Organic reach continues to decline for businesses who use Facebook Pages. According to Social@Ogilivy, from 2012 to 2014 organic reach of content published on Facebook Pages decreased from 16% to 6% and for pages with a larger audience, less than 2% of organic reach. Essentially, Facebook wants you to pay for ads to reach your community. While Facebook Ads can be very beneficial when executed correctly, we have another way to engage with your community on Facebook. Start a Facebook Group! Don’t neglect your Facebook Page, but instead connect it to your Group to enhance your marketing presence.

Don’t forget, Groups are communities, and they need to remain focused on topics that engage its members. Meaning, avoiding self-promotion of your business, don’t bother starting a group if that is your intention. It won’t work. To see value from a Facebook Group, you will need to make it a priority and invest the necessary time and resources. Your goal is to provide valuable, education and entertaining information, so local pet owners see you as a thought leader and thus gain trust in your business.

Getting Started

When you create a new Facebook Group, set the privacy to a closed group so local pet owners can find your group, but will need to request access. A closed group will help you limit spammers. Once you create your new Group, add clear rules to your group description. Mention that you will be monitoring the Group for self-promotion, spam, and disrespectful behavior towards other members. Add questions that pending members must answer to help you screen new members. We want to avoid self-promotion, but you should associate your pet business by linking your Business Page to your Group. Also, consider making your Facebook Group sponsored by your pet business by adding a small logo on the header image. Local pet parents will see that you are generously volunteering your time to provide them with a safe place to discuss everything pet related. And people buy from people they trust.

Growing Your Group

Start by inviting people from your local network to join your new Facebook Group. Do not add people without their permission. You want members who will be active participants. Therefore, you don’t want to annoy anyone. If people don’t want to be in the group, then you will see poor engagement and won’t gain value. Invite friends and clients to join your group by sending them an email invitation directly from the Group. They will receive the email and can click the link to join. Encourage your members to invite other pet owners within your community. Promote your group on your website as a helpful resource for pet owners in your area, and cross-promote on your social media channels. Also, link your Group to your city/town and connect the appropriate tags so that local pet owners can find it on Facebook.

Creating Value For Your Members

Focus the context of your Group on the value it provides to members. Since you own a pet business, create a supportive resource for pet owners in your local community. If you can create a valuable resource for local pet owners, your brand will grow with the Group by association. Engage but don’t sell. If someone asks for a recommendation, this is when you want to jump in by offering your product or service as a potential option. Consider inviting other local pet professionals to create more value for your members. Stay active on threads and make sure you’re keeping a close eye on spam and encouraging group members to report misuse.

Engaging with members

Encourage your members to engage with each other by asking questions and sharing posts that may be helpful to other local pet owners. Make sure all posts require admin approval. It is crucial to moderate all posts to avoid spam and self-promotion. Keep an eye on discussions, so they don’t get out of hand and remove anyone that breaks your rules. Share local pet events, videos, tips and tricks, health and safety, local news, conduct market research polls, share helpful blog posts, product reviews and anything else that you think your audience will enjoy and drives engagement.

If you’re looking to build an active, engaged community around the problems your business solves, I strongly suggest you consider creating one of your own and making the time commitment. This is a great marketing resource for your pet business, and it is worth the investment to do it right.

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