Many business owners think about Facebook in a one-dimensional way: Create a page of your own where you can promote your brand and products or services.
But there's potentially a lot more to it than that. One underutilized strategy is creating Facebook groups, which provide an easy way to segment customers. With groups, you can create communities around particular products, improve customer service, provide a networking forum for customers and even drive new sales.
You segment your email list, right? So why not segment your Facebook community, too?
To create a group, login to your Facebook account, go to the Home page and in the left column you will see an option to "Create a Group."
So far, few business owners are using Facebook groups for customer retention and acquisition. Get a jump on the competition by trying out these three Facebook group strategies:
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1. Use closed groups as a customer support hub.
A closed Facebook group can be used to deliver support to a specific customer segment, cutting down on customer email clutter and providing a central place to get feedback on what is and isn't working for your business. For example, I have closed groups for all my online training programs to offer support to my clients and give them a chance to network with each other.
The goal is to generate an open dialogue between you and your customers by providing a special spot for them to ask questions. Although Facebook users can see who is in the group, they can’t see members’ posts without joining the group. That way, group members don’t worry that their questions will end up in a friend’s newsfeed.
Use the group to share documents, such as FAQs, and appoint one of your community managers to jump in and answer customer questions. This can also be an ideal forum for announcing product updates, sharing discounts and inviting customers to events and contests. Group members who have already made a purchase are usually more likely to engage with your brand again, especially if they’re happy with the customer service.
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2. Use 'secret' members-only groups as networking hubs for current customers.
If your goal on Facebook is to create a tribe-like community, then a secret, members-only group can be worth investigating. Unlike closed groups, only members can see who is in the group.
Secret groups allow you to create a personalized, private feedback loop, which can be a priceless engagement and retention tool. They’re ideal for providing extra value to your VIP-level clients and customers.
A private group may be especially appropriate for businesses whose products and services have a more exclusive audience, such as coaching organizations and training and consulting providers. The closed group atmosphere can create a sense of exclusivity and your clients will get direct access to you and your team.
I use secret groups both for retention and customer acquisition. A private group provides a forum where my consulting clients can network and share strategies with other marketing professionals. Clients love having a place to candidly ask me and experts in the group for feedback.
It’s been such a popular feature that I now use secret groups with all of my products. As a result, I’ve seen a 30 percent increase in returning customers after I introduce a new program. Also, my return rate has dropped because customers know I am there to support them when they have issues.
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3. Use open groups to build awareness, authority and interest in your brand.
There already are plenty of open groups on Facebook. The narrower the niche or hyper-local the group, the more likely it is to be lively and engaged -- such as these local “free-cycling” and photographer groups.
Start or join an open group focused on your business niche. Use it not to sell your products directly, but rather to establish yourself as an expert and to network with others in your industry. For example, if you edit photographs for a living, a photography group is a way to share your expertise and provide relevant content in a more personal and community-focused way than with a brand page.
For all types of Facebook groups, use the “About” tab to outline the purpose and goals. Create and post membership guidelines to the "Documents" tab, especially for closed and secret groups, because you may want to allow members to invite friends when appropriate.
And focus more on participation than messaging. Groups are about dialogue, not direct sales. Encourage customers to interact and post often.
Based in Carlsbad, Calif., Amy Porterfield is the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies (For Dummies, 2011) as well as a speaker and trainer, teaching small businesses and entrepreneurs how to drive more traffic, leads and sales with Facebook marketing.