread the word about my community as well.”
This gives us four promotion tactics:
- Invite people personally. Take out the time to know your target, engage, and then invite
- Use social channels like Pinterest to spread the word
- Add a CTA to your blog posts that invite readers to your group
- Share an invite on your website so each time people visit your site, they’ll know you have a community
But that’s not all. There’s still another Facebook group promotion tip in Ell’s bag – word of mouth marketing. Now, this is a tough one, and it takes time and patience. However, investing in your online relationships tend to reap sweet fruits.
Ell shares she found out about word of mouth marketing working in her favor via her group members. She puts out 3 questions for anyone who wants to join her community. It’s here that, “one of the questions is “how did you hear about boss girl bloggers?” Their response was: ‘I was having a conversation at Starbucks with a stranger and we started talking about blogging. She mentioned your community so I decided I had to join.’”
This brings an important question to mind – how does Ell engage with her audience enough to get the word of mouth ball rolling? Read on to find out how you can replicate this for your Facebook group.
How to get engagement in your Facebook group?
For those of you thinking engaging is limited to posting regularly in your group, there’s more. A lot more.
Firstly, you need to interact with your audience as they respond to your content. Ell suggests, “Don’t leave them hanging. You don’t want to make your audience feel like a number. Personal connections go a long way.”
Secondly, you need to be invested. Listen to the conversations going on in your group and participate in them. Moreover, to foster a sense of warmth and welcome, make sure you ban members who don’t share your ideology. It’s okay to get rid of the trouble members. Boss Girl Bloggers doesn’t have a place for them as well.
Ell pointed out, “I also don’t tolerate members who are rude and disrespectful. That doesn’t add to feeling the sense of community. I don’t hesitate to remove them.”
Thirdly, ask questions. Choose from asking:
- Debate-centered questions like “do you think the latest Facebook updates are good for business?”
- Closed questions like “do you like the upcoming Facebook updates?”
- Open-ended questions such as “how do you plan to tweak your Facebook marketing strategy with the latest Facebook updates?”
- General questions like “who is your favorite marketing author?”
These types of questions are great for driving engagement. You can also plan questions for market research. For instance, ask your group about what problems they face or what sort of content they’d like to see you from your end.
El shares her example, “I’ll ask questions like ’what are you struggling with when it comes to your blog?’ This helps me decide what content I should create next that I know my audience is interested in learning.”
Other forms of engaging content that you can use to grow a Facebook group include:
- Host AMA or Ask-Me-Anything sessions in your group. You could also choose members from your group and host AMAs with them
- Share your working process or give an insider, behind-the-scenes (BTS) look into your work
- Host community discussions at a specified time
- Use interactive content to host surveys, polls, and quizzes to engage your audience
You can even use video content to engage which is basically the top-performing content type on Facebook currently. The average engagement rate for video posts is 6.01%, whereas, engagement rates for posts with photos, links, and text-based status updates stand at 4.81%, 3.36%, and 2.21% respectively.
You can leverage both regular videos and live ones. For example, create a video sharing X tips on your subject matter such as, ‘5 tips to grow your blog using Pinterest marketing.’ As a plus, direct viewers to your blog by telling them they can get the details on each of these tips in your blog post.
On the other hand, try live videos which Facebook confirms viewers spend three times longer watching than videos that are no longer live.
You can share quick tips in a live session or show how you work. Michelle Vroom, the creator of Market Like A Boss, is a pro at hosting live videos. She frequently connects with her audience using Facebook live, covering marketing tips, motivational talks, and one of my favorites – she live-coaches her group members.
How to keep your Facebook group members engaged?
By now, you have a plan to outline your objectives, prepare a content strategy, and sketch what steps you’d take to promote your group and engage with your audience. You also have a lot of content ideas to try.
All this will help your Facebook group gain traction. However, your work doesn’t stop here. You’ll need to keep your engagement game strong. This happens in three ways:
- Consistency in posting new content that’s relevant, valuable, and solves problems
- Engaging with your audience by answering their questions and so
- Encouraging your group’s active members to stay active
Ell, however, is very particular about that. She says, “I love when other members take the time to get involved and help answer questions! Especially since the purpose of the group is to help bloggers get their questions answered. I make sure I am active, daily approving posts and engaging with my members. I think being engaging myself, helps get the community members to feel like engaging as well.”
She’s right, you know. Groups where members mainly talk among themselves quickly become boring. Put simply, it’s pointless to stay engaging for longer if the host isn’t engaging.
To prevent you from turning into an inactive host, Ell suggests you loop in some moderators for your group. “If you don’t have the time to be super active, consider getting moderators,” she advises.
In a nutshell, the lessons we learned here are:
- Be super active about posting new content and interacting with your audience
- Answer questions that your group members may have
- Hire moderators to approve posts and supervise member behavior if you find yourself in a busy spot
Essentially, you’ll need to moderate your group. Facebook group settings permit members to post without requiring your permission. However, that comes with a downside – you wouldn’t know what content goes live in your absence. It could be an overly promotional post among other things or negative comments from one group member to another.
If you can’t moderate all the time (this could be particularly true when your group grows), ask for help.
How to save your Facebook group from becoming boring?
Although the tips shared above on engagement can prevent boredom, there’s more you can do to keep your audience on their toes. Wondering how? By preventing your group from becoming a pitchfest or a promotion show.
Ell grew her community to about 37,000 members by focusing on one thing alone – free value. She explains, “I always try to provide as much free value as possible. Valuable responses go a long way and it helps build trust with your members.”
And she leads by example. Ell is never outright promotional about her Pinterest marketing course because she thinks, “If you respond to questions saying ‘oh here’s my course, where you can find this answer.’ It comes off as a pitch fest in my opinion. I always try to go out of my way to provide as much free info in my community as I can.”
Looking for another trick up Ell’s sleeve? Here you go: respond to comments. This is what sets Boss Girl Bloggers apart from numerous Facebook groups. “I think one thing that I try to do that I don’t always see other community admins do is take the time to respond to members’ questions,” Ell observes.
To stand out, Ell answers her community’s questions and motivates them as well. “My community is meant to get your blogging questions answered, feel motivated and inspired to go after creating a blog. I do my best to make sure I am motivating when I can and answering members’ questions personally to my best ability.”
Of course, this keeps members of Boss Girl Bloggers engaged! And if you look back and recall Ell sharing collaboration threads as I mentioned, you’ll see exactly how her group members are getting the most from her group. So who’s up for offering some free value?
Wrapping it up with Ell’s top tips on how to grow your Facebook group
As we conclude this case study, I’m hopeful you’ve picked a lot after having been in Ell’s mind, who single-handedly grew her FB group to over 36,000 members. And it’s not just about the numbers. Join the group to see how engaged and valuable it is for its audience.
To part ways on a merrier note though, I’ll sign off with Ell Duclos’s top three tips to grow your Facebook group without investing in ads:
Don’t sell. Make friends
“My biggest tip is the less “sales-y” you are, the more sales you make. You don’t need to harp on selling a product in order to sell it. Treat your members like they are friends and you will find a great ROI. People are turned off by forceful selling.”
“Being personal with your members makes them feel welcomed. If they feel welcomed and find value in your group, they will spread the word without you having to ask.”
Offer free value
“Show up daily in your group and make your members feel valued. Offer FREE valuable information because that will build trust and bring you more sales in the future. You have to build your community on a trusted, solid foundation.”
Ready to build a strong community via Facebook groups?
Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed blog posts and articles for small businesses and app companies who aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience.