How cool would it be to start a hyper-local community on Facebook in one day?
Sounds impossible, right?
The truth is that with simple digital marketing methods, you can start building a hyper-local community today. No more awkward conversations at the gym trying to meet people or at meetups where no one bothers to go. This solution is proven and almost anyone can do it.
Who this for?
– Any small business owner interested in becoming a local leader in their niche and establishing an incredible brand.
– Any entrepreneur who wants to create credibility and have an engaged community that loves their product and service.
Running a successful small business has always been a huge part of my family. My mom owns a yoga studio and my dad owned a coffee shop for several years. Here’s the thing: Their biggest obstacle to generate revenue was not differentiating their product, but reaching people and getting them to engage.
Here’s the answer: It’s not a logo or other flashy advertisement that drives people to love your small business – it’s community.
So, I decided to solve this problem.
In college, I used this method to start a chapter of a political organization, and then told the regional director about the strategy. From there, the organization experienced exponential growth. They immediately began sending emails out like this one to every chapter president:
This method worked so well, I dropped out of college and used it to recruit 150 writers in three months to help start a publication.
A year later, I used this method to create a community of thirty-plus digital marketers in three weeks.
So how does it work?
Step 1: Identify your niche (this is the hardest part)
Identifying your niche can be difficult. But by asking yourself the right questions you can find it. Here are the list of questions to go through to help you make a confident decision in the niche you pick:
1. Will I be interested in the subject two years from now?
2. Is this something I deeply enjoy being involved in?
3. Am I enthusiastic when I talk about this subject?
4. Is this my passion?
5. Do I want to be a leader in this niche?
Step 2: Create a mission statement
Before you do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, you need to create a mission statement. You want your mission statement to encompass what your group stands for and how it will better their life. It’s important to create an excellent one because it will be visible to your members on your Facebook page and your group page.
There are four critical elements found in great mission statements: value, inspiration, plausibility, and specificity.
Consider Long-Term vs. Short-Term
Choose whether you want your community’s statement to reflect its short-term goals or its long-term aspirations. Only choose one because specificity is key to an influential mission statement.
Step 3: Create a Facebook group
First, click on GROUPS on the left-hand column of your homepage. Now click on Create Group.
You’ll now see this popup:
I suggest keeping the group in your Favorite’s tab, so it’s easier to find. The privacy setting you choose depends on the type of group you’re trying to create. Remember, the best privacy setting is the one that will encourage the most engagement.
So where does your mission statement go?
In the description field, put the posting guidelines first, then your mission statement. This tactic will help maintain your group’s credibility. Lightly warn your members against posting self-promotional content, advertisements, or other types of content that doesn't fall in line with your group’s mission statement.
For your cover photo, I suggest a group photo for more social validation or a lively picture of the venue where you might regularly hold meetings. The cover photo in the screenshot above is the view from where this digital marketing group meets on a weekly basis. I consider the view a benefit, so it works as a good replacement.
Step 4: Create A Reward
Without a benefit to joining the group you’re promoting, you won’t receive members. So before you start inviting people, it’s time to brainstorm.
1. How often will they receive a reward?
Nobody will join your group if they don’t receive any benefits. You need to reward your group on a consistent basis. Maybe the reward is a great speaker every week or a cool yoga lesson. Just make sure it’s relevant and has enough value to encourage group member engagement.
2. How can you make your reward variable?
If your reward is always the same, people will get bored. People are naturally attracted to new and unexpected things. If you can find a way to change-up your reward on a consistent basis without sacrificing value, then you’re attendees will stay engaged.
3. Low cost, high value
It can be difficult to produce a high-value reward on a consistent basis. You need to learn what you can provide that has high value but doesn’t cost you too much. This will take some brainstorming on your part.
4. In-person value is great, but you should target multiple places
The more areas you can provide value – the better. However, it’s important to find the balance between the quality and quantity of rewards.
Also, in-person value provides huge benefits that online communities can’t. Having members converse with each other face-to-face helps establish bonds faster than conversing through social platforms. For instance, thirty messages worth of information on Facebook can be exchanged in a ten-minute face-to-face conversation.
5. Not everyone places the same value on rewards
Everyone values a reward differently. So, the more you understand the value your individual members place on rewards, the better you can personalize it to them. As a result, your members will feel like their needs are taken care of and will be excited to encourage group growth.
Step 5: Ensure conversion
Before you begin reaching out to people, it’s vital that you learn to brand yourself.
1. Attractive profiles generate a high response rate
People are less likely to join a group where the leader doesn’t look “cool.” I recommend paying a professional photographer to take photos of you to put on your personal Facebook profile. Also, take off content that is contradicting to your community’s values and unattractive. Photos from your freshman year at a college party are probably a no-go.
I had my photos professionally taken.
Take a look:
2. Relevant profiles generate the highest response rate
People naturally gravitate towards leaders and those who genuinely express similar interests. For example, if you’re promoting a group about trail running and you have pictures of you trail running, then you’re more likely to put forth a perception of you being a leader in your niche.
3. A pinned post that’s relevant
Make sure the latest content on your profile is relevant to your group. A post with a high number of “Likes” makes it even better. Most potential group members want a community leader to have significant social validation.
4. Anything accessible should be great content
People love to dig through other people's profiles. If your group is large enough, the chances are a few people will scour every inch of your profile to find out who you are. Don’t let this scare; instead, use it as a great opportunity to brand yourself.
Step 6: Recruit Two To Four Core Members
It’s crucial you don’t try pitching a group to people when you’re the only member in it.
You need social validation!
Correspondingly, you need to find two to four core members who want to help you lead the group. Think of yourself as the president and these people as your ambassadors. You want to give them some say in how the group works, but not too much. Giving them some control will encourage them to cooperate and invest time into making the group successful.
