How to Build a Writing Community on Facebook
If you build it, they will come
I have a soft spot for writing fiction, especially short stories. After scouring Medium, I was surprised to find there weren’t as many short stories as I was expecting. It led me on a search to find Facebook groups that would allow me space to share my work and to network with other writers. There were Medium groups where you could post on their daily threads, but none felt like a writing community.
The groups I was interested in joining had a list of rules that was as long as your arm — most prohibited self-promotion of any kind. I spent hours looking for groups and found only a handful that met my criteria. I then came up with an idea to create a haven for writers to share and engage with those of a similar niche. That niche would be fiction and short stories.
My idea was to create a community where writers were willing to not only share their work but also to engage and read the works of others. This sentiment would create a safe environment for writers to showcase their stories without feeling judged, as witnessed in other groups. My goal was not only to grow my audience but for others to build theirs. The idea of Share Short Stories was born.
After two months, the Share Short Stories community has just under 400 members and is growing daily. We have a good number of engagements, from members leaving likes to those commenting and reviewing a writer’s post. We have poets, writers, and readers from around the globe.
Find Your Niche
The first step to building your community is to find the niche that interests you — the more obscure and weird, the better. In this way, you will have little competition. If you find that the subject you write about has been neglected or doesn’t get much coverage, then this is definitely for you.
Name and Brand
Pick a group name that other people might search for on Facebook. I choose Share Short Stories because it tells the user precisely what I am promoting. This message won’t be confused with anything else. Use a name that will grab the reader’s attention while avoiding confusion or mixed messages. When you design your group, use a distinctive cover photo that links into your theme.
The About section is essential. This short introduction should be a short paragraph outlining what the group’s purpose is and why someone should want to join. Use precise language to entice people to come along for the ride. This section gives people a glimpse into your ethos. Below is an example of the introduction I have used for my group:
“Sharing, this community is all about support, sharing, and growth.
I hope to create a safe space where members feel comfortable showcasing their creative pieces to the world. Engage and network with like-minded writers who all have a story to tell.”
Once you go through the group creation wizard, Facebook will ask you if you want the group to remain private, or to be open and accessible to anyone. I would advise keeping the group closed so you have far more control over what happens under your watch. This can be tweaked to your personal preference. When the private setting is selected, all shared posts will be kept within the confines of the group. If people want to see what is going on inside the party, they will have to become a member.
I have selected a few rules that go without saying: “be kind and courteous to other members” and “hate speech and other abusive actions will not be tolerated.” I didn’t want to bombard my members with rules, as it may turn a lot of people away. You can use the default rules specified by Facebook, or you can create your own.
Invite People You Know
It’s going to be very lonely in the beginning. But don’t worry, this will change when you invite friends and family. When people outside of your network join, it’s crucial to acknowledge their participation and welcome them as new members. Welcoming new members can be done by a click of a button. I try and give my welcome messages a more personal touch by adding a picture, leaving a small message, and signing my name at the bottom.
Post Your Work
From my own experience, there will be little life in your group at first. The members will be looking to you as a reference point. In this way, you will have to post your work to keep people engaged. When I ran out of material, I decided to promote others. I copied their links and encouraged other members to share their work.
The early days will be slow, but it is down to you to conjure up ways to spark activity. One of my favourite methods was to come up with questions to try and get lure people out of their shelves, for example, “What is the strangest thing you have seen while walking down the street?”
This question prompted people who were not writers to post a sentence or two. Being engaged meant they would also read other comments made in the same thread. The tools at your disposal on Facebook mean you can create an array of different posts that will get people involved. These include competitions, surveys, quizzes, and pictures/videos.
Advertise on Different Platforms
On my Medium profile, I have a reference to my Short Short Stories group. Every time a member follows me or reads my work, they will see my little advertisement. At the bottom of my stories, I add a link that will take the reader directly to my Facebook group. I have advertised my group on Twitter and Linkedin and have managed to attract new members. Get your name out there, and people will find their way to you.
Don’t Shy Away From Messaging People
Never be scared to reach out to someone and ask if they want to join your community. Many members of Share Short Stories are people I have messaged after reading their work via a link on Facebook. I send them a friendly message outlining who I am, what I am trying to achieve, and why I think they would benefit from joining.
Give Selected Members Extra Responsibility
The group does not solely belong to me. The stories, the posts, the group spirit belongs to each member. With this in mind, I made two members moderators and gave them extra responsibility. Both members were brilliant at the beginning and encouraged not only me but also those who posted stories. They bought into my ideas and wanted to be a part of a growing network of writers. I ask their thoughts on ways to grow the group and if they have any ideas to improve the group.
Be Approachable and Willing to Help
I have members message me asking me all kinds of questions. Those range from what they can post to questions on how to share a friend link on Medium. Members will be looking to you for guidance. An open and welcoming attitude will rub off on those who are seeking your help. The way you behave feeds back into your ethos.
Target Medium Members
It made sense now for me to target Medium members as they were going to be the ones who were going to read most of my stories. If I read a member’s story, I will jot down their name and send them a private message or try to find them on Facebook. Most people want a place to post their work, so the writer was more than happy to join.
Grow in an Organic Way
In time, you will be able to step back and watch as the group starts to run of its own accord. As more and more people join, the number of posts and interactions will grow. It’s amazing to watch how members start to create their threads without any of the moderators or admins having to get involved.
Collect the Data
A great tool is the data collected by Facebook. I can see graphs of data, what the most popular time for posting stories is, as well as which members are the most prolific in their posting or engagements. With this information, I can select the best time, when the most people are likely to click and read my work.
I have also selected an automatic approval setting, where members are approved for the group if they meet the requirements. On entry, people leave their email addresses, which I collect and add to my mailing list.
When I started this group, I never imagined the success I would achieve in such a short time frame. I have an audience excited and willing to read every post. Despite the hard work, it has been far more enjoyable than I imagined. I have networked with hundreds of people and made many friends along the way. I aim to make Share Short Stories the spiritual home for storytellers on Facebook.
So what are you waiting for? Create your community today!