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As many of us have learned through the COVID-19 crisis, engagement should be your association’s primary goal. With over 1.7 billion daily users, what better way to reach your audience than through Facebook?

Last week, Sidecar hosted a workshop on building online engagement through the use of Facebook groups. Led by moderator Anthony Shop, Jennifer Mackinday and Stephanie Reeves, “Can Facebook Replace Face-to-Face? Building Association Communities Online,” offered tips to growing, engaging and retaining a large online presence.

“If you’re administering a group, it's important for you to take a look at the tools that are available on that platform,” said Mackinday. “Facebook is constantly changing so it’s important to have somebody on your team that is staying up to date on those changes.”

As long term admins and community moderators, Mackinday and her fellow panelists shared many other pieces of advice to build successful online communities, which they learned working hands-on.

“One thing to consider: where are your folks?” said Reeves, an administrator of ASAE’s Diversity Executive Leadership Program’s Facebook group. “If your folks are not on social media, and particularly if they're not on Facebook but you have the majority there, you have to also plan for how to connect with those others who, by choice or circumstance, are not on that platform.”

Throughout their discussion, three other tips stuck with me:

Administration is key.

For all Facebook groups, especially new ones, having a team of moderators and admins who enforce and uphold your group’s rules, values and mission could mean the difference between an unorganized mess and a helpful, pleasant and protected user experience.

For the Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community, admins are there to keep things positive and productive. Mackinday said her group already has some fairly strict rules that are enforceable, reasonable and easily followed, so her fellow admins spend most of their time fostering conversations and spreading positivity.

“The person who administers an online group is kind of like a gardener,” explained Shop. “You plant seeds, which is sharing memes and content; you water the flowers, the ones that are doing well and that you want to encourage; and then you pull weeds. I think that's really a simple way of thinking about a successful administration of a group.”

Utilize group units.

According to Facebook Community, “units are a way for group admins to organize and share content and resources with their members. They work like an education module and are a great tool to help onboard new members.” 

A fascinating and highly beneficial tool, group units can be used as a method of organizing, monitoring and teaching for your community.

“But we’re even hearing that you can use the units in Facebook groups almost like a mini-learning management system,” said Shop, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Social Driver, a digital services firm that helps companies and nonprofits create strategies with social media, websites, content and advertising. Considering what your group’s purpose is, having a miniature LMS within your Facebook group could be extremely helpful for training.

“Units are so important for (the Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community) because it’s how we keep all of our learning and development topics organized,”said Mackinday, a digital media specialist at The Elizabeth Dole Foundation who has spent numerous hours running their Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community on Facebook. “By keeping all that information organized in the unit section, things don't get lost in our feed.”

To access group units, go to your group settings and change the existing group type to “Social Learning.” From there, create your first unit and enjoy the benefits they bring!

Go live.

One of the most popular features of Facebook is the ability to broadcast live to your audience. Whether for announcements, interviews or just a fun chat, Facebook Live provides instant and real-time engagement with your audience. 

“Using video in our group is so important,” Mackinday said. “It's been the one main way that we have stayed connected with our caregivers during the past six months now. And a way that we've not only just shared information, but that we've shared a light in their day, given them some time to engage with others to do a video just like we're doing right now, and to feel connected to people while we're stuck in our homes and socially distancing ourselves.”

Digital media firm Visioneer agrees. They shared that “with Facebook Live, you’re able to look your audience directly in their eyes and address them by name, thus constantly encouraging active participation and engagement.”

Keeping these three takeaways in mind when implementing, or continuing, your association’s Facebook group will lead to growing engagement and retaining great relationships with your audience.

Missed our live event? That’s okay! Sidecar Members have access to the recordings and handout downloads from all of our conferences, workshops and webinars.

Want access? Sign up here.

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
August 31, 2020
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.