Who to target?
What friends can you think of who have the same interest in creating a group around your target niche? Contact them and sell them on the vision.
Do you have any family members who would be interested in joining your group? If so, have them join and become core members.
3. Facebook Graph
Start with your friends that you’re connected to through Facebook. Identify the ones that share the same interests as you by putting in the right search phrases. Graph search allows you to search by job title, company, location, languages, likes, and much more.
But before you begin using Facebook graph, make sure your language setting in Facebook is designated to English (US), otherwise it will not work.
Here are four examples of phrases you can search:
– Friends of My Friends Who Like X Page
– Friends of My Friends Who Work at X Company
– Fans of X Page That Live In Y City
– People who like PAGE NAME 1 and PAGE NAME 2 and live in CITY NAME
Take a look:
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, then use Facebook Audience.
First click on Ads Manager on the left-hand side of your homepage.
You’ll then see this page, where you will click on Audience Insights.
From here, you can analyze your target audience in-depth. In this example, let’s say I want to create a digital marketing group. So, I analyze people who like the company, Digital Marketer. I can see their demographics, page likes, location, activities, household statistics, and purchase habits. This data enables me to have a deeper understanding of who I should be reaching out to and with what type of messages.
I notice that people who like Digital Marketer also like Moz, a well-known search engine optimization software. I can then utilize this information in Facebook graph.
4. Search based on interests
I want to know more about my target’s interests, so I search “Interests liked by people who like Digital Marketer.” Not only can I customize my pitch better, but I can identify more people who would be interested in joining my group.
5. Be social
If you’re sending a message to someone offering value relevant to their interests without requiring them to buy anything or enter an email, then IT’S NOT SPAM. These people want someone to talk to about their favorite interests on a non-sales basis. Think of it as doing them a favor by breaking the ice.
6. “See More” option
If you’re not connected to the person who you’re sending a message to, then after you press the message button, you can hit See More. Once you do that, an option will appear to pay a dollar to send them a message to their primary inbox. If your conversion rates from sending out messages are high, then this can be extremely effective.
7. Once you have 2-4 core members, use the same Facebook graph process to recruit all your following members
When you have 2-4 core members in your group, ask them to help reach out through their Facebook networks and recruit using Facebook graph, too. Only ask you core members to help you recruit, otherwise you will scare new members away.
Step 7: Creating Outreach Templates
Make sure every reach-out template you send covers these eight points:
Briefly mention your common interest as your reason for reaching out.
State another subset common interest for reaching out.
3. Pain point
The pain point in most cases is that it’s hard to find people with the same interests and bring a community together around those interests in a local location.
Talk about how you created a group to help bring people with ___ interests together.
Mention the great time everyone has networking and making friends. If you have giveaways, then mention those, too.
Let’s say you’re starting a surfing group, then you’d say, “I’ve been surfing for “X” years.”
Talk about your location, speakers, refreshments, and any other feature worth mentioning.
8. Reiterate benefits
9. Reiterate solution
10. Call to action and questions
End the message on a high note: “It would be awesome to see you at our next meeting. Let me know if you have any questions. You can join the group here: [URL to Facebook group].”
I wanted to reach out because I noticed you like digital marketing, and more specifically, blogging. It’s so difficult to bring people in [location] with the same interests together. This is why I created a community called [community name] where we talk about blogging and digital marketing.
Everyone has a fun time and makes great friends. As a digital marketer with several years of experience, it’s a blast to meet up with similar people on a fun basis. We have an awesome location in downtown with free beer and snacks. If you’re interested in having fun and making new friends, then you should check out [name of community].
It would be cool to see you at our next meeting. Let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to join the group here: [URL to Facebook group]”
No Response Follow-Up:
If you’re waiting for a reply and it’s been a couple of days without receiving one, then send a follow-up message. A follow-up message shows that you care about the person you’re talking to and about growing the group. Sending the follow-up message is just as important as sending the primary one. Don’t skip out on doing this!
I’m sure you’re probably busy, so just in case you forgot, I wanted to reach out because I noticed you like digital marketing and more specifically, blogging. This is why I created a Facebook group for people like us in [location] called [community name] where we talk about blogging and digital marketing
It’s a great time, and we all make awesome connections. We have an incredible location in downtown with free beer and snacks. If you can do me a small favor and let me know if you’re interested, that would be great.
Feel free to ask me any questions. If this piques your interest, you can join the group here: [URL to Facebook group]”
Keep track of people you send messages to via a Google Spreadsheet
You want to do this for several reasons:
1. So you don’t send someone the same message twice
2. So you know who to follow-up with
3. To collect data to help improve reach-out templates
You should collect this data on every message you send out:
1. Date & time of message
3. Facebook URL
4. Facebook Graph search phrase
5. Response/no response
6. Template # (if you’re A/B testing)
Step 8: Creating Engagement
1. First comment
Encourage people to post a comment introducing themselves. They should talk about their passions, hobbies, and professional interests. You can do this by sending them a direct personal message of encouragement and including this information in a pinned post.
2. Small win
Give something away for free that every new member can immediately enjoy such as a relevant discount. For instance, if your group enjoys camping, then an REI discount might do. Even taking pictures of group meetings and putting them up on social media has shown to have incredible ROI in terms of getting members to engage more.
3. Make it personal
A community is shown to have higher engagement if people can converse with each other on a personal level. This means you need to take the first steps of opening up, so others will then have the courage to do the same.
And that’s it!
Know of two to four people that can help you create a hyper-local Facebook community around your business? If so, it’s time to become a local leader in your niche.
Josh blogs at Digital To Community about becoming a leader in the digital world. On his free time, he serves as the President of San Diego Digital Marketing Experts and mentors young entrepreneurs.