At least once on our lives we’ve all found ourselves in a forum or other type of online group in an effort to search for other like minded business owners hoping to share ideas and experiences that you can use to grow your own business. But have you ever considered starting your own group?
The idea may seem daunting. There are so many platform choices to consider – Facebook, LinkedIn, a straight up forum, just to name a few. And how do you ensure you have enough interested people to make up an audience? How can you continue to engage and keep your members interested? Do you need a moderator for the group?
Kate Erickson is the content and community leader for Entrepreneur On Fire. Her passion and talent for creating engagement and participation within the community has helped make their forums and business pages wildly popular and successful in their niche.
Rich: Kate Erickson is the content and community leader over at Entrepreneur On Fire, a 7 day a week podcast that interviews today’s most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs. She is the host of, Kate’s Take, the Entrepreneur On Fire audio blog, and author of The Fire Path, a step by step guide creating and growing your dream business – which I’m in the middle of listening to right now.
Kate is passionate about helping entrepreneurs create systems and processes to promote efficiency and bring clarity to their journey. She’s also an amazing hostess. Kate, welcome to the show.
Kate: Rich, thank you so much, I’m super stoked to be here.
Rich: Great. Well let’s get into it because I know you and I were talking at Social Media Marketing World and I got super excited about what you were doing and I had some questions. So that’s what led us to this point.
So you describe yourself as a content and community leader. What do you do exactly?
Kate: That’s such a big question but I love taking it on because I always enjoy myself kind of thinking about the stuff that I work on, because I’m super passionate about everything that I work on. Ok, that’s a lie. Not everything. But I am kind of the “catchall” at Entrepreneur On Fire and I manage our VA’s as well, so some of the stuff is not my favorite.
So, content and community leader. Basically on the content side I author our blog so I create all the content that you see on the website. And blurbs or things that you see on different pages like our resources page or our about page, I helped craft that. I do a lot of our email campaigns, so any email marketing that we’re doing, I’m typically the one writing those emails.
And then as community leader, I’m really the one that’s managing the engagement and participation in our community. So Podcaster’s Paradise, Webinar On Fire and Fire Nation Elite. It was so awesome spending some time with you and Fire Nation Elite this past couple weeks.
I’m basically the head of engagement. We have Facebook groups for each one of our communities and then we also have membership sites, so I’m really the one creating the content and putting those memberships together as well.
Rich: Alright, so you mentioned 3 different products, or services, that Entrepreneur offers. One was Podcaster’s Paradise, another was Fire Nation Elite, and what was the third one?
Kate: Webinar On Fire.
Rich: Webinar On Fire. Ok, so you’ve created a Facebook group for each one of these, correct?
Rich: So why did you choose Facebook group as opposed to any other type of group or creating your own platform or whatever you might do?
Kate: We actually did try to do a forum and we thought it would be pretty cool to keep everything in one space. So on our membership site we actually did a forum and we just found that everybody ended up in the Facebook groups. So as hard as we were trying to get people to engage and to participate in the forum, everybody ended up on Facebook anyways.
So we kind of took a poll and we thought instead of kind of segmenting these groups of people – those who like to hang out on the forum versus those that like to hang out on Facebook – let’s take a vote, majority rules, and we’re going to get rid of one of them. We’re either going to get rid of the forum or we’re going to get rid of the Facebook group. Overwhelming votes for Facebook because everybody’s already there, it’s so much easier for people to just be on Facebook. They were used to it, it was familiar to them, they’re already there for personal reasons, so why not just have our group there as well.
Now, when we started Podcaster’s Paradise, we thought Facebook can be kind of beastly because you get in a group and you start posting and that feed moves really fast. So if you’re in a group and you post a question and nobody answers it and there are other posts being posted, you’re going to get pushed down pretty fast and so that was a huge vote for a lot of people to stick with a forum. You know exactly where to go to pick up that question or get that information that you had requested.
