Facebook Groups used to be all the rage for businesses that wanted to connect better with their customers. It made sense. With one of the biggest social networks in the world, organizations were likely to find their members or customers on the platform, and it provided a simple way to meet them where they already were.
But these days, Facebook Groups can quickly become unmanageable, unsecure, and unrepresentative of you and your brand. That’s why companies like New York Times are calling it quits with Facebook Groups.
Sound familiar? If you’re searching for an alternative to Facebook Groups, or if you’ve been toying with the idea of creating a Facebook Group, we just might have a better answer. Continue on to learn how building a branded online community can solve your Facebook woes (added bonus – the latter also helps you connect with your people on a whole new level, can help to improve your brand image, and can even increase loyalty!). 👇
Why you need an alternative to Facebook Groups
There are plenty of reasons organizations are looking for other ways to build and nurture their online communities than Facebook Groups, and most boil down to one key thing: Your online community initiatives are too important to risk on a social media platform that you don’t own and control.
Here’s a closer look at the top 4 reasons you need an alternative to Facebook Groups:
1. Data and privacy concerns
If you’ve watched the news over the past year, you already know. Data breaches and privacy issues have plagued Facebook recently, with the latest breach in April exposing more than 500 million users’ information. And that was only the most recent breach!
If you’re using Facebook Groups as your key online community, you could be putting your organization, your community managers, and your group members at risk. Not only that, but you don’t have any control over how data is being used, or who is getting access to it.
2. Lack of flexibility and control
If you belong to any Facebook Groups, you’ve probably already noticed that they all kind of look the same. Sure, you can add your logo and post about topics that matter to you, but beyond that, your group is stuck with Facebook’s layouts, Facebook’s navigation, and Facebook’s view of what a group should be. This completely limits your organization.
Because you lack the control to customize your space or segment members, you risk losing out on building a community that provides the right journey, content, and touchpoints for your members.
3. Community management can spiral out of control
Because you can’t properly segment users, community management can go from manageable into a massive undertaking quickly. It becomes harder and harder to ensure users are sticking to community guidelines, and you risk ending up with a community that veers off on irrelevant topics or doesn’t fit with your brand standards.
You also don’t have access to the type of community engagement data and reporting you need to successfully manage a community. You need a lot more data than views, likes, and comments to understand how your community members are engaging with content and one another.
4. Reach and visibility is limited
Did you know that the average reach of an organic Facebook post hovers around 5.20%? That’s a pretty low percentage of people who will even see your posts or have an opportunity to interact with you. And, when they do get notified of new content, all those notifications are rolled into a smorgasbord of updates from all their favorite people and products. This experience might be acceptable for casual posts or questions, but it is hardly ideal if you’re running an entire program to bring customers or members together to interact with you and each other.
Having a lane of notifications separate from members’ personal social updates is just one reason moving away from using a Facebook Group may help with online community engagement.
What is the best alternative to Facebook Groups?
Now that we’ve spelled out pretty clearly why Facebook Groups aren’t ideal for building out your online community, you’re probably wondering what other tools work better. Some companies use tools like Slack or even WhatsApp to foster community engagement. Other companies use public forums like Reddit.
But all these tools come with many of the same risks as Facebook Groups. Some companies might look into building their own online community software, but this is resource-intensive, taking lots of time and effort.
If you really want to build out the ultimate online community, you need to be able to make it your own. And to do this, there’s really only one true alternative to Facebook groups, and that’s to use online community software. These platforms are built solely with you and your online community in mind, which means you’ll have the tools and flexibility you need to connect with your members in the best possible way.
Why are branded online communities better than Facebook Groups?
Powerful online community platforms like Higher Logic exist to help you facilitate your online community and enable you to easily engage people across the entire customer lifecycle. They go far beyond the capabilities of Facebook Groups or forum tools. These solutions are built for the sole purpose of helping you to foster your engagement with your community.
They are backed by years of expertise, research, and experience. And they are meant to make it easy for you to build a community that keeps people coming back for more.
Here are 5 reasons why your organization and your customers or members will love coming together in a branded online community:
1. The ultimate brand and user experience with personalization, segmentation, and customizability
Whereas Facebook Groups gave you a spot for a logo and key image to represent your brand, branded online community solutions allow you to build a space that is oh-so-you. You can customize, personalize, and analyze the entire experience as you see fit. This isn’t just about your branding. It includes segmenting users to deliver more custom content, creating events and special premium areas for your most loyal users, and automating the user journey so that your community can get to the most relevant information faster and easier than ever.
For example, Higher Logic’s built-in automation rules give you the ability to send personalized nudges at scale based on certain criteria, like their role, when they joined your organization, their location, and more. This comes in handy when you’re trying to do something like email your most engaged users, welcome all new community users, or award a badge to community members in your advocacy program.
2. Content galore, in all shapes, sizes, and formats!
These branded online communities go far beyond posts and some discussion. They allow you to provide your community with support, best practices, peer-to-peer connections, resources, events, and networking, all in one destination. And because you can segment your users and the look and feel of your community, you can organize all this content in a way that is easy to navigate and makes the most sense to your user base.
Higher Logic Community uses a special segmentation tool called security groups to take information from your customer or member database and translate it into the community member’s view. For example, if they purchased a paper shredder, they’d only see the paper shredder community (unless you wanted them to see more).
3. Community management made simple
Because users can be segmented based on topics of interest, it is easier for users to understand how to stick with community guidelines, which in turn makes community management much, much easier. Your team will have an easier job filtering all comments, helping users, and ensuring that their needs are met without compromising your brand’s image. And, if managing the community does happen to become a bigger task than your organization can manage, branded online community solutions like Higher Logic can help, with an in-house team of community consultants who can help you launch and grow.
4. Your data, your control
Branded online community solutions allow you to own your data, which is incredibly powerful stuff. When you control the data, you can better understand how users are using your community, which content they interact with the most, and where there are gaps that you can fill. This information can be used across your organization to inform strategy, from product development to marketing to support. Plus, you can use this data to better automate your user journey, manage critical touchpoints, and segment people in a way that makes the most sense.
5. Safe and secure
When you use branded online community solutions, your community (you, your users, and your community managers) is much, much more secure. That’s because it is the providers’ job to keep the solutions secure! After all, the vendors wouldn’t be in business if their platforms weren’t secure. This isn’t the case for Facebook and its groups.
Next Step: Find a New Platform to Host Your Online Community
Well, now it’s time to find an online community provider! You need to determine what functionality and features you want and need – one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to online communities. When evaluating potential providers, there are some crucial questions that you should ask to ensure you’re selecting the right provider. Here’s a cheat sheet to ensure you’re asking the right questions.
Once you’ve selected a provider, you’re ready to start building a community that’s uniquely you, with the right community managers, engagement touchpoints, and more (more on that here).
Next, get some tips for making the actual move from Facebook to your new community platform.
Then all that’s left to do is to wave goodbye to Facebook Groups. If you ask us, we say, “good riddance!” 👋
Andrew is a Community Analyst with Higher Logic. He loves learning about different organizations and crafting community strategies and tactics that serve users in a personalized way. Andrew’s biggest goal for 2021 is to complete his first triathlon.
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