Transition away from Facebook Groups


(Martin Cash) #1

I was doing some community research on this site late last year and remember reading an interesting thread on transitioning away from Facebook groups onto a community forum platform (such as Discourse), but I can’t seem to find that post. I’m almost certain the topic was here on FeverBee. Does anyone remember that topic or am I misremembering where I saw it? :grin:

Chronicling the transition of a hobbyist Facebook Group to an online community
Facebook Groups for 2018, pros and cons
(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hey Martin,
I hid it just to get people like you to post. :wink:

Ok, that’s not true. Was it this one?

(Martin Cash) #3

Hey, that’s pretty sneaky, HAWK!

That wasn’t the topic I remember reading, but maybe this a good time to start this conversation. I’ll try to summarize our current reality and my vision as concisely as I can…keep in mind I’ve been working/researching this for 6 months so it may be hard to keep this brief. :smiley:

For years, our organization’s customer community has been relegated to various Facebook groups that were created by customers who wanted a place to help each other use our product, connect to our partners, get ideas and strategies, etc…

At the end of last year, we decided it was time for us to solve some problems:

  1. Facebook groups don’t provide a great way to index knowledge…timelines are ephemeral. Our product and product line is complex and requires a more robust solution to organize and index meaningful conversations for others to benefit from. Basically, we want to offer better self-help service than Facebook can provide.
  2. We have passionate customers that want to talk about our product and about how to solve problems in their business. It’s hard to manage all those conversations on various Facebook groups that we don’t even own. We know that we can provide better service to our customers with a platform that we can manage and report on…a single platform that we can more easily connect customers to our Support and Partner network.

We deployed an instance of Discourse in late March as an experiment and so far we are loving the results. We have 400 members (customers and partners) that found the page organically and I am meeting with customer marketing tomorrow to bring it to market!

My question is, how do we transition our current customers from the various Facebook groups (that are not owned by us) over to our new platform? I’m not entirely comfortable promoting our community to these groups. I feel that in order to move people to our community, we have to prove a value proposition - an actionable reason for them to join our community.

My current thinking is that this is going to take time. We start by focusing on “new” customers entering our ecosystem. I’ve teamed up with Support to help answer “how do I” questions and I created a “Founder’s Group” comprised of top-tier partners who have been instrumental in helping customers in the various Facebook groups to assist with the more strategic questions.

Is this a solid strategy for transitioning Facebook users to our own community? Should I be more aggressive? From a platform standpoint, we have SSO enabled with our product, so signing in and using our Discourse instance is pretty easy.

Looking forward to your replies!

(Sarah Hawk) #4

Hey Martin,
It’s great to understand more about your situation. It sounds like you’re in a pretty strong position.

I’m interested in the relationship that the Facebook groups have with your brand/product. Are they fan groups that were started by customers? And is your hesitance to promote to them out of respect and a reluctance to potentially poach community members? What value do those groups provide to the organisation that manages them?

Sorry for the million questions. Your answers will influence my thoughts.

(Richard Millington) #5

I’d be sensitive here to the people running these groups. If they have spent a lot of time building and managing that community, do they want you to come in and take their audience away?

The first thing would probably be to find who’s running these groups and see how you can help them, get to know them, build a strong relationship with them. Maybe make them admins in your community. If you start posting adverts in other groups, you’re probably going to get a harsh and sudden kickback.

So focus on how you can add value to others running these groups and they might help do the promotion for you.

(kafka tamura) #6

I agree with @richard_millington
I don’t think you should transition. Your situation really reminds me of a Ted talk by Derek Sivers where he talks about how to start a movement.

It’s only 3 min, so there’s no reason not to watch.
In it he talks about how the most important person in a movement isn’t the leader(you), it’s your most loyal follower(probably the FB group admin in your scenario) since they demonstrate to all your other followers and potential followers how to follow you.
Hope that makes sense.

CoL (communities of learning)?
(Colleen Young) #7

Hi @martin_cash,
I have (had) a similar situation. While I don’t profess to have a solution, I’ll describe our path in the hopes that you can take bits that suit your scenario, as well as get feedback from you and others to improve our situation.

Mayo Clinic Connect is an online community for patient, hosted on an owned platform. When the community first came on the scene in 2011/12 it enjoyed a 12-18 month period of success --a growing membership and robust, active conversations in a variety of disease areas. Unfortunately, the community was left untended, activity slowed to a virtual stop. In several disease areas, people started Facebook groups to stay connected to the people they had developed relationships with on Connect. Several still thrive today.

Fast forward to 2015 – Mayo Clinic Connect was given new life: redesign and the application of dedicated strategic community management with leadership support. Things are going well. Membership and activity continues to steadily increase, long surpassing the success of 2012.