So when we launched Podcaster’s Paradise, we actually only did a forum, we did not open a Facebook group. We thought if people only had one option we wouldn’t have this trouble that we had with Fire Nation Elite, where people were being segmented.
Well, soon enough, people were like, “Why don’t you have a Facebook group? I just want to communicate with the community here on Facebook.” So kind of the same thing happened over again. We listened to our community and let the community rule on that and we created a Facebook group and we got rid of the forum.
Rich: Wow, alright. So you listened to your audience and you created it. And do you think that it was because of the audience you had that they opted for a Facebook group over a LinkedIn group, or did you not even give them the option and just said it’s either the forum or the Facebook group?
Kate: Yeah, we never really asked people about LinkedIn just because nobody ever mentioned it and we have an Entrepreneur On Fire page group on LinkedIn but we’ve never really seen it catch fire – so to speak – and so it was never really a thought that maybe we would have a group on LinkedIn. I can certainly see if that’s where your audience hangs out at that that might be a really great option for you, but in my experience I’ve never really got a group on LinkedIn to really take off.
Rich: Alright, so that’s good to know. And maybe certain industries might find that that’s different for them. But it sounds like, for you, that Facebook is really where people are communicating – they’re used to communicating there – so it’s easier to be on the Facebook group. Are there any features in the Facebook group that you think are very powerful for communities, and is there anything missing that would help you do your job better as a community leader?
Kate: What’s really great about Facebook groups is you can choose the privacy level of it, so you can just create a group for your community. Like, Rich, you could have a flyte Facebook group and it could be anybody and everyone who follows flyte. Or you could have a Facebook community for The Marketing Agents and anybody who listens to your podcast can be a part of that group. So that would just be an open group where anybody and anyone who is interested in your content is welcome.
Then you can also have a closed group which gives you a little bit more privacy to where you are in charge of who gets let into that group. So that’s pretty powerful that you can segment it in open and closed. And there’s even a whole other level called “secret groups”, where people can’t even search you. They can’t even search your group on Facebook, so if you had a really high level Mastermind or paid community where people are really sensitive about the group being seen or their names being seen as associated with the group, then that secret group will do that for you.
So what we’ve done with all of our Facebook groups for all 3 communities is we do closed.So it is searchable, people can find it in Facebook, but they have to request to join. So that allows us to only let in members who are actual paying members of our communities. So that’s been huge just in managing that side of it.
Another thing that’s great that I think a lot of people don’t know about Facebook groups – and it’s almost the #1 thing I hear all the time – is people wish they could more easily find information in the Facebook group. If you went into one of our groups you might notice that somebody might post a question one day, and then 2 days later somebody will be asking that exact same question. What I don’t think a lot of people know about Facebook groups is they’re a really powerful search function. It’s just in the upper right corner, you can search keywords, you can search certain users to see which users are either really engaged or not engaged at all. So I think that’s a really powerful function as well.
Rich: I’ve actually seen the same problem, however, even in forums. I’ve been moderator in forums and certainly a participant in forums, and somebody asks a question and 3 days later they ask almost the exact same question. Sometimes that just comes down to user error and we just want to get our questions asked rather than find out if the question has already been answered.
Kate: I definitely agree. What’s the answer to that? Because I’ve tried to encourage people so much to search first. And I’ve been on sites before, too, where the say, “Have a question,? Search our forum first.” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t want to search your forum, I just want an answer to my question.”
Rich: Exactly. Sometimes I’ve seen good forums will have tools that will move people or close one thread to link to another or something like that. So anyways, getting back to some of the Facebook groups. It’s interesting, I actually think there might be a benefit – I don’t know if this is intentional for you – but when I was in one of my groups actually, one for Maine Podcasters where we just talk about different topics over the course of the day, I happen to see Webinar On Fire which was recommended to me because of all of the people I know in the group. So I click on the link to join and I got an email from one of your VA’s saying, “I don’t see you actually are a member.” And I didn’t realize if there were maybe some quasi advertising opportunities for you as well, because you’re basically getting free publicity for one of your paid groups by keeping it closed and not secret..
