Have you checked out my social media accounts? You can find the social media icons under the welcome message on the sidebar if you are on a desktop or laptop, and you’ll see the usual array of suspects. Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Bloglovin, an email link and an icon for Facebook. But have you ever clicked on the Facebook icon? It doesn’t take you quite where you might expect – no Facebook PAGE for me. I decided instead not to start a Facebook page when I started this blog – I decided to start a GROUP instead. Here’s why.
How does Facebook describe a ‘Page’?
Pages allow real organizations, businesses, celebrities and brands to communicate broadly with people who like them. Pages may only be created and managed by official representatives.
- Privacy: Page information and posts are public and generally available to everyone on Facebook.
- Audience: Anyone can like a Page to connect with it and get News Feed updates. There is no limit to how many people can like a Page.
- Communication: People who help manage a Page can publish posts as the Page. Page posts can appear in the News Feeds of people who like the Page. Page owners can also create customized apps for their Page and check Page Insights to track the Page’s growth and activity.
So pages are basically for brands, businesses, and public figures to create an official presence and broadcast general updates to people who follow them publicly. One person broadcasts to many – and sometimes not many are seeing your updates. It’s quite formal, business-like, and more of a blanket broadcasting channel than one intended for engagement particularly.
Is a Facebook page an effective way to promote your blog?
If you already have a Facebook page, you’ve probably noticed how 2015 was pretty devastating in terms of the stats. Less and less reach for your posts, even lower if you promoted any of your own articles, or any offers or sales. Far less than in 2014 and still declining. We can’t say we weren’t warned. Facebook did announce at the end of 2014 that pages would be targeted in 2015, and organic reach would be reduced with an emphasis instead on boosting important posts to get a wider reach, or the use of Facebook advertising for brands.
Facebook told us that they would be showing less and less of our page updates in our fans newsfeeds in 2015 and beyond, and especially targeting those seen as ‘promotional’.
Facebook really do see the Page as something used by large companies, those with money to spend on advertising. Those are the important customers to Facebook now it’s got shareholders and has to worry about its profits and share price. It wants your money to now show your posts to the very people who signed up to follow you. No money = tiny organic reach.
Looking at stats on the So Sew Easy Facebook page I used to run, current followers is 36,500 but typical reach for a post on that page is 500-1000 at most. If a post gets good shares it may reach 2,500 people. However, that’s just the number of times a post has been featured in a newsfeed. Actual engagement, the number of fans who interacted with it in some way is a lot less than that – typically 4-10% engagement from those who saw it in their feeds. Look at some of these examples:
In these examples, followers to the page are 36,500. Reach over five posts is around 4,350 newsfeed impressions. Of those impressions, total clicks on the links have been 247. An average of 50 per article but as little as 8. Now this would be great if all of those were links to your own site but that’s not how it works. Remember the 80/20 rule. When posting to your Facebook page, you should share 80% other people’s content and no more than 20% of your own. This page posts 2 links per day to its own site, and typically around 7 or 8 links to other sewing interest items. And yes, you’ve guessed it – any articles which link to their own site always gets ‘dinged’ by Facebook and shown to far fewer followers than the 3rd party articles.
Clicks through to the site from the Facebook page are pretty dismal. The previous year it was rocking in 2014, but 2015 saw a steady decline despite all the best efforts, and reach for their articles was nowhere near as good as in the previous year.
Because reach was down, the page didn’t grow as fast as it did before, thereby also reducing its effectiveness. Growth in 2015 was down to around 175-250 new followers per month.
How does Facebook describe a ‘Group’?
Groups provide a space for people to communicate about shared interests. Groups can be created by anyone.
- Privacy: In addition to a public setting, more privacy settings are available for groups. In secret and closed groups, posts are only visible to group members.
- Audience: You can adjust group privacy to require members to be approved or added by admins. When a group reaches a certain size, some features are limited. The most effective groups tend to be the ones you create with small groups of people you know.
- Communication: In groups, members receive notifications by default when any member posts in the group. Group members can participate in chats, upload photos to shared albums, collaborate on group docs and invite members who are friends to group events.
