Fostering Community on Facebook

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

Fostering Community on Facebook

Facebook is undeniably an integral part of how we market to consumers today, and Facebook remains a popular way that people communicate with others every day. One reason Facebook and other social networks are so appealing is because of the way they connect us, not just to information, but to one another. As humans, we crave connection and belonging - in short, community.

If you’re using Facebook to market your business, by default you are also offering spaces where conversations can take place. Paying close attention to the conversations happening in the comments on your Facebook Page and participating in them may help you turn random comments into a thriving community.

Why would you want to cultivate community on your Facebook Page?

  • Engaging conversations may encourage people to like and follow your Page and bring them back to your Page on a regular basis.
  • Community members are more likely to share your posts and invite others into the conversations, increasing your brand exposure and follower count.
  • The more people engage with your posts and with one another on your Page, the more visible your posts may be in their feeds.

Online communities take time and attention to cultivate. To start, establish your Community Guidelines and put them into your About section on your Facebook Page. You can also include them on your website and link to them from your Page in a permanent and visible location such as in your Page bio.

Next, you need to pay attention to what is being said on your Page Wall, in post comments, and if you have the Reviews feature on your Page, in that section as well. Use a monitoring tool such as Sprout Social to capture, respond, and archive these messages in a timely and organized manner.

Find a way to interact meaningfully with people who comment on your Page. Don’t just hit the Like button every time. If a comment is negative, don’t rush to delete it. Think of a kind and respectful way to respond, and if it is regarding an issue about your product, service, or brand you can address, bring the conversation into private messaging to help. How to react and respond to comments publicly on your Page can speak volumes about your brand and your willingness to engage and support your customers.

An important step in building a welcoming online community is to weed out spam and inappropriate comments. Your Community Guidelines should outline what is considered inappropriate - such as hate speak, spreading misinformation, or cursing at you or others - and spell out how you’ll handle those things. Facebook Page management tools let you hide offensive comments or, if needed, ban the person from your Page.

To build community, don’t only rely on other people to start conversations. When you are developing content to post to your Page, think of ways to make the post content more engaging. Add questions to your posts at the end to invite responses or comment on your posts to get the conversations rolling. Mix in some Facebook polls now and then to encourage interactions and feedback.

You can take community building on Facebook a step further by setting up a Facebook Group, linking it to your Facebook Page, and inviting people to join it. Facebook Group requires more attention, more time responding, and a greater focus on conversation seeding because people expect a Facebook Group to be more focused on conversations and group interactions. Having a Facebook Group gives you greater control over the community whereas a Facebook Page community is a bit more of a free-for-all.

In summary, these are the basic steps to building online community on your Facebook Page - or any social network:

  1. Set up your Community Guidelines.
  2. Monitor the conversations on your Page.
  3. Interact regularly and meaningfully with people on your Page.
  4. Weed out inappropriate comments to create a safer space.
  5. Provide valuable and relevant information.

As with any social media marketing effort, make sure you have the time, tools, and resources to handle the increased work that community building requires. Your Facebook Community can require a lot but can also provide your company with a bigger organic following and stronger, more positive connections to your customers.