“Alex, what’s your secret to building such an engaged group?” I get this question all the time, and I guess it makes sense given The Agent Inner Circle private group has added over 2,300 members in under 2 years, and is one of the most active, high-level real estate communities on Facebook. Within any 28-day period, we engage at least 50-60% of the group, and the conversations need little to no moderation to stay professional, which is rather impressive to those who run groups of any size.
So, what’s the secret?
I wish I had just 1 secret I could share, but as usual I want to be real with you. Building an engaged group takes some dedication and hard work. There will be days, or weeks that you don’t feel like posting – or times work is just so busy and distracting that you don’t get to it. It’s ok, this happens to the best of us, but you can still build an engaged group with the time and energy that you do have using the right strategy.
While I may not have “The One” secret to overcoming these challenges, what I do have are the strategies and techniques I’ve adopted to make sure we consistently have highly engaging content, without having it turn into a full time job. The greatest part is, these strategies can be used with any type of Facebook group you’re trying to build and manage.
I’ll take you through my entire process – from how you outline your whole group strategy, to how you keep people engaged for long periods of time. I know, this all sounds great… but I’m guessing you want to know where to start?
Know/Grow Your Audience
Start by figuring out what audience you already have, or which audience you’d like to create. This is probably the single most important task you’re going to tackle and makes every aspect of your group easier to manage.
When you know who you’re looking for, adding the right people is simple, finding content becomes straightforward, and the right partners seem to find you. I really don’t think I can overstate how important it is to know your audience.
Of course, this is easier said than done so take some time to really think about who you’re speaking to. Outline what drives them and why your community should be a part of their life. Getting in tune with your audience isn’t just something you do once, people’s wants and needs are constantly evolving. So, you’ll want to regularly ask yourself these questions to make sure you understand the priorities of your audience, and if anything has changed that might affect the content they want to see.
Just for this purpose, we put together our own Audience Identifier Worksheet:
Once you have a solid understanding of your audience, it’s time to figure out ALLLLL of the content you’ll be posting. I know firsthand that this is the most challenging part of starting a community. Even if you have great content for the first couple weeks, consistently coming up with content that your audience finds interesting and engaging becomes challenging very quickly.
Over time, I’ve figured out a few things that help me generate and manage large amounts of great content, and I’d suggest you tackle them in this order:
1 – Pick Weekly Themes and Times
As I’ve mentioned before, coming up with content week after week is tough, especially when it comes to the social sphere and the endless number of directions you can take with it. If you don’t have anywhere to start, it’s always a lot easier to be creative when you’re working within a theme or some parameters. Having a set of themes you can fall back on can help boost your creativity each week and ensure you come up with great content.
For example, every Monday The Agent Inner Circle welcomes new members to the group, Tuesday we put out a poll, and on Thursday we “Throwback” by sharing some of our greatest articles over the years. We’ve picked at least one theme for every day of the week, making sure we not only have a backup plan when we’re busy/distracted/not feeling creative, but also giving us quality content we can be creative with.
If you’re worried about being repetitive, understand that you don’t have to publish all the themes every week, and can always ad-lib when you are feeling creative or have content that presents itself on the fly. However, keep in mind that only a percentage of your audience will ever even see the content you put out, so it will feel a lot more repetitive to you than it will to your audience. Plus, some folks like the consistency and will follow along.
Trust me though, whatever you decide, having these themes in place will make your content creation so much easier!
2 – Plan Ahead
Even with themes at your fingertips, creating content is still challenging. Your days get busy and before you know it, it’s time for bed and you’ve forgotten to post altogether. Like I said, this happens to the best of us, but planning ahead can save you a lot of time and hassle. Plus, it allows you to coordinate your posts together for the largest effective range.
That’s why I sit down on Fridays each week and spend at least an hour (usually more like 2) planning content for the upcoming week. That way I always have something I can easily put out with a copy/paste if I need to.
This is where you’re probably asking if we use a service to post for us, or if I schedule my posts in the group a week ahead of time. Short answer: I do not. Now this is for a number of reasons: With regards to using an outside service, this only works for Facebook Pages and not for Facebook Groups, which leaves you managing content in multiple places. Personal note -, I have a hunch that Facebook de-prioritizes content that’s posted from outside its platform. This hasn’t been officially published, but in my experience posting this way does not get you the same amount of impressions or engagement.
With that said, I have a general dislike for scheduling posts ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s necessary due to scheduling conflicts, but on the whole I’d rather set a calendar reminder to manually copy/paste the content I’ve prepared.
There’s too much that can go wrong with scheduling ahead of time, and I’ve heard of countless cases where pre-scheduled posts have backfired because of major world events. I also think your posts are more genuine when you take a few minutes to think about it one last time before posting – those few word changes at the end can make a difference. Plus, we’ll get into this next week, but ideally you want to be available to respond to every comment you get.
3 – Find Everyday Content (Where You Can)
So far I’ve talked a lot about planning content ahead of time, but I don’t want to undersell the value of coming up with content on the fly. Impromptu content often ends up being some of your most valuable and engaging opportunities which gives your community the authentic feeling they’re looking for.
I know this is something a lot of people struggle with. “I never think about it at the moment.” “I’m never sure what to post.” Sound familiar?
The best advice I can give you is to train yourself to do the following: Every time you think to yourself – “Oh, that’s cool”, about something in the World – immediately ask yourself a question – “Is there any reason my community would not find that interesting too?” When you find the overlap between what you and your community find interesting, you’ve come up with a great impromptu post.
Let’s Take a Break
We’ve covered a lot of content today, but we’re only about halfway through my strategy for building and managing an engaged Facebook Group. I want you to take this week to digest everything we’ve been through, and start figuring out who your audience really is. Next week I’m going to cover my best strategies for getting a group to engage with you, and what numbers and statistics you should be tracking so you can manage your group effectively.