In this episode of Coffee Break Blogging, I share with you 7 specific reasons why I decided, after a couple years of having my member community on Facebook, I switched to a privately hosted forum for our Lab Community.
For the longest time inside The Lab, my private community was running inside of a closed Facebook group.
My thinking was this:
- My members most likely are already on Facebook
- They find it easy to use
- It saves me hassle
- Notifications will mean they see conversations
As I now sit here a couple years later, I realize I was mistaken.
In this episode of Coffee Break Blogging, I share with you 7 specific reasons why I decided; after a couple years of having my member community on Facebook, I switched to a privately hosted forum for our Lab Community.
I also recommend that anybody else looking to have a private community inside of their membership site should set up from the start on a private forum that you own and control.
Make time for this episode… and learn from my mistakes.
So today we are going to talk a little bit about membership sites which is a topic we have discussed here before. However, I am going to talk to you specifically about communities and 7 Specific Reasons Not To Use A Facebook Group For Your Private Community for a membership site.
So this is a topic that has recently come up for me because ever since I started the Lab at the Blog Marketing Academy, we have used a private Facebook Group for the community aspect of that membership. And it has gone okay but there has been some issues with it, many of which I am going to talk to you about, today.
Now, even though many of these reasons I am going to tell you about here in just a bit are things that I already knew, I was kind of kicking the can down the road, I was kind of like saying, “Ah, maybe that is not that big of a deal because Facebook is so much more accessible.” And that was really the main reason that I went with Facebook at the outset and stuck with it for a while, was because I thought; especially in my market of bloggers, that most of you guys are on Facebook. And not only that, most of you are probably on Facebook pretty routinely.
And so my thought was to make the community more accessible by placing it on Facebook where chances are, a good chunk of you are already there, already have the Facebook App on your phone, you get the notifications and generally would be a much more accessible place. And that is also one of the big reasons why there are many people out there with membership sites; some bigger than others, that are using private Facebook Groups as their paid community. And it works out well for the most part, but it does come with some drawbacks. And ultimately, those drawbacks led me to decide to make that executive decision to make the change and move away from Facebook Group and move over to a private forum community now hosted inside the Lab itself.
So let’s go into 7 Specific Reasons here, why not to use a Facebook Group for your membership site.
1. The Level Of Distraction
And this is not a fault of Facebook. It is actually a feature of Facebook. I mean, when you think about it, Facebook does not put themselves out there as a community site for private membership communities. It is a social network. And Facebook is going to make a lot more money if you were constantly bouncing around different things on Facebook, enjoying the stuff in your newsfeed and stuff like that. And so for that reason, the very structure of the site is such that it is trying to really glue you into that newsfeed so that you are clicking on ads and that type of thing and the level of engagement is high. And particularly, these days with the election just having gone by, but unfortunately, the hoopla around the election did not really end. J It just keeps on going and everybody is just out there bloviating. The level of distraction is super high.
Now, it is interesting for my perspective as somebody who… Well, two-fold… one is I am a human being just like everybody else, it isn’t as if blogging is my only interest in this world. And so, I go on there to help my Lab members; I am sucked in to the distraction whirlpool that is Facebook! So it is not good for me. Secondly, as an instructor; and I’m trying to get results with my Lab students, I am trying to get them to make headway in their business. And one of the things that I always tell people was the danger of distraction. Now, how much does it make sense for me to then say that and then say “By the way, if you have any questions, go over to our community and ask” and I know that by doing that I am sending them to the distraction whirlpool. It is actually fundamentally in odds with myself; it really is, for me to send people into that versus, if I have them in a private community that is hosted on my own domain, I control the entire environment. There’s not going to be any distractions.
Not only that… If they are there; if they made a point to be there is because they made a point to be there. It isn’t because “Oh, let me just see what my friends are doing… Hahaha… Look at that funny photo! Oh, Donald Trump, by the way, let’s go on inside the Lab Community.” It puts something as valuable in the same pool as a bunch of bull crap that is not valuable in any way, shape or form. And so, for me, personally, that was one of the biggest reasons I decided to leave Facebook alone and move the private community into a forum.
2. Facebook Ads
Facebook is a public company and their primary responsibility is to turn up profit and increase their shareholder value. Now, I don’t fault them for that. It is just fundamentally at odds with my own intentions. And my own intentions here, specifically with the community is to answer people questions and help them get results; help them realize the reasons they signed up for the Lab in the first place. So when they go into the newsfeed and they see all these ads; many of which are for people who might even are competitors of mine, whatever… I don’t really look at them that way, but they are being advertised too constantly.
