If you run a local business, you should consider yourself lucky.

Why?

Because unlike companies that operate exclusively online, you have the unique opportunity to make meaningful connections with people in your community.

The bond between local, small businesses and their customers is like no other. Forming meaningful relationships that result in lifelong business is something service businesses should cherish.

Think about it. Your status as the lifeblood of local neighborhoods is your business’ superpower. As a result, you should always be working toward the goal of improving the lives of those you serve.

Looking to become more influential as a local business? Wish you could find a way to get closer to your local community and make a positive impact on people’s lives?

Funny enough, one of the absolute best ways to reach superhero status with your local community is through the power of Facebook.

Why a Facebook Group is a Must-Have for Local Businesses

Chances are you already have a Facebook page or at the very least promote your business via the social network.

And hey, that’s a great start! Pages are important for running ads that target local customers. That said, you’re really limiting your reach if confine your Facebook presence solely to a Page. How so? Here are some of the distinct disadvantages of Facebook pages:

  • Unless you’re paying for airtime with your audience through ads, there’s a strong chance that many of your promotional posts are being hidden
  • Facebook pages aren’t ideal for growing communities: unless you’re a household name, people aren’t likely to interact with your content beyond the occasional like here or there
  • As of January 2018, Facebook is actively demoting branded content in preference of posts that drive lively discussion and debate

On the flip side, Facebook groups manage to bypass these issues because people have to opt-in and join voluntarily. Other added bonuses include…

  • Unlike pages, groups are based on back-and-forth conversations rather than randomly sharing content
  • Groups also feel more like an exclusive club or community, allowing people to identify with your brand
  • Having a group signals you as a sort of guru or authority figure within your local community as people are coming to you for advice

Another notable advantage a Facebook group has over a page is reaching exponentially more people with your content. Again, pages are infamous for hiding posts from followers due to Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm.

In fact, a study of Facebook groups versus pages conducted by The Digiterati found that groups outperform pages by a staggering 50% in terms of reach.  Perhaps Facebook expert Mari Page puts it best in this post based on her firsthand experience with groups:

Groups feel to me, as an administrator, like Pages did about 6 years ago. Buzzy, engaged, not full of marketing content but instead genuine and useful discussions that both serve the user and act as a place for brands to engage (ideally without being spammy).

Okay, so by now you’re probably sold on groups and are ready to get down to business, right?

Good! Now we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to create a Facebook group that attracts the attention of your target audience.

Step #1: Picking the Perfect Name For Your Facebook Group

First impressions matter. Picking a name for your group is a big decision, but doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Naturally, you want your group to pop up when people search for your business via Facebook. At the same time, you also want your group’s name to be engaging and show off what your new followers have to look forward to it.

Ideally, you can use your own business’ name with a creative twist.

For example, our own company, vCita has a Facebook group called “New vCita Features” which is dedicated to – you guessed it –  the latest and greatest features vCita has to offer. This type of name has three advantages that you should keep in mind when naming your own group:

  1. It’s short, direct and easy to remember (perfect for coming up with your custom group URL, too)
  2. It features our brand’s name, so anyone searching for vCita will also come across the group
  3. The group’s focus and value for members are crystal clear in just three words – here’s a place where you can easily keep up with vCita’s features, ask questions and offer feedback

Similarly, your own group should combine your business’ name with the value you’re providing potential members. Here are a few quick examples:

If you’re a life coach, you could call your group Jill Smith Breakthrough Life Coaching.

If you’re an online marketer, you could call your group John Smith’s Marketing Masterminds.

And if you’re an accountant, something like The Fictional Firm Accounting Advice would be fair game.

Each of these examples ticks the boxes of being search-friendly while also having a bit of pizzazz, too.

Step #2: Figuring Out What Content to Post to Your Facebook Group

By far the most important aspect of running a successful group is your content strategy.

First off, you need to understand the focus of your group and what value you’re bringing to the table.

What sort of unique insight do you have to offer people? Do you have the bandwidth to go back-and-forth with your followers? The answers to these questions will essentially drive your group.

Why Content is “Make or Break” for Your Facebook Group

Here’s a harsh piece of truth: if your posts and content aren’t legitimately helpful or engaging, you’re really going to struggle.

Also, you need to be careful not to come off too pushy or self-promotional. If people come into your group and see nothing but links and “look at me!” posts, they’re going to turn the other way. When in doubt, “less is more” should be a rule of thumb when it comes to promos.

Groups should represent communities.  Discussion-driven hubs. Unlike pages where people passively consume and post updates, groups are about having conversations that solve the problems or answer the questions burning in the minds of your audience.

You’re going to be expected to engage with questions, offer feedback and truly get to know your followers if you want a group that thrives.

The key to doing so is posting the most engaging content you possibly can to encourage people to come back for more. 

Thankfully, you have tons of options when it comes to grabbing the attention of group members and turning them into active and enthusiastic contributors. Here are some tried-and-tested content ideas you can roll out yourself:

1. Tips, Advice, and Support

If someone joins your group, chances are they need help. As a group administrator, it’s your job to offer insight even before anyone asks to pick your brain.

Posts offering relevant tips, general advice or even moral support are a solid starting point for any local business group.

For example, let’s say you’re a lawyer running a page regarding legal advice. You’ve noticed a recent influx of divorce-related discussions so you decide to throw in your two cents:

“Hey group! I decided to compile a sort of “best-of” divorce law tips based on the lively discussion I’ve been seeing lately.