Kate: That’s interesting. Yeah, definitely. It was certainly something that we thought about. If people can search and see that the group exists, especially for Webinar On Fire and Podcaster’s Paradise, there’s probably a lot of people searching webinars and podcasts in the search function in Facebook. If one of our groups happens to pop up and that’s the way that somebody learns about it, then yeah, absolutely that’s almost free advertising for us I suppose.
Rich: Absolutely. So I’ve seen a lot of groups start really strong out of the gate and then they falter. What have you done to keep the strong engagement going for your 3 Facebook groups?
Kate: I think setting expectations is a big thing. You don’t ever want to start a group and let your community come to expect that you’re the one running the conversation. I know that a lot of people do start groups and they do want to lead the conversation and manage the conversation, but that’s never how John (Lee Dumas) and I started any of our groups, it was always like this was a group for our community to help one another out and we expect from you guys that you’re going to be in here not only asking questions and getting support for yourself, but providing that to the other members here. Thats why we created this group.
We didn’t create this group so that you can come in and ask questions and then leave, we didn’t create this group so that you guys could directly ask John and I questions 24/7, we created this group to help support one another. One of our leading missions with Fire Nation Elite was 100% support, 100% of the time. So we really set strong expectations in all of our groups from the very beginning that this is a platform for all of us to be helping one another. So if you jump in the Facebook group and somebody has a question that you know the answer to, get on there and give them the advice or the experience that you’ve had, and they’re going to reciprocate that in the future when you have a question.
So I think that’s definitely been very powerful for us We also have strong guidelines, so people know that our groups are not a place for them to promote their own products or services. They’re not a place for them to just be takers and never be givers. We’re very, very up front with people that when you join one of our communities you will give back what you put in. And so if you’re not going to be participating then you’re not going to get a lot from our groups.
Also to continue the engagement we have had – and Webinar of Fire is our smallest group at about 300-400 – and sometimes the conversation does die down, so to really keep the engagement going and keep people involved, we’ll post questions like, “What’s really working for your webinar now?”, because people love to share what’s working for them or what they’ve learned. But not often are they just going to go out and just post that themselves as an update in the group. If you ask the question, then people are going to be more than happy to share. And that’s been a great conversation starter and an ongoing engagement piece for us.
Rich: So basically just to recap what you’re saying, if I’m looking to continue the engagement after the initial push, I want to be setting expectations about people’s behavior and what we expect out of them, give as much as you get. Also we want to get people to share some of their wins or struggles and sometimes that requires us asking them questions. And also it sounds like you’re taking advantage of the pinning tool and that you’re able to pin one of the questions up to the top as a way of starting a conversation or a thread.
Kate: Yeah, definitely. Great recap. You really hit everything that I said very well.
Rich: Good, I;m glad I got a plus. Now I’m going to get a minus because I realized that I kind of ask questions a little out of order in terms of how to do all this. Because we talked about setting up the groups and we talked about maybe choosing a privacy setting based on what your business or community goals might be. One thing you mentioned earlier and I just had one kind of quick question when you said, for example, that we could start a group around flyte new media or The Marketing Agents or Agents Of Change. One of the requests that I’ve gotten a lot more is, “Why do Agents Of Change happen once a year? I’d rather have this ongoing conversation around some of these topics.” And quite honestly I had been thinking more about a LinkedIn group than a Facebook group, but after talking to you I’m much more excited about making this a Facebook group.
My only question for whether it’s flyte or AOC is, am I diluting my brand by having a business page and a group? How do you manage those 2 separate things and not confuse people and not overwhelm yourself with all the things you have to do?