Now, let’s bring that out of the newsfeed and into the Facebook Group itself, there are ads in there! If you go down the sidebar of any Facebook group, there are ads there or there are suggested groups there and some of those suggested groups might be for other membership sites. Not only that… Facebook is actually testing out the capability for advertisers to target Facebook groups as one of the targeting means for an ad. And so, I would not be surprised; I have not personally seen this yet, but I have seen screenshots of it that you might start to see sponsored posts inside of Facebook groups. Now, that right there is a major deal killer for me.
Now I don’t know all the ins and outs of this and here I am at the beginning of 2017, I don’t really know how this is ultimately going to roll out. So if you are listening to this episode sometime in the future, we may now know what happens with this. But I, as a community owner, especially one where people are paying to be in there; do I want other people to be able to target my paid member community and put their ads in front of my group? It just goes to show that I don’t own this thing. And so, for that reason, it is just another major red flag. And you know, it is fine. As an advertiser, I would love the ability to target other Facebook groups. I would be in a heaven with that! But as a person who has my own community, not so much. I think I need to move the community and so I have.
So that is the second reason not to use a Facebook group for your membership site, is that you may find your community being targeted by other people with advertisements.
3. Edge Rank And Visibility
… And it comes down to this: Facebook is trying to make your newsfeed as engaging as possible. And one of the ways they do that is using something called edge rank. And with edge rank, it is going to show you more of the things that you engage with and it is going to show you less of the things that you don’t engage with. Now, making the long story short here, the end result of this is that there is probably going to be activity happening inside of your member community that your members never actually see. They don’t receive a notification for it and it will not show up on their newsfeed and it is because they may not be engaging with your group often enough to trigger the (whatever) qualification there are for edge rank to make it show up in the newsfeed.
Now, if they specifically visit your group, they will probably see it; but in the newsfeed, maybe not. And so, if you have some idea that your members are going to see everything that is happening inside your community, that is not the case. To give you a big example; and this is exactly one of the reasons why many people in my space, in the world of online marketing do use private Facebook groups… It is just because they see the good guys at Digital Marketer doing exactly that. And some of you guys may be familiar with The Digital Marketer and they have the Digital Marketer; they own Lab over there. And they have a pretty large private Facebook community called Digital Marketer Engaged. And it works really well.
Now, I am a member over there. I have been a paying member of Digital Marketer for quite some time. And so, I am a member of Digital Marketer Engaged, I very rarely see their stuff show up in my newsfeed. If one of my Facebook friends happens to post inside of that group, then I might see it. Otherwise, it just doesn’t show up. And I don’t get notifications for it either. The only way that I participate in that group is to see what is actually going on as I have to make a specific point to visit it, but then again, there is so much distraction on Facebook that I really don’t go in there very often. I personally think that someday, in the not too distant future, Digital Marketer is probably going to explore making a shift, but it is going to be a much bigger deal for them because of the size of their community. I am glad that I have decided to make that shift, now.
So that is a really big reason. Your members are probably not going to see a majority of what happens in your paid member community if you house it on Facebook.
4. Lack Of Control
I mean, need I remind you that you do not own Facebook? That when you have a group on Facebook, that that is not your group? You don’t any of the data, you don’t own any of the content… It belongs to Facebook. They own it, they can do whatever they want with it, they can change the rules… If they want to insert sponsored posts into your group, what are you going to do to stop them? You can’t do anything. It is a rented land. And quite frankly, it is not even really rented because you are paying them nothing. And I doubt Facebook is ever getting into the business of charging group owners money to lock down a group and give you more control because it is really not their business model! So, that lack of control will always be there. And if you are okay with that, fine. I am not… especially for an asset as valuable as my Lab community.
5. Really Crappy Search Function
I mean, it is royally bad. And it makes me sad, really. I mean, that my Lab Facebook Group has been around a while, there is a lot of great stuff back there in history that has great conversations have taken place and it is so hard to find them.
Now, groups do have a search function, it is just that it is just bad. It is like your most basic level search engine. You plug-in a word, it will literally go find everything in the group history that contains that word but with no organization capability at all and you just sit there scrolling through search results. It is very unstructured; it is just not very useful. And so, that is another big reason. I can’t really get in any long term value out of this user generated content because it is by nature a social media network and it is so instantaneous in how it works. It is a very instantaneous platform.
Facebook is not as instantaneous as Twitter is, but it is still pretty instantaneous. After a few days, it just kind of goes on back there. Unless people are commenting on it regularly, which bumps it up to the top of the feed, it will just kind of go back there it is going to be really hard to find.
