Is Your Facebook Group a Mob or Community?

School, child, kid.

Spend any amount of time on Facebook these days, and you witness people traveling in gangs, rising up because serious harm has been done to someone or something. Virtual vigilantes. It could be inspired by the upcoming presidential election, or world events, but the general mood is shifting.

In the early days of Facebook, the network was largely positive, but the sheer size of Facebook and the mountain of content we see daily, is changing the way social media managers need to approach their pages.

This is especially true for groups, which often have a higher degree of controlled access. If you’re managing a Facebook group, it’s a challenge to keep the community moving along.

Good Communities Need Moderation

The best Facebook communities have a good moderator – one or two people (Facebook calls them Administrators) who guide the community along, keep the conversation going and, when necessary re-direct the conversation when it strays from the purpose of the group. Two great examples of groups which I participate in (which are by invitation only, so I can’t link to them here) are the Solo PR Pros Facebook Group and the San Antonio Bloggers Group on Facebook.

Both have amazing administrators which guide the discussion and set the tone for how the group navigates each day. But they also have structure, which is equally important.

Good Communities Need Structure

Although structure in Facebook groups can be very informal, it does create a backbone for the administrators. In the San Antonio Bloggers Group, the administrators have posted guidelines on what types of posts and conversation are allowed and guides to the members’ Twitter handles or Instagram channels. This prevents repetition in the thread and connects seasoned members with newer members.

“A moderator’s job is easy when the purpose behind a group is clear from the beginning and guidelines are clearly posted to help lead the way,” says Stacy Teet, moderator of the San Antonio Bloggers Facebook group. “One of the most difficult parts of managing any large group–online or offline– is keeping all the cars on the track following the same locomotive. Members are as diverse as they come, each with their own individual personalities, preferences and ideals, but if you build a community centered around a common interest, topic or goal and you keep the group focused on that one thing, positive momentum should take care of the rest.”

In the group for solo public relations professionals, the group files include templates, conference information and other information to help its members be better at what they do.

“One of the ways that we keep content fresh for our group is by listening. We actively listen to conversations to keep a pulse on what members need to support them in their day-to-day challenges,” says Karen Swim, president of Solo PR Pro, which offers the closed Facebook group for its paid members. “Knowledge of our audience also enables us to spot trends, information, resources and tools that would be of interest to the community and deliver content accordingly.”

But what happens when that Facebook turns into a mob?

I have participated in several groups where certain posts brought out the mob mentality and discussions got heated. When this happens, it’s tough for administrators to keep the peace, much less manage (what used to be called) “civil discourse.”

What can you do to manage the community back to a peaceful, yet talkative, state?

First, invoke the “guidelines” doc. Strong Facebook groups have a document that outlines what is and isn’t appropriate to post in the group. It also highlights what types of content are inappropriate and how that type of content will be handled.

“If a discussion begins that doesn’t relate to the group, a moderator can ask members to continue the discussion outside the group. If the group starts to veer off course in their day-to-day or general conversations, the moderator should restate the purpose of the group,” says Teet.  “Ask members to reread and acknowledge posted guidelines.”

Second, if you don’t have a guidelines document for your group, now might be a good time to think about it. Once it is created, point members to it from time to time so they know it’s there. They might even go read it!

As an administrator, it’s your job to keep the conversation moving, so if that means biting your tongue, redirecting the conversation, hiding or removing inappropriate posts or working with individual members behind the scenes, think through the outcome you desire and then figure out how to get there.

The needs of the community almost always outweigh the impact of any individual post or member. It might be prickly for a while, but the good news about Facebook Groups, the conversation moves on quickly and will soon be forgotten. Can you say ‘squirrel’?

Warm Handoff Is Key to Managing Channels

A runner handing a baton to another runner Part 2 in the Outside Channel Managers Series

Guest post by Jennifer Hatton

It is rare these days to begin working with a new client who doesn’t have at least one live social media channel.  Many clients have two or more channels that are “live” and because of that we have a process to make sure we get the information we need and get off to a good start. It’s called the warm handoff.

The warm handoff is a term used in tech to categorize a  service or support issue for which everyone on the team knows what’s going on.  A cold handoff is one in which information is missing or a ball gets dropped along the chain.  We of course prefer a warm handoff when we onboard as channel managers, which means you have everything you need to get started.

Onboarding Existing Channels

Getting a verbal or written download from the previous channel manager is the first step. Learn all you can by asking them questions such as:

  • What is your process for posting and reviewing content?
  • Where do you get content that is not directly from the client? Other organizations’ Facebook pages/Twitter accounts, websites, etc.
  • What gets the most response from followers?
  • What is the least popular (but maybe necessary) content?
  • In your opinion, what is the tone and voice?
  • Is there an approved strategy?
  • Anything else that is important or noteworthy?

There are times when the person you are relieving is not available.  When this happens, you can use the same questions, but you’ll be answering them by observing the channels directly.

State of the Channels

Now is the time to start digging into the channels and do a mid level “state of the channels” review.  Go through the pages. Look at everything. A good place to start are the bios – are they complete,  still relevant, using the correct hashtags, do the links work.  For Facebook, take a long look at the “About” page to make sure hours, links, long and short descriptions, and the custom URL are all filled out. Double check the type of page while you are there. One surprise is often the organization forgot to claim their page name and URL.  Check that too.

Secure the Channels

Security is important but we frequently see clients who get busy and forget about their channel security.  Who has access to the channels? Do you need all those page managers?  What email addresses are linked to Twitter and Instagram? Use a password keeper application or a document to list all the channels and log-in details.

Passwords should be different for each channel and changed whenever you change channel managers.  A yearly security and password update is also recommended to keep you and your client safe. There are easy to use password applications that not only save your passwords but help you create new ones, too. One example is Last Pass (link to site) but there are several to choose from.

Check All the Images

The last step in reviewing the state of the channels is to look at images. Check for current logos, make sure sizing is correct on profile photos and that images are credited properly. Facebook cover photos should be refreshed periodically. As a new channel manager, you have the opportunity to plan ahead to switch them out at least quarterly to keep the page looking fresh and visually interesting.

To sum it up, ask lots of questions! The more you know the easier it will be to onboard as a new channel manager. What tips do you have to make sure you have a warm handoff?

In Part 1, we looked at the keys to being a successful outside channel manager.

In Part 3, we’ll look at how to review your channels with a critical eye.

Jennifer HJennifer Hatton photo atton manages social media channels –from the outside–for clients in healthcare, tourism, retail and the hospitality industry.