On a Sunday afternoon in 2014, sitting in my kitchen in Somerville, MA, I created a Facebook group called “Travel Therapists”. At the time, I was a traveling speech-language pathologist who felt alone taking 13-week contracts across the country. I wanted desperately to connect with other traveling therapists, just to know that I wasn’t alone.
Four years later, this very niche market group has grown to just shy of 8,000 members! I never spent a dime marketing the group – it has grown completely by word of mouth. The group is active, with many daily posts, and is continually praised as one of the best places not only for traveling therapists to connect, but to learn and find resources about the industry.
There are a lot of benefits to running a successful Facebook community and I meet a lot of people who want to know how I do it. Many people think that I actually started this blog first and then the group. That is false – I started the group first and then created this blog out of a need to answer questions for the group.
After years of learning, growing, and making mistakes, here are my tips for how to run a successful Facebook group!
Have A Clear Intention For The Group
When starting a group, you want to know exactly what the intention is for that group. Set a clear mission statement in the group description. You want people who are interested in the group to know what it’s about and to want to join for that reason.
In regard to setting rules, I find this a bit less important, because the rules may change and evolve over time. Facebook now allows you to set “rules” in a specific post, which is helpful, and they have some pre-generated rules. You can write rules initially, but know that they may change as the group grows and issues arise.
Be Specific On Who You Let In the Group
The More Narrow, The Better!
As you are starting to grow a Facebook community, you may be caught up in numbers and think that the more people the better. This is FALSE! When growing a community, it is far more important to have the right people in your group as opposed to having a large number of people. To run a successful Facebook group, you need to know EXACTLY who the group is for and only let those people in the group.
When you look at a person’s profile for entry into the group, don’t just determine are they “real” (i.e. not a spammer). Ask that person questions to enter the group (Facebook allows you to ask up to 3 questions) and look at their profile. Are they a match for the group? Do they want to be in the group for the reasons you created the group?
I learned this lesson quickly as a group administrator. When I first started the group, I not only had traveling therapists in it, but also people who marketed to travelers, such as job recruiters. I had travelers (the people who I wanted in the group) telling me that they were cautious to post in the group. Because, the travelers didn’t like the way that they were being approached and marketed to by recruiters both in the group and on the side via personal messages.
Early on, I made the decision while the group was still small (about 800 members) to remove all the sales people from it. At the time, the group lost over 100 members. I honestly thought that may be the end of the group and it may keep on shrinking in size. However, the exact opposite happened. Once people realized that it was only therapists in the group and it was a closer community, the group started to grow exponentially. There were more conversations, people participated more, and organically referred the group to friends. By removing the wrong people from the group and focusing on the right people, I was able to grow the community.
Don’t Hesitate To Remove People
As I mentioned above, this is SO important! You want the right people in your group. You want the members in the group to feel connected to the others and feel a shared experience. If the wrong people are in the group, then the right people will disconnect from the group and leave. Do everybody a favor and remove people from the group if they do not meet the intentions or rules of the group.
Know Your Tribe And Their Needs
As an administrator or moderator of a group, the group is NOT about you or your needs. It’s about your community and you serving THEIR needs. You are there to serve the community that you foster. Know your community. Read the conversations and engage with people, both in the group and via personal message. Know why they are in the group, what they want, and how you can help them.
Make sure that your members are getting their needs met. Read their posts, questions, and messages and determine if you are truly meeting their needs. Consider running polls and surveys routinely to ask what people are looking for or want in the group.
If you ever consider selling a product to your group, knowing your community’s needs is such an important part of the monetization process. You only want to sell a product that can benefit your audience and that they need! I’ve seen so many groups fail because the administrator tried to monetize by selling something that didn’t benefit the community. On the reverse, I’ve seen many group administrators monetize groups flawlessly by selling courses, books, etc., that help group members and make their lives easier.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Assertive
There will be times when you need to take charge of the group and it’s not always going to be positive. It may involve being transparent, negative, or assertive. There are going to be people who don’t like you. You may have to kick people out of the group, delete posts, and maybe share some negative information with the group.
Remember, you are there to serve the community in the group. When you serve the people that you are there for, they will appreciate when you take charge of situations when needed. Being assertive may come with obstacles and it may require you to step out of comfort zone.
The people in your group are there because they all want to connect with like minded people. Encourage this! As group administrator, encourage conversations that allow people to connect and inspire even the most introverted poster to post in the group and connect to others.
By doing the things listed above, you will already be fostering a sense of community and connectivity. However, I also run some weekly or bi-weekly chats where I encourage members to participate. I run quite a few “Group Chat” threads where I pose questions to the group and encourage everybody to answer. Sample group chat topics include:
Roll call: introduce yourself
Friday positive share: share a positive story from this week
Pet share: share a photo of your pet
Photo share: post a photo from your week in the comments
Share something you wish you knew as a newbie
By popular demand, I ran a “Tinder Tuesday” thread one week, which encouraged singles to introduce themselves. The thread ended up getting hundreds of comments and I’ve heard that some dates even came out of it!
Engage And Answer Questions
As administrator or moderator of a group, take it upon yourself to make sure that everybody who posts a question gets their question answered. This was my motto when I started a group, and what I attribute most to my group success.
When the travel therapists group was in its infancy, I would make sure that every person who posted a question had their question answered. Or, directed them to a location where they could get their question answered. Because of the legwork that I was doing to answer questions, I went from a novice in the travel therapy industry to a leading expert. I also taught myself what I needed to know to answer questions. Later, I started this blog to put all of that knowledge into a single location. Now, I also do live webinars in the group to answer questions and engage.
Encourage Or Plan In-Person Events
One of the best and most rewarding parts of the group has been the opportunity to meet other traveling therapists in person. I have hosted events for therapists, as well as encouraged therapists to plan their own meet ups at different locations across the country. And of course, share pictures of the meet up with the group! Hosting events and meeting people in person takes the community to a whole other level and is something that I highly recommend as you get an engaged audience. The events don’t have to be anything fancy. It could be a meet up at a coffee shop or day at the beach.
In conclusion, nothing good happens overnight. Cultivating a good community takes time. Don’t be discouraged if your group isn’t growing or engaging conversations are not occurring. It took over a year for my travel therapists group to reach over 1,000 members.
If you have questions about running a successful Facebook group, feel free to contact me: HERE.