Some of the members from the Facebook groups have returned, glad to see Connect back and improved. Many of those Facebook members post on Connect to tell people about their Facebook group and try to recruit new members for their Fb groups. We allow those comments on Connect and support the success of the Facebook groups. Even if Connect members go to the Fb group and are more active there, I’m confident that they remember that their first welcome and connection was made on Connect. I develop relationships with the leaders of the Fb groups and offer things to their groups that they may not have, such as webinars with subject matter experts. We’ve even used the Fb groups to develop and vote on webinar topics. I like to call all of this mutually beneficial cross-pollination.

Martin, discover what your discourse community can offer that the Fb groups cannot. For example: better organization of topics, questions answered quickly and easy to find, Q&As, etc. Then they’ll talk about your community on Facebook. People can benefit from both platforms IMO.

(Richard Millington) #8

@colleenyoung - I remember writing this some 6 years ago now.

Awesome to hear they turned it around. Are you doing the community for them? Would love to chat to someone form that community.

(Colleen Young) #9

Yes, @richard_millington, I’m the Community Director at Mayo Clinic Connect and work on other Mayo communities too. Happy to chat any time.

(Sarah Hawk) #10

You don’t read the Our People interviews? :open_mouth:

(Martin Cash) #11

I feel so guilty that I haven’t reviewed this topic sooner… The video by @roki4ka sums up my strategy pretty well and it’s been working. The 99-9-1 rule is real. Focusing on those members that are organically driven to make a difference has paid off. Nurturing your most active members early is key to creating a successful community. Start small, create momentum - Feverbee has taught me well. :slight_smile:

My ultimate decision was to abandon the idea competing with Facebook groups and focus on areas that I can compete with. I’m happy with the results and it’s paying off. Have better-crowdsourced answers than customers can get via phone…have quicker and better answers than customers can get in chat. Compete with yourself before you compete with others. Win, and you set the stage for more win.

(Piper_Wilson) #12

Just because it can’t be said too much.

(Gear Buzz) #13

I am not happy, just came back from a “big forum owners” meet up in Texas - there was a silicon valley dude there who warned that Forums have a bout 2-3 year max to figure out how they would be better than a Facebook Group.

The writing is on the wall that Zuk’s main priority is figuring out how to run forum like communities.

Its very worrying IMHO

I think we will probably have have Facebook spies within our midst where us community peeps hang out to snoop on us.

Not cool

(Richard Millington) #14

I suspect this is a classic adapt-or-die situation for many community professionals.

I think the forums based around finding and accessing quality information will still do while, but those based around retention and a sense of community will probably need to adapt or die.

Saying that, I’d be surprised if Facebook spend much time looking at forums at all. They wouldn’t need to spy, they can join sign up and browse everything.

From my experience working with Facebook and seeing how they make decisions, they mostly care about data and impact. They might adopt some elements of forums, but they would be looking to develop something much better than just replicate what’s already out there.

(David DeWald) #15

Forums are dead, long live forums…

As I’m sure @richard_millington and many others can tell you, the imminent demise of forums has been shouted by the pundits for well over a decade. And yet somehow they seem to live on, with new ones popping up all the time. I’d love to ask that “dude” if they feel that Reddit will fall to Facebook groups. After all, Reddit in its most basic form is Forums around topics.

(Gear Buzz) #16

Reddit doesn’t pay millions to hire literally hundreds of bright tech nerds and state that community is the next target.

(Anton) #17

Might come useful for someone:

(Richard Millington) #18

It’s an interesting argument but I’d note three important things here:

  1. somehow they seem to live on” masks what’s been happening to forums over the past decade or so. Almost in every single sector usage of forums and forum technologies have been declining. We can look at Google trends to see that in action. I think many of those in existence might still do ok, but the broad trend here is pretty clear that forums (as in their traditional incarnation) are on their way out.

  2. You can argue that Reddit is a forum, but we can agree it’s pretty different from most forums. It’s more about aggregation of content and voting up the best of the web. That’s a different mission from most forums and one that’s also seen some forums fail as their audience moves across (often in the gaming sector).

  3. I don’t think Facebok are trying to ‘kill’ forums. Their mission is more about enabling people to build the best groups they can on the platform. They would be more interested in keeping people on the platform itself. If that affects forums, so be it, but they’re certainly not ‘gunning for forums’. They’ve already largely won that battle.

(Sarah Hawk) #19

We are in a pretty rapid growth phase at Discourse which seems to be contrary to the forum decline argument. Thoughts?

(Adrian Speyer) #20

@hawk We see the same thing, with regards to growth. I think what’s changed is the shift from personal to business. When I was younger you would throw a forum together for a hobby or group playing a game, because it was easy to host, and configure.

I think now a lot of the social channels, Facebook and Reddit make this easier for these kinds of personal uses.

Where the growth (at least what I see) is coming from companies using forums, but they don’t really use that term – which is why the Google Trends number sees the decline. It’s more fragmented. What we used to call forums are becoming self-support areas or spots for sharing tribal knowledge.