How to use data and experiments to drive engagement inside your Facebook Group?

Managing and growth hacking your community

If you are wondering if creating a Facebook Group is right for your brand and business, read this awesome post by Thinkific to get started.

If you have already created a Facebook Group, and want to growth hack your community with data-driven experiments, read on.

I. Introduction

How do you drive engagement inside a Facebook Group? How do you discover what content and topic conversations resonate when you have 3,000 entrepreneurs inside your group?

I am an avid listener of the Startup Chat podcast with Hiten Shah and Steli Efti. On one of their latest podcasts, they spoke about experimenting with their The Startup Chat Facebook Group and I eagerly volunteered.

I read everything about products, tech, sales, and growth hacking to increase my understanding of all the components of leading a business. I have been a big follower of Hiten’s SaaS Weekly where I get my daily dose of great content. Our Startup Chat members reflect the same desire to read up and learn from those who have done it before them , and be knowledgeable in running their businesses.

Facebook Groups How-To Tips

  • Goal
  • Understanding your members
  • Experiments
  • Analysis and Insights
  • Double down on what worked

II. Goal of Facebook Groups

How do we get members and fans to engage with the Startup Chat brand using Facebook as the medium? Facebook is traditionally known for being a social, rather than professional, means of communication. However, as a result of its daily active usage, Facebook can be a high activity platform to reach our users.

We wanted to create conversations for our members to share their entrepreneurial goals and challenges. We wanted to do so by delivering and curating high quality content that spurs discussions. Our goal is to post how-to’s, tips, motivations, and encouragements for anyone involved in a startup.

And that is why we decided to use Facebook Group as the access point instead of Facebook Pages. Facebook Pages are considered a one-way conversation whereas Group creates communities — you can read more about how they differ here.

III. Understanding Members

Based on Hiten and Steli’s amazing content, we are able to attract entrepreneurs from all around the world.

First and foremost, we are a closed group — that means we only approve new members based on a Request to Join. We surveyed Facebook Group admins, and vetting members from spammers is the #1 most time-consuming task.

Recently we had a spammer enter the group because we did not properly screen this member. Before we knew it, she spammed 3 comment sections. I was notified early enough to remove her from the group, but if we hadn’t, my Tuesday afternoon would have been spent deleting posts. (Attention Facebook, please solve this!)

Once we approve the members, we personally welcome them. We really want to invest time in getting to know each Facebook member. Not only do we want to know what type of content they care about, what kind of business they are running, what inspires them, and what challenges them, but we also want to elicit their feedback.

To better understand the members of our Facebook group, knowing that most people access Facebook via their phones, we created a mobile friendly survey using Typeform. This survey contains open-ended questions that help us get to know a large number of our members on a personal level and find commonalities between them.

IV. Experiments

  • List of Experiments
  • Why we chose these Experiments
  • How long we tested each
  • Best way to record them
Table 1: Experiments

The list of experiments in Table 1 are ongoing. And the results are regularly updated in a Google Doc. Yes, there are a lot of experiments and much more coming. The idea is that the more experiments you conduct, the more likely you will find a positive result.

“Think of customer acquisition as spaghetti. You throw it against the wall and see what sticks. Whatever sticks is what you double down on.” — Neil Patel

In each experiment, we share 5 posts. If all 5 posts receive high engagement, we will evaluate them and continue to post more.

We post about 3 posts per day on our Facebook Group. We use Buffer to experiment with our scheduling cadence, posting time, click analytics and insights, increase and decrease posting count per day, etc. Buffer is really handy because it allows us to set up the majority of the shared posts up front. This gives us time later on to focus on conversations instead of keeping up the posting schedule. In addition, Buffer has links-clicked analytics that we can review.

Why a posting cadence? A social media cadence inside our Facebook Group encourages our members to be active and buzzing. A consistent quality content rhythm establishes trust, presence, and mindshare for our readers.

Example using Buffer Pablo, after replacing the original article’s image

We have experimented with different post types such as article links with image quotes created in Buffer Pablo or content supplemented with our personal experiences. We are currently putting together a list of ideas such as utilizing native Facebook polls, Facebook image upload, and Facebook Notes. We are also considering creating more engagement with trivia and contests.

V. Analytics and Insights

  • Created an analytic hack
  • Used buffer’s analytics to record number of clicks to link
  • Record the outcome from each experiment

Facebook Group does not have analytics on what is successful. We had no data-driven way to analyze what resonates with our audience. We could have manually recorded the activities but this would have driven us insane.

As a technologist and product hacker, I decided to put together a plugin solution to export all my Facebook Group post data into a Google Sheet. This hack mirrors the starting dataset for an analytics dashboard. It records the timestamp, and the LIKE and COMMENT count. I just need to manually tag each post by topic and experiment. Below is a screenshot of this:

Screenshot of the Facebook Group — Google Sheet Analytics plugin.

