In Startup Smart

My small business experienced a new phenomenon during the first week of November.

Of the three website orders that we won, two were the direct result of engaging in Facebook Groups.

No, not paid advertising or boosted posts. Not even from content on our Facebook page. The two orders resulted from my personal engagement (conversations) with members of business groups within Facebook.

Whilst we’d won business from this kind of engagement in the past, never had it dominated our new orders like this.

And I’m not alone. When I surveyed the members of one such Group last year, more than half said they’d generated business directly as a result of engaging with members of that or other groups.

For those new to the social media world, it’s often useful to draw analogies to more familiar communication methods.

Business networking on demand

In this case, engagement in Groups is closest to having conversations at a business (or other) networking event.

With one significant difference.

Unlike physical networking events, everyone can hear and take part in your conversation. In other words, the comments you post can be seen by everyone, not just the person you are responding to.

This makes for some real benefits as well as challenges – particularly if you have competitors that are also members of the Group.

So how do you tap into this rich vein of new business leads?

Here are the main considerations.

1. Engage as an individual

One of the rules of Facebook Groups is that admission is only available to individuals, as distinct from businesses, so you have to be prepared to forego some personal privacy to participate. However, the new business payoff may well be worth it.

2. Ensure the groups are relevant

Whilst the temptation is there to play a numbers game and join as many Facebook groups as possible, it will almost be impossible to engage with allt meaningfully without becoming a full time social media maven. What’s more, administrators typically don’t allow just anybody to join. You have to have a genuine and generally proven relationship to the group concerned.

3. Avoid spam marts

Many groups are setup with the sole intention of promoting the businesses of its members. These offer little real value to anybody and your chances of success are minimal. Instead, look for ones where there is healthy engagement between members so as you can join in the conversations and raise your profile amongst them for your field of expertise.

4. Check in regularly

Its easy to become so distracted by conversations on Facebook that you will quickly find your valuable working day consumed by them. It’s important they don’t rule your life in this way. Instead, ensure you have set notifications to alert you to new posts within groups to ensure you get to respond to them quickly. It’s also worth checking in from time to time to find out what conversations are going on at any given time.

Remember, this can occur after hours as much as office hours!

5. Post your own content

The best way to raise your profile within groups is to post useful content from time to time. This can include blogs, memes (graphical quotes), comments on third party content and tips or advice. A great way to elicit engagement is to ask a question at the end of the post.

6. Be generous

It’s important that you are providing genuine and useful information when you post – particularly if it’s in response to a question from a member. Whilst many feel their advice should be paid for, your engagement, as well as your chances of generating a genuine lead or even sale, will depend on just how valuable the information is to the person asking.

So be generous with your advice – even if it means disclosing the odd business secret.

If you follow these tips, theres an excellent chance that you’ll soon be building relationships with members of relevant groups and in turn generating new business.

Are you finding gold in social media groups?

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.

This article was originally published on Smart Company.

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The post Six ways to turn Facebook groups into networking opportunities for your startup appeared first on StartupSmart.

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