6. Lack Of Ownership Over Content
Now, this goes kind of hand in hand with some of the things that I have already told you here, but you don’t own any of that.
It isn’t as if when a user posts a comment on one of your blog post; well, you do own that because they posted it on your website and it is just kind of an understood license. But with Facebook, that is not the case at all. That is Facebook’s stuff, it is a social network. And you don’t have any control or ownership of that content.
And think about it… Especially if you are setting up a paid community, one of the ways that you are making that membership more valuable over time is that you have that growing library of past user generated content that people can run a search on and find old conversation that answer their questions. Well, when you combine lack of ownership to that content with a really crappy search function, it doesn’t work out very well. You can’t really do anything about it, and I highly doubt that Facebook is ever going to do anything about it because it is not their motivation. Their motivation is to put ads in there so that they can bring more money.
7. No Automatic Access Control
What I mean by that is when somebody joins the Lab, I do not have any way to automatically grant them access to the Facebook group. And this led to administrative issues. First of all, I would have to; in part of the welcome emails and stuff like that; I have to continually be like “Hey, did you get into the group?” I couldn’t even check to see if they have gotten into the group because Facebook is kind of its own thing. I have no way of knowing if they were able to successfully access it. It was just a big disconnect.
I already know who these people are, they have got the log in and everything, but now I have to say “Hey, can you go over to Facebook and request for membership?” And then we have to go and manually approve it. And then God forbid, if anybody cancels their Lab membership; which you know, this is a business, it does happen… We have to execute an internal process to go and find that person in the Facebook Group and remove them from it. There are times, where sometimes the name that they signed up with us on there is not the same name that they are using on Facebook and then it becomes a bit of a disconnect issue where we were like, “Okay, what name are you using over there?” It is a pain in the butt!
Now, there might be; I think I might have seen one or two ways out there, maybe automating this in some way, but… Ahhh…. Facebook doesn’t make it easy. You never know how this is going to work. And you just alleviate the entire problem when you have everything in-house, because then you got one universal log in. Now, when somebody logs in to the Lab, they are automatically logged in to my forum. It is done deal. I don’t have to make sure that they request access or anything of the sort; it is automatic.
So those are the 7 Reasons why I have decided to make the big switch. I have been putting it off a long time… The Facebook Group for the Lab is still there, but it is a lot quieter than it used to be because the members are very happily moving over into my new private community which is inside the Lab itself. So now the Blog Marketing Academy has a pretty cool forum. We are running it up on a piece of software called Discourse, perhaps you have heard of it, perhaps you haven’t. It is not a WordPress plug-in or anything like that. It actually doesn’t even run on PHP. It is hosted elsewhere, but you will never know the difference because it is under the blogmarketingacademy.com domain. The log in is completely all synced up; so from a user perspective, it is really a beautiful thing.
And I am getting to where I really like the Discourse software and how it actually works. It has got a lot of social network-ish features to it… It is very easy, it doesn’t divide conversations into a bunch of different rooms, it is very mobile friendly. I give my members the ability to participate and threads via email, so they can actually reply via email; they don’t even need to come in to the forum… There’s notification capability. It is a really good thing. Actually I find it to be just as easy to engage with as Facebook. But even better in that when people are participating in this community, they are actually there for the reason and we are all more focused on things. And that is a really beautiful thing.
So if you are a membership site owner, I can tell you that I have really not had any significant hiccups moving to a private member community, especially with Discourse. And I am pretty happy that I made the move.
So those, again are my 7 Reasons Not To Use A Facebook Group For Your Membership Site. If you are planning out a membership site now, I would definitely recommend you to go with a forum. You do not have to use Discourse; that just happens to be what I use, but there are many of them out there. You want to make sure that it has universal log in capability with your membership site software so that members don’t have to log in to a separate place; I think that is a really important requirement, and it is working out pretty well for me!
If you would love to check out that community; and I think you would find it a really cool place to be now, especially now because we don’t have all that distraction… I would love to see you join the Lab if you have not already become a member.
If you would like to request a trial invitation to the Lab, head on over to blogmarketingacademy.com/listeners. I will extend to you a private invite into the Lab where you can check it out for yourself without paying the full monthly rate to give it a whirl. And within just a few minutes you can pop in to our Lab community, you can see that there’s some cool stuff going on in there. And it is picking up in there! This forum is, as of this recording, been live for maybe 2 weeks now and I am really, really very happy with how quickly it is starting to take off and I would love to have you as part of that group.
Thank you so much for listening… See you next time!
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