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  • Writer's pictureSarah Davis

How to create and grow an engaged Facebook community


Networking for small business owners


What does the word ‘community’ suggest to you?


To me, it conjures up thoughts of being around like-minded people, who are open to both giving and receiving help, advice, support and encouragement. I also associate being part of a community, with feelings of trust and belonging.



How has the interpretation of ‘community’ changed over time?


Historically, the word ‘community’ has tended to be used in reference to locality, ethnicity or religion. People would tend to turn to their neighbours or people in their local area for support, but with the onset of lockdown, followed by an upsurge in the number of people working from home, online communities have become increasingly popular, to avoid the feelings of isolation and being cut off from others. People who have common goals, values and interests, have been drawn together to form online communities for support, advice, encouragement and company. Communities for small business owners have been popping up all over Facebook.


In the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘community’ is listed as, ‘a body of people or things viewed collectively.’ 



Why start a Facebook community?


Although a Facebook group can be a huge asset to small business owners, it also requires time, energy, a clear purpose and a lot of motivation. If you can tick all 4 of these boxes, it’s well worth doing.


Early on in my business, around November 2020, people told me that I should start a Facebook group.  I thought about it and I put all of the behind-the-scenes tech in place to set it up (which was fairly straightforward, following the Facebook instructions) but then I decided against it. Why? Quite simply because being told ‘you should have a Facebook group, because it will be good for your business’ wasn’t a good enough reason for me. I couldn’t tick all of the boxes, so I knew that at that point, the timing wasn’t right.


So, how did I get from this to where I am now, the host and founder of an engaged group, with over 1,800 members and a thriving online networking group too? Fast forward 6 months to June 2021.



How Parenting Business Connections was created


I was out one afternoon, in June, at an in-person networking social event for mums who are in business. The sun was shining, bright pink flowers were out on the bushes, the company was good and there was a strong sense of community. Someone mentioned having a selfie and so I reached for my phone and took a picture of us all. That’s when the inspiration struck me. I realised that there were lots of groups like this, for mums in business, but not for people who work with parents.


Boom! A lightbulb moment! Suddenly, I had a purpose for starting a Facebook group. I realised that I wanted to be part of a group with others whose ideal clients are parents, people who understand the benefits and challenges of providing services and products for parents, children and families. If no such group existed, then I would start my own. The picture I’d just taken was perfect - it encapsulated everything about the energy I wanted for the group, so, with the agreement of the others in the photo, I got stuck straight in! The name came quite naturally, my purpose was really clear, the photo was there and two days later, the group was set up. I tentatively asked another small business owner, a client of mine, if she’d like to join, so it wasn’t just me, then I invited other small business owners that I knew, including the people in the photo.



Small business owners networking in the sunshine

Photo from June 2021


Is it a good idea to invite your friends and family to join your Facebook group for business? 


I would advise against doing this, unless they fit the criteria for your target audience or they are your ideal clients. Whether your group is for support, or for sales, it’s really important to create a group of like-minded people with a common purpose and this is much more important than numbers.  



How to set up a group that works for you and for your members


I was very conscious from Day 1 of the group, that I wanted to create a structure that would be clear, easy to maintain and self-supporting, if need be. It was there for support, advice and encouragement, as well as being an online space for members to promote their business in.


At first, I thought that being more of a facilitator was the way to go for me. However, I realised that you can’t truly help people or grow your own business, unless you step out of the shadows. I recognised (with quite a few gentle prods from other people) the need to be visible as the group leader, sharing my experiences in a way that my members can relate to.



10 top tips for growing an engaged Facebook group


Be clear on your purpose

If you are going to put your time and energy into creating and growing a group, then it needs to be of value to you and to others, in order for it to be sustainable.


Be visible as the host

Since I stepped forward and became visible as the host and founder, the engagement in my group has grown tremendously.

Be yourself

It’s OK to not always get everything right. Being human is what makes us relatable – when people see us tackling hurdles, as well as kicking goals, it keeps it real.


Community is more important than numbers

Be selective about who you let in, so the group maintains the same core values and feeling of community, no matter how big it gets. Do give people the option to leave their email address - I avoided doing this at first, as I thought it might put people off, but, with hindsight, it was a rookie error. Having an email list will mean that your community is protected if Facebook goes down and it enables you to communicate directly with members, to keep everyone updated and informed.


Keep your content relatable and consistent

Know your audience and speak directly to them in your posts. Posts with questions lead to greater engagement too.


Post in other groups

Post about your group in other groups where your ideal members might hang out and where you are allowed to post, talk about it at networking and invite people to join.


Your group – your rules

You can’t and won’t be able to please everyone, so, do what works best for you and for your ideal audience/ideal clients.

Accept that people will come and go

People’s priorities change, their businesses grow in different directions and it’s normal for people to leave, as well as for people to join.


Groups grow at different rates

Try not to compare your group’s growth to others. There are many reasons why some groups grow faster and organic growth is the most valuable. You will get this is if you remain patient, consistent, positive and pro-active.


Take time to reflect and celebrate

It’s not all about moving forwards, it’s good to celebrate how far you’ve come too.



If you are interested in joining my Parenting Business Connections community, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/parentingbusinessconnections 


I also write regular blog posts and newsletters for small business owners, reflecting their voice, vision and values and speaking directly to their ideal clients. If you are interested in this service, please see my services page on my website: https://www.theparentingcopywriter.co.uk

 

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