Inside this Google Sheet, I can utilize native Excel functions like sort, filter, and chart to find insights inside our group. This plugin allows us to optimize the time to review and moderate with a simpler data layout. We discovered what kind of themes resonate, posting statistics, the most popular author, and the best and worst posting times.

Some steps for improvements for this plugin would be uncovering our most active commenters, the number of shares, and the rate of engagement.

Since likes and comments do not represent our total success metric, we also use Buffer to record the number of clicks and engagement. For instance, users would click and be redirected to read our long curated article but would not normally come back to click on like or comment. I will highlight why this is the case later in this article.

VI. Double down on what worked

  • Top 15 posts with most LIKES
  • Top 10 posts with most COMMENTS
  • Best posting time
  • Post more quotes with image
  • Welcoming users, tag users to create engagement
Table 2: Top 15 posts with the most likes

Here are the top posts with the most likes. Of the top 15 posts, 8 are just images, not article links. It’s easy to click like on a post but it should not define your Facebook Group’s success metric. If it is, what you end up doing is “Chasing those likes, man!” However, it does signal to us that a particular content type is easy to digest.

The most liked posts are image-driven and not long-form content driven. These image posts are usually quotes on a photo backdrop. In one of our future experiments, we will produce in-house Canva media with quotes from Hiten and Steli’s podcast.

Example Canva Design 1
Example Canva Design 2
Table 3: Top 10 posts with the most comments

The top 10 posts with the most comments feature titles that drive very compelling questions. Below is an example:

The 3rd most commented post in The Startup Chat Facebook Group

A lot of members across the world can relate to the blood, sweat, and tears needed to become an entrepreneur. It resonates through many members, regardless of business type or background. Posts like this draw conversations.

We strive to share thought-provoking contents and questions. Another post type would be sharing Quora posts on complex topics like lifestyle business vs. venture-backed business. The question-as-a-title posts strike discussions between our members.

Buffer Analytics shows the links we scheduled to be posted on the Facebook Group. As you can see, the amount of likes, shares, and comments do not equal nor reflect the number of clicks. The high open rate suggests the content is resonating.

Screenshot of Buffer Analytics

Although “snackable” content like quotes on image-backdrops receive a large number of likes, long-form articles provide higher educational value to our members. It is important to look beyond what native Facebook metrics have to offer. These posts navigate the user away from Facebook, and after 10–15 minutes of reading the content, they most likely forget to come back to Facebook and click like.

We evaluated if there is a best time to post using the graph below. There are many spikes, each representing when Hiten posted. Because of his brand presence, members probably navigate toward his posts more often. To summarize, the timing of the post is insignificant compared to who posts.

This same concept applies within a Facebook Group, where the most active posts remain on top of the page, while not so popular posts are pushed to the bottom. A recent example would be the new Twitter Timeline, where popular posts are shown at the top.

Chart 1: The popularity of a post trumps posting time

Welcoming new members is very important for your Facebook Group. However, it is definitely time-consuming to welcome every single member because it is something that doesn’t — and shouldn’t — scale. Here are some simple tactics we deploy.

Initially, we welcomed each new member individually. With our Typeform attached, 3 out of 17 individually welcomed members were responsive and completed the survey. Overall, 14 out of 49 welcome messages created engagement through likes or comments. While it created nice feedback, it also cluttered up our Facebook Group wall, which meant that first-time members had a reduced overall viewing experience when reviewing the Group.

Now, rather than greeting each member on a separate post, we tag each new user on a single post. We copy and paste the latest membership list into an editor and then remove all the text in between. Finally, I slowly Facebook tag them all, based on each individual’s name.

Ultimately, the welcome message produced 8 engagements out of 20 welcome tags. We think this is a fruitful exercise to get each member to be aware of the group, create brand awareness, and let them know we want them to be a part of the Startup Chat community.

VII. Conclusion

Managing a successful Facebook Group requires a lot of time and energy. We used data-driven tactics and growth hacking experiments to spark conversations with our members. Social media measurements, such as likes, shares, comments, and clicks, are important for all admins in order to maintain a thriving Facebook community.

We will continue to roll out more experiments. Stay tuned for the next blog post about how we work as a team of admins, invite new admins, create a ticketing system, manage member blocking capabilities, and use enhanced analytics. Discuss your strategies on how you are managing your Facebook Group below. Love to hear from you.

Gary-Yau Chan is a SaaS entrepreneur and currently lives in Brooklyn NY. You can also message him on Twitter @garyyauchan. Or catch him at The Startup Chat Facebook Group.