We Built A 43K-Member Facebook Group: Here’s How!

Social media is a necessary evil in all types of marketing these days, but sometimes it feels like yelling into a void hoping someone, anyone will hear it. But what if I could tell you there’s a way to get a captive audience on Facebook that opts in to get content from you? You’d ask how much it costs…is my guess. But other than a couple hours of your time over the course of each week, creating this audience is free. I’m talking about Facebook Groups.

What Is a Facebook Group

Facebooks Group sizes range from a small friend group to millions of people. We believe when creating a Facebook Group, it’s about quality over quantity so 2,500 people who are engaged and want to be an active part of the group are more valuable than a group with a million passive members. The purpose of a Facebook Group is to cultivate a community around your brand, business, service, or physical community (like a city or organization). Build your brand. Provide valuable content to your engaged audience. And ultimately be top of mind when they need to make a purchase or hire for your service.

Introducing Lake Geneva Lake Life

Now here’s where I get to brag a little bit on a Facebook Group Signalfire created for a client in 2019. The group Lake Geneva Lake Life was originally created for a trio of local businesses in the Lake Geneva area. The goal was to provide content, beauty shots, local tips, and travel information to locals and tourists.

The hope was that the group would end up sustaining itself with content posted by members and then the three businesses would be able to go in and post their content and photos amongst the rest of the member content. Their posts would be an organic part of the group and they’d gain brand recognition and good will with the group members. As of Fall 2023, Lake Geneva Lake Life has more than 43,000 members. That’s quite a hefty number of people who opted into a group to get local information and see beautiful photography from the area. Imagine if you had 43,000 people on your email list! This is a similar audience that has opted into wanting to see this group’s content.

Hints for Facebook Group Success

Lake Geneva Lake Life gains hundreds of new members each week (sometimes close to 1,000 a week in the summer) and regularly gets 20 plus posts daily from a very active and engaged membership. The key to Lake Geneva Lake Life’s success? Having rules that allow businesses (and individuals) to post beauty shots and helpful content but not sales or promotional content. Members of Lake Geneva Lake Life have come to appreciate that selling is not allowed in the group, and several dozen members actively report content that breaks those simple group rules. Most of Facebook is one big ad nowadays, so our members like knowing that the group they have opted into won’t be adding to the advertising noise.

Facebook Group FAQs

Why Use a Facebook Group Instead of a Facebook Business Page?

You actually need to have both. You’ll use the Facebook Business Page to create the Facebook Group. Some groups allow selling so it’s up to you what gets posted on your business page vs in your group, but for businesses in Lake Geneva Lake Life they post their promotional posts on their business page and share their helpful content and pretty pictures in the group. If you don’t have a Business Page, you’ll be posting as your personal profile which will disconnect you from your branding.

What were the first few months like?

When we first started Lake Geneva Lake Life our goal was to hit membership numbers that matched the population of Lake Geneva (8,500). We started by inviting all the locals we personally knew. And then added several managers of the businesses we were working with and had them invite all their local friends and employees. We also kept the group public so anyone searching Lake Geneva on Facebook would find it and be able to see a preview of the content being posted.

We also started off posting beauty shots and local tips several times a week so people would understand what the group was for. You have to seed your group’s content until the members know what to expect and start posting themselves.

What Kind of Content Performed the Best?

By far the best content in the beginning and still to this day is the local photography that gets posted. Lake Geneva is a beautiful area and there are some pretty talented photographers that regularly post content in the group. After that would be local events.

How Much Time is Spent on Monitoring and Managing the Group?

This depends on the size of the group. For Lake Geneva Lake Life, we scroll through the posts daily to make sure none of them are breaking group rules. And even though the group is public to view, you have to be approved to join, to put up a post or to comment on a post so most of our time is spent on approving or denying participant requests. Because Lake Geneva is a lake town, we spend much more time on the group in the summer than in the other three seasons, but it ranges from an hour to a couple hours per week with us doing daily checks Monday through Friday.

Group rules are frequently mentioned. How important are the right set of rules and how did you come up with them?

You absolutely have to have group rules. The standard ones (be kind, no hate speech, no spam, etc) are great places to start, and then you have to decide if there’s anything you don’t want to allow in your group. For Lake Geneva Lake Life we specifically didn’t want regular members or businesses to be posting promotional content or sales pitches, so we included that as a rule. As the group grew, a zero politics policy was added because there was a presidential election happening and people started getting very political. We’ve also added a rule about fundraising as that was becoming an issue in the group. Remember, you can add and change the rules as you feel necessary. It’s your group.

What Are the Monetization Opportunities with Such Rules?

As the creator of the group, monetization will be in the brand awareness you gain from running a successful group focused on your area or community. Your posts will ideally drive clicks to your website and social media pages. If you are a Chamber or DMO, you could sell posts to your members where you post about them in the group for a fee. If your group rules allow it, you could sell the opportunity for a business or organization to post an event in the group. If selling isn’t allowed, you could implement a “Membership Monday” post that is clearly sponsored but allows a business that pays a fee to put up a promotional post (just be sure to adjust your group rules to allow it).

What Are Some Things You Wish You Knew When you Started Lake Life?

That you will be contacted by members asking questions they could get answers to if they just knew how to find the rules listed in the group’s About section. You will also get a ton of scammers posting (sometimes inappropriate adult content) and trying to join. Yeah, it sucks. But if it’s happening to your group, it means your group has traction so take it as a good thing! Just delete their posts and ban them from the group.

What Are the Top Takeaways for Communities Starting their Own Facebook Groups?

Decide what your goals are going to be and let that determine your rules. Make sure the group is valuable to both locals and tourists because you’ll get the most amount of buy-in and the best engagement by including both. Start by inviting everyone you know, including your local businesses. Have fun and remember it’s your group so you get to run it the way you want.

There’s no recipe to follow to build the best Facebook group for your business or community. But if you put some time in to cultivating something of value, we bet you’ll develop an engaged audience that is valuable no matter how big it is.

Talk to the Facebook Group Expert

If you’d like to learn more about building and growing your Facebook Group, reach out to Hannah!