Kate: I kind of think there’s a boom on Facebook for groups right now because of how much Facebook has stripped away from you in terms of your business page. So I’m sure you’ve realized recently that your posts aren’t getting viewed as much, you’re not reaching as many people. So regardless of if you have 200 ’likes’ or 20,000 ‘likes’ on your business Facebook page, that’s not always equalling that you’re reaching more people with your posts there. So I think what people are finding out is if they start a group, you’re going to be able to reach every single member in there every single time you post. Whereas on your business page, Facebook is kind of determining who it is that you reach. Does that make sense?
Rich: It does. And also, Entrepreneur On Fire is basically the umbrella group and the podcast, and that is the business page, but it’s really these 3 membership groups that have the Facebook groups, so that;s a slightly different thing for you. And maybe that comes down to some of what we’re talking about too, is you need the business page but at the same time if you’re creating some sort of paid membership or just an assumed membership, is that Facebook groups may provide better value for you.
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And to your point on managing both, I’m a big fan of having a moderator. So have somebody that’s at least in there kind of checking in for you. What John and I do in our community groups is we set aside a very specific time every single morning to hop into the group. It’s one of those things that John says is really easy to do, but also easy to not do. So if you set aside that time to just jump in a Facebook group for just 5 minutes, scroll the feed, answer any questions that you can and provide the support that you’ve promised your community. You’re in and out in 15 minutes, everybody has 15 minutes.
Rich: That’s a good point. So let’s say that we decide whether we’ve got our own Facebook business page or not, that we just don’t have the bandwidth to start our own group. Or maybe we’re concerned that we don’t have the audience right now to start our own group. Can we leverage other people’s groups as a way of building our own community?
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. I certainly think that you can leverage other people’s groups as a way to start building relationships with people who might want to be a part of your community, or who might already be a part of your community and would be really stoked to see you in a group engaging and participating. I mean, how cool would it be for you to be in a group and then have somebody that you look up to hop in that group and start engaging and participating? That would be really, really awesome. It would make me want to figure what they have going on so that I can jump into whatever group they’re managing.
So I definitely think that it’s a good starter if you don’t have the bandwidth or you’re not just feeling quite ready to start your own Facebook group. To start searching in Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever platform is best for you, start searching for those groups that are within your industry or your niche where you might start meeting your target audience or you might start meeting other industry leaders in your niche that you can start communicating with, building relationships with. I mean, it’s a great, great connector.
Rich: Well it sounds like we should join other groups whether it’s because we don’t have the bandwidth to run our own group or it’s because we run our own group so we’ve got a little extra time and this is a good way of building up an audience for our own. Not necessarily by going out and pitching people and trying to steal people away, but just by increasing our visibility – in this case on Facebook – we’re more likely to attract people who want to check out the other things we’re doing on Facebook.
Kate: Yeah, I think visibility is a perfect word for it. You’re putting yourself out there so that people know about you and if you don’t do that, then chances are they may never find out about you.
Rich: Now Kate, I know that your 3 groups are membership based. I know thaut at some time or another I’m guessing that you must have run into a bad apple or two or have just had to talk to somebody in the group about behavior that other people in the group see as negative. How have you dealt with that and what kind of actions did you need to take/
Kate: It’s definitely a tough situation because you hate to see that happen in any of your groups, of course, and it’s definitely not something that anybody would wish upon their group. But we have had people that talked not so favorably about some other products and services, or maybe they’ve just gotten a little out of control in the group. We contact them individually and we’ve actually asked people to leave the community as a result.
We’re very serious about protecting the other people, we’re very serious about the quality of support that we’re providing in there, and if someone is going to be in there just to badmouth people and to be negative and not be providing value or support in any way, shape or form, then our community isn’t right for them. So we’ve reached out to them, we’ve had individual conversations with them and it has before resulted in us asking somebody to leave the group.
Rich: Alright. Of course it is unfortunate to have to deal with those kinds of people and I wish we could all just get along. But lets now flip that question around. I know that I’ve seen you guys have – for lack of a better phrase – “super fans”. Do you have any kind of specific ways of identifying and elevating super fans within your groups?