So there are some significant differences between pages and groups and you would need to decide carefully which one is better for you. For me, the biggest difference comes under Communication. ‘Members receive notifications by default’. So the members of your group will always receive notifications of new articles and discussions unless they opt-out. Wow, now isn’t that a big difference to how pages are promoted. Even if someone opts-in by following a page, FB still decides only to show a tiny number of them the page updates.
So is a Facebook group better for your blog?
Well, that very much depends on your topic, size and audience. If we look at statistics for the sewing site we looked at above; the sewing chat group started in April 2015, and by October, there were 10,000 members. At the time of writing this article at the beginning of February, there are now more than 18,000 members. So while the Facebook page is growing at the rate of 175-250 per month, the FB group is currently increasing at the rate of about 1,900 users a month!
For me, the difference is all about engagement and interaction. On a page, the members feel like they are being announced to, spoken at, sold to. They can comment, or like, but there is no real way to feel part of the team. No way to really chat and share with the other members or the site owner. With a page, it seems impersonal.
With a group however, you can get like-minded people together to serve a purpose and help everyone. Members feel part of a big happy team, all co-operating and sharing. The group is useful, fun, interesting and becomes a real online community where friends are made. More importantly, it’s a place they enjoy using, are thankful for and trust is much more easily established. You can then gently market your blog articles, products and affiliate links to this active group of people and get immediate action and feedback.
You can even gain many new members to your group that have never even heard of your site. Through Facebook free marketing, popular groups are shown down the side in similar interest groups. People in another blogging group will see an ‘advert’ for my own blogging group and may come across to look around and join even if they have never heard of the blog. That’s great! Another person you can welcome over to your site and into your team.
Other features of groups you might want to use
An added feature of groups is the ability to allow selling. This might work well in your niche, or as an add-on to your existing marketing and product sales sites.
You can make groups closed, which means content cannot be seen unless you are a member, but the group itself can still be found and people can apply to join. Or you can choose to make your group secret in which case only people who are members or who have the link will even be able to see the group. Great for focus groups, or your best VIP followers, premium paid for content, working with a team or event, or to get feedback from a select group of your readers on new products or designs.
I decided on a Facebook group instead of a page
With this previous experience and statistics to go on, combined with the ongoing drop in organic reach for Facebook pages, I decided to create a group instead. A group is something we have so much more control over. You can decide which posts and threads to follow – all of them, just important ones, threads posted by your friends, or none at all. Visit the group from the link in your FB sidebar to chat more, turn off all notifications to take a break, and anywhere in between.
It’s such a different way to interact with followers, and so much more fun and rewarding. I can still drop in my links to new articles, but then we can actually discuss them there too. We can all ask questions and get opinions from other bloggers, share ideas, promote each other and work together. In fact, we can make the group whatever we want it to be – we’re a team working together towards a common goal. Success for us all.
I realise that this is a controversial move. Everything I read tells me NOT to do this because my posts won’t show up in your newsfeeds. It’s ‘essential’ that I have a Facebook page as well as a group. Time will tell. With organic reach in newsfeeds now at an all time low and still dropping, it didn’t seem too hard a decision. So long as you are happy to check yes next to notifications, I think things will work even better than pages.
When I had all of my previous sites, I was just far too busy keeping all of them up to date, while the chat group would just run itself. So if I can save time by not having a page, and save my sanity then let’s do it. Plus, what value would a Facebook page bring to any of my followers if we already have a group? Maybe I’ll eat my words on this later on…
Come join me in the chat group
So with all this controversy out of the way, I’d love for you to join me in the blogging chat group here on Facebook.
The group is very new, just a few members and so far I’m in there talking to myself and echoing around. So now is the time for us to make this group useful to us all. What do you want from a blogging group? How do you want to work with and interact with other bloggers? Can we use the group as a helpful tool for us all? Any ideas about how the group can promote itself, its content and it’s members sites? Some kind of sharing/promo circle? A weekly project, poll or challenge? What are the best features of other groups that we should consider using in ours?
Drop in, join the group and leave a message to introduce yourself and your site. Let me know what the perfect group should have and let’s make it happen! Remember to check that Notifications are ON so you’ll get to see all of the interesting threads posted by the other members too, and get the opportunity to take part in the chat.
Oh and by the way, as you can see my graphic design sucks. That group banner is shockingly bad so if anyone out there fancies making up a new one, I’d be eternally grateful and give you a shout out of course.