Believe me – I know how tough dealing with divorce can be for all parties involved. I’ve seen just about everything you can imagine firsthand and while it’s certainly not easy, here are some bits of wisdom to help.

Number one…”

2. Inspirational Posts

We could all use a daily dose of inspiration, couldn’t we?

People respond well to content that gets them pumped up and ready to take action. Content that shows off a glimpse of a better future, whether it’s a nicer home or getting your dream career, is perfect for your group.

Here’s a sample post you might see from an online marketing group:

“Hey there, fellow marketers!

I just wanted to remind you all of something that dawned on me today.

It’s a piece of advice that’s so elementary but really needs to be repeated for new marketers.

Don’t. Give. Up.

Why do I bring this up today of all days?

Well, today’s actually the five year anniversary of my decision to get into marketing and work for myself.

Know what? It was the best decision I ever made.

If you would have told me five years ago I could go from eviction notices and anxiety attacks from looking at my banking account to a six-figure income and working from wherever I want, I’d call you crazy,

But if I can do it, so can you.”

3. Q&A Sessions

The ability to receive free advice from a professional service provider is invaluable to your members.

Weekly Q&A threads where you invite members to post questions are perfect for driving engagement. Such threads are also a prime opportunity to show off your expertise, enthusiasm, and commitment to your community.

In fact, Q&A threads can sow the seeds of getting hired by members of your community. When people see your positive results and ability to get the job done, they see you as a potential go-to for your services.

Let’s use a group for financial advice as an example.

“Hey group – it’s Q&A Wednesday! 

Here’s how it’s going to go this week: the first five people to comment on this post will get their money questions answered by yours truly. I’ll also be going back-and-forth in the comment section over the next hour, so if anyone else wants to chime in please do. Let’s get it started!”

4. Community Discussions

Groups are always created around a shared area of interest. We all enjoy exchanging knowledge, finding our common ground, and arguing for or against common practices, opinions, and trends.

The beauty of Facebook is that it’s the web’s greatest equalizer. You don’t need to be a celebrity or an academic to argue your point.

No matter who you are, Facebook gives you the freedom and opportunity to speak your mind in front of the world’s largest online parliament. Getting your voice heard is still a huge draw for people and good marketers know how to make their audience talk.

Creating discussions around hot or controversial issues is one of the best ways to attract group members to engage with your posts,
while making them feel empowered and giving them a sense of community.

For example, let’s say you run a life coaching group and want to engage group members in an interesting discussion:

“So, I recently came across a study that one in ten Americans now takes an antidepressant medication. We see our fair share of clients struggling with anxiety and depression which led me to wonder – do you think that antidepressant are a viable, long-term treatment option? 

5. Members’ Success Stories 

Sometimes the best source of motivation comes from your own members’ success stories. Don’t be afraid to share the spotlight with your members, either giving your followers a sense that they can do anything or that you’ve produced positive results for others.

For a marketer, this might mean highlighting a case study that resulted in massive returns.

For a lawyer, this might mean telling the story of a huge settlement you scored on behalf of a client.

And for a life coach, this might mean an inspiring tale of someone who turned their life around thanks to your help.

The purpose of these stories isn’t just to stroke your own ego, but to highlight your experience and how you can assist future customers.

6. Special Offers

Your Facebook group is a brilliant place to push the occasional offer. Exclusive group offers naturally encourage new members who want in on your deals, allowing you to win more members and more business as a result.

“FYI! We’re offering a members-only discount for the next week. Don’t miss out! Just mention your membership via email or use this promo code…”

These types of promotions can really seal the deal for skeptics who may have otherwise been sleeping on your deals.

Note: A popular strategy among Facebook groups is to cycle through different types of content for different days of the week (Motivation Monday, Q&A Tuesday, promos on Friday, etc). This is a smart way to keep your members on their toes without having to reinvent the wheel each and every week with your content. Over time, people will know what to expect and won’t grow tired of such discussions as long as you keep the topics fresh.

Step #3: Using Tools to Supercharge Your Facebook Group

Beyond your group content, Facebook has some awesome built-in features to keep members in the loop. For example, the platform recently rolled out new updates including Welcome Posts to provide a warm “hello” to newbies.

Below are a few other features that deserve your attention, too.

Documents

Every group has a built-in “Files” tab where you can create or upload documents to share group-wide.

This is a great place to share files such as intake forms or e-books if you’re offering up education for your members. Don’t forget to include your own unique branding (such as your logo and contact details) to your docs to give them a signature touch.

Another neat feature of group documents is the ability for members to collaborate on a single doc. This is perfect if you’re compiling a list of contact information, tips or any sort of “ultimate guide” where everyone’s input is welcome.

Events

Another great way to encourage more business within your groups, creating an event allows you to invite members to free lectures or workshops. Creating an event can be done in a matter of seconds and work for either in-person or online events.

For example, let’s say you want to host a live webinar and want to get a pulse on how many people are going to show up – why not create an event to drum up interest?

Polls

Another fantastic feature to encourage engagement, polls represent a low effort way to allow your members to sound off. For example, you can run a weekly poll about concerns, hot topics or overarching discussions impacting your community

Ready to Create Your Own Fanatic Facebook Following?

Groups represent the ultimate way for businesses to bring themselves closer to the communities they’re so important to. When you step up to the plate to serve and solve the problems of your local customers, people will take notice.

Through Facebook, building that sense of community is now more possible than ever. Rather than wait for customers to come to you, start building up your own following ASAP!