Kate: We definitely love doing random pins of people. We talked about the pinning function in the group before, and I think people really appreciate being recognized in that way. So if we have super fans or just really great community members doing cool things in our group – if they post a win or an offer to help other people out – we’ll pin that to the top of the group. And we get really great feedback from that. People really appreciate being recognized in that way.
We also have a weekly digest that we send out via email for Podcaster’s Paradise. So if we see our members are doing cool things or they just had a big win, like a couple of our podcasters were nominated for the podcaster award at New Media Expo, so we feature them in our newsletters. So we’ll do stuff like that where they kind of feel like they’re being recognized for their achievements that they’re doing.
Rich: Very cool. So I guess the other question is, so this is all going on within Facebook groups and all of your groups are based on paid memberships, do you have anything different that you do or have done in the past if it’s not a paid membership and you’re just looking to build a group’s momentum?
Kate: I think just the idea that you really want to let people feel as though they’re a part of something. Thats what people want to have, they want to know that they’re around like minded people, they want to know that other people are going through the same struggles as them. They want to have a place where they can share their wins and get excited about stuff. A lot of people in the online space, they don’t have that kind of support with their family or with their friends, so you can create a group where you’re truly letting your members feel as though they’re a part of something or a part of a community, then I think that’s going to go along ways and people continue to engage and are continuing to market as something important for them to do every single day.
And with an open group, I just think it’s really, uber important to focus on those guidelines and really lay down the law and let people know you’re serious about the guidelines.
Rich: Alright. And are you doing any sort of cross promotion either on Facebook or on other social platforms to raise the awareness of these groups, or is it different for you because all 3 of these are attached to a paid membership?
Kate: Yeah, I think it’s a bit different for us since it’s paid. We definitely use that in our sales marketing for our communities, talking about the fact that we have a private Facebook group. I think that’s a huge plus in terms of you telling people what it is that your community has to offer. But if it wasn’t a paid group and it was just for our overarching community, I would definitely cross promote. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Catching people on different social platforms, certainly on your website if you have a link that says, “Come over and join us in our Facebook community.” I think that’s a great idea.
Rich: That is pretty cool. Actually, I was just wondering – and you may not know the answer to this – obviously there are Facebook ‘like’ boxes that you can include on your website. Do you know if there’s one for groups?
Kate: I’ve never seen that before. It would be pretty cool if there was though. Maybe there is.
Rich: Alright Mark Zuckerberg, I know you’re listening. Kate, this has been awesome. I know that a lot of people who have been listening to this who may not yet know about all your groups and all your services, where can we learn more about both the products and services that you guys offer, as well as you, yourself?
Kate: You can find out everything over on EOFire.com. Our products and services, our blog, our podcast, all the free courses that we offer, I’d love for you to check it.
Rich: Very cool. And of course as always we’ll have everything, all the links Kate showed and the full transcript for today’s show over at The Marketing Agents Podcast shownotes. Be sure to check them out
Kate, thank you so much for your time. It’s always awesome talking to you.
Kate: Rich, thank you, I had a blast.
- Go to the Entrepreneur On Fire website to check out the blog, podcast, free online courses, products and services.
- Check out Kate’s audio blog.
- Read Kate’s book for a step by step guide to creating and growing your dream business.
- Entrepreneur On Fire also offers 3 online community groups to help you learn how to grow your business: Podcaster’s Paradise, Webinar On Fire and Fire Nation Elite.
- Are you a podcaster or an aspiring podcaster that lives in Maine? Check out Rich’s Facebook group to learn and share information and experiences with podcasting.
- Transcription for this podcast provided by Jennifer Scholz Transcription Services.
- Check out 1 Day Business Breakthrough with Pat Flynn & Chris Ducker
- Like what you heard and are desperate to know more about the host? Rich Brooks is the fearless leader of flyte new media, a web design and internet marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He is also the founder and brains behind the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference. He also fancies himself a witty tweeter, follow him on Twitter at @therichbroooks.