community management, engagement, Facebook

Creating Community on a Facebook Page

9 Comments 02 February 2011

Image courtesy of baratunde

I was talking about Facebook with someone at a conference last week when he said, “yeah, but Facebook isn’t really engaging. When Pages get too big, it’s not really a community.” There’s a lot of truth to that. The Facebook platform makes it difficult because a Page does not offer cross-conversations, so conversations become silos. A Facebook Page is a community, but it is usually a loosely-tied community of lurkers and inactives who don’t have the opportunity to interact with each other or the Page often enough. I think of my colleague’s comment as a challenge: I believe that you can create community within a Facebook Page, but it takes a lot of work, discovery, and dedication.

Who are the fans and why are they there: the discovery phase

One of the key issues is understanding exactly who the audience is and why they are fans. The obvious thing is to ask your fans why they like the Page. I’ve set up polls on the Page and also asked this as a wall post, but I almost never receive many replies. What has worked for me is experimentation: test several types of wall posts aimed at different audiences. Look at the number of impressions of each post (from Facebook Insights) and the amount of interaction per post. When you find what garners both impressions and interaction, you’ve determined your audience.

An example: I launched an all-day Digital Storytelling Day about digital storytelling and fundraising on the FirstGiving Facebook Page. It didn’t engage the Facebook community…at all. Though the day closely followed a highly successful joint Twitter chat with TechSoup about the same subject, the Facebook event had extremely low participation. The important takeaway was that I decisively figured out who the majority of Facebook are fans are, and who they are not.

Create opportunities for community: subgroups and leadership development

Create subgroups that feed into the Page as a path to creating community. We created a FirstGiving for Runner’s Group that has become an incredibly supportive group for runners who fundraise.  Dedicated community members have emerged, and they act as the unofficial community managers because they are so welcoming. We asked the emergent leaders to become more active within the official Page. Subgroups create interconnected communities that will join up with the larger Page, and bring those connections and community to the Page.

Another idea is to invite enthusiastic Facebook fans to become more involved. I’ve created private groups for campaign leaders, and see no reason why this strategy wouldn’t work for Facebook Page enthusiasts. Invite the more enthusiastic, dedicated fans to join a private Facebook group to discuss what is happening on the Page, plan content and strategy, invite friends to join the Page, and feel ownership of the Page.

Get the messaging right: crafting community-building updates

It can be hard to craft updates that create community. Experiment. Try new things. The FirstGiving status update “The reason I’m raising money is _____” had the largest number of impressions and comments to date. What’s more, our daily number of new fans doubled that day.  This works for the FirstGiving Page, but anything that invites feedback could work for yours.

The challenge with updates is to translate it into community. Responses don’t create community. Insert yourself into the responses to create conversation. Reach out individually to those fans who took the time to respond. I would also suggest following up with an engagement activity off of Facebook as well.

Setting up the page: make them community-focused

A few simple ideas that you can implement to create the right tone and culture of community:

  • Allow others to post updates, photos, and videos on your Page. In my experience, most people don’t abuse this privilege. For those that do, “block” is a great option!
  • Make the default wall view updates from the “(name of Page) + others.” Let everyone participate fully!
  • Offer a welcome tab that sets the tone for the Page. There are some great examples here and in this wiki.
  • Create a regular content calendar that the community can rely upon, and let people know what type of content to share, and when

This is just the beginning of a list; I’m sure that there are many other ideas you have to share as well.

Find your own community: Ideas and resources to help you engage better

Amy Sample Ward hosts a  Community Builder chat that is really supportive. There is a Community Manager’s Twitter chat Wednesdays at 7pm GMT (2pm EST), with the hashtag #cmgrchat (hosted by @jpedde). Additionally, I rely on the wisdom of fellow community managers such as @blaisegv, @amyrsward and @kg. (Everyone needs a community!)

What have you tried that has created community on a Facebook Page?

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  • Carol

    Hi Debra,

    Excellent post, and thanks for the mention, too!
    Carol (Nonprofit MediaWorks)

    [Reply]

  • Lisa Colton

    I like tagging people in the posts, and sharing stories and generosity. It makes the culture of the page feel like it’s about PEOPLE, not about the institution. Also, while you can ask questions that are specific to the org’s work, asking questions that are about the fan’s lives or work (but connected to the org’s mission) are much more likely to get a response, and to be valuable as knowledge sharing. This is a many-to-many approach, rather than fan to org only. Great post!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Lisa,
    Great ideas! Do you know of an example of a fan page that really creates that culture of valuing people, and a sense of community?

    [Reply]

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  • http://twitter.com/jepsteinreeves James Epstein-Reeves

    These are all great suggestions – and applicable for both non-profits and for-profits.

    [Reply]

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About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She is the current Director of Outreach at the National Brain Tumor Society. She speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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