How to build a tribe on Facebook

Facebook is the most time-intensive platform to master. I successfully grew my author page to 3k likes/follows before I closed that account.

Why did I close my Facebook author account?

What an admission at the beginning of an article about how to grow an audience on Facebook!

Consider the dead donkey dropped (if you don’t get it, Google “drop the dead donkey).

I closed my Facebook account at the height of its success because of online bullying. It had permeated my quite active reader community, my page, and my profile. I was getting nasty messages, I was getting bogus friend requests and I was getting well-meaning people putting themselves in the middle and stirring the pot, manipulated by extremely horrible adult women who ought to have known better (and I feel sorry for their poor kids growing up with mothers like that). I charitably think it wasn’t intended to be hurtful but on top of everything else, it was.

I didn’t see the point of being so close to my readers anymore, when it meant being subjected to that much harassment every day of the week. Any meaningful interaction with them quickly got derailed.

Why? It’s not my job to try and make sense of a bully’s motivations. But I had a thriving, fun and successful community before that nonsense started, and you can have one too.

First, you need to stop selling via a Facebook page. Seriously, it’s not the place for ecommerce (despite what Facebook wants you to believe).

Now you can build a community. People on Facebook want replies. They want interaction. Questions answered. But most of all, they want validation.

You can give them that in a community. First, you need to find a bunch of like-minded individuals.

How do you do this?

Start a really specific group solving a problem lots of people have. Very successful Facebook tribes I’m part of include:

  • Anything to do with breastfeeding, but especially extended breastfeeding, because it’s something we can’t talk about in regular society.
  • Parenting two under two or other unique combinations like twins, triplets etc. These are quite rare in real life so finding other people with the same type of family and getting support from them/giving support to them can be a profound bonding experience.
  • A shared allergy. General allergy groups tend towards holistic quackery bollocks, but if everyone is peanuts or milk, it seems to work a lot better.
  • A shared illness. However, in my experience the only mental illness groups I’ve been in all became voids of drama, drama, drama with all the comments saying “u were totally reasonable to set his house on fire hun xx” Or the “moderator show” where one moderator/group owner has such a stranglehold they become a controlling twat. This is what not to do.
  • A shared goal. Marketing/personal growth/author groups work well because everyone has a positive mindset and raise each other up.

Characteristics of a good Facebook group:

  • Specific: The point of the group is specific enough to appeal to people with a specific need or pain point.
  • Singular: Don’t make it “bipolar transwomen with EDS support group” because there will be five of you and if you don’t get along or post enough, that’s that. That should be three different groups. A group needs to focus on one issue and do it well.
  • Inclusive: Make sure everyone feels welcome and included, not just the “squeaky wheels.” But don’t pander to the people throwing their toys out constantly. Flouncers gonna flounce.
  • Busy: You need to make it an environment where people regularly post. This means you need a minimum number of people and you need to facilitate them posting.

Example:

Let’s say you’re a BDSM romance author (just off the top of my head 😉 ). You could start a very successful group that’s a secret group for women where all kinky questions get answered (not necessarily by you). Then when you have book releases you put them in the group and BAM. Instant RELEVANT audience of readers who already know/trust you.

Eventually, you’ll be able to just drop in once a week and the group will take care of itself. If you need an army of moderators to run your group, you need to think about whether your discussion requirements are too tight. I’m describing a real group from a real author (not me) who had a phenomenally successful Facebook group.

But how do you get people to join the group in the first place?

I challenged myself to start a brand-new group from scratch last year, two years after I deleted all my old Facebook stuff. I put out on my Facebook page and my newsletter that I was hosting a three-day challenge and that they had to request to join the group to take part. I chose a self-care challenge because reading a book is a self-care activity. If I was trying to start a knitting group I would have devised a three-day learn-to-knit challenge. Same with soaping etc. Being an author is slightly different to other businesses because you want to sell a finished product.

If I hadn’t got much traction through those channels, I would have widened the net by running some Facebook ads. As it was, I got 100 group members in 24 hours and they were quality people who wanted to interact with me. Perfect.

Facebook’s original algorithm was based on the idea that if you reached 7 friends in 10 days you’d become a regular user. So if you extend this to your own group, you want each user to make 7 connections.

This actually ties in nicely with the “7 touches” theory of advertising, that it takes 7 interactions or sightings of a brand before someone will buy it.

Both have been debunked as science, by the way, but both are still loosely a good yardstick for tribal growth and social media selling.

When someone is more engaged in your group they will be more likely to return to it and when they interact with it more, Facebook will show them more posts from the group.

Get that algorithm working for you. Post open questions which people are able to answer (“what’s your biggest little success this week?” is a good one. “what colour of blue do you perceive the sky to be?” isn’t). Avoid closed questions with binary yes/no sort of answers. And encourage users to post their own questions/answers/etc in the group.

By doing this, you create an open conversation that grows independent of you. This can seem scary, but it’s not. It’s like throwing a party. You want everyone to have a good time and mingle, not to sit in silence waiting for you to talk to them. That would be a bad party. Even the Queen wouldn’t do that at a party.

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