MayKing Mistakes in Online Networking: Facebook Groups

When I went to my first few networking events in Brisbane, I made arrangements to meet individuals face to face and got to know them a little better and I listened and learned a great deal from the first few business owners I met.  The common topic that was talked about was online networking.  I spoke passionately about Twitter but many business owners I had met talked about Facebook.

The more people I met, the more I realised I really ought to learn more about this Facebook lark so I paid my dollars to attend a course.  During the course, I continued in the networking vein, listening to business owners, and learning from them. I was a bored during the course if truth be known, but then late in the afternoon came the golden nugget.  The trainer talked about something called Facebook groups and I got excited as I began to realise its potential.

I wanted to build relationships with other business owners, and as I didn’t know anybody in Brisbane, I had to work extra hard on networking.  I decide to create a Facebook Group called Queensland Business and start networking online.  Fast forward several years and it is still going strong. 7000+ members strong but now and again I still see several mistakes made by business owners (in this Facebook group and others, not just in Australia), where business owners go straight for the sale.

It kinda reminds me of the BBC TV Licence Ad where business owners want instant results, but my purpose for the group was not for business owners to sell and promote to each other, but because being in business can often feel like a lonely place, it was a place where we could help, share and form collaborations.  Other mistakes I have seen in Facebook groups include:

  1. Disrespect.  With many business groups, there are voluntary administrators who dedicate their time to ensure the smooth running of the group.  I have seen many times where business owners have gone straight to the sale and promoted their latest product or service only to see the post removed by an administrator.  Thinking that there must be some mistake, the business owner decides to put up their salesy post again.  This is not only disrespectful to the founder of the group, but it is disrespectful to the administrators who work hard to ensure to prevent spam and to the members of the group.
  2. Criticism.  I am all for healthy debate in a Facebook group but criticising others because they do not share your view and launching into an argument, attacking people and taking things personally is not a good strategy for networking.  Remember you represent your business and people are likely to remember the antagonists, the serial critic, the bully.  Would you want your business to be remembered for that?
  3. The written word is devoid of emotion.  I remember back in my IT days when I was given feedback from my team, via my Manager.  One of the criticisms bestowed upon me, was that I was curt.  I was devastated but I took the criticism on the chin and tried to put myself in the shoes of my team.  In expressing empathy, I soon realised that my wanting to get straight to the point, inadvertently appeared rude.  Remember that the written word always appears harsher than originally intended, so my advice would be to be verbose and explain your intended emotion behind your words so that the reader can understand your intentions.

To build relationships effectively in Facebook Groups, I recommend the following:

  1. Read the About Section.  All Facebook groups will have an About section that will pinpoint you to the purpose of the group.  As business owners, before you starting posting in the group I recommend that this should be your first port of call.  Find out about the rules of the group and abide by them.  This is respectful to the founder of the group and to its members.
  2. Listen and observe. Before you launch straight into the group.  See how the other members interact in the group.  Spend a bit of time getting to know the culture of the group; how the group behaves; when people are active in the group.
  3. Show some appreciation.  Show some appreciation for the post with a simple like, or a quick thank you.  The more your name is seen by others, the more memorable you become.  The more helpful you are in your comments to others, you increase your chances of people clicking on your name to find out more about you and what you do for business.  You don’t need to like every or comment on every post as that might be construed as annoying, but if you read a post, and really appreciated it, a quick like will go a long way.
  4. Don’t sell, add value instead.  To stand out from the rest of the competition, you need to prove that you are a specialist in your field.  If it’s appropriate and doesn’t contravene the rules of the group, share one of your blog posts or write a comment demonstrating your expertise in response to questions that may arise in the group.
  5. Be helpful. From the groups that I have been a member of, questions will often arise pertaining to recommendations for a given service.  If you have a received a service from a business owner that matches the question, tag that business owner (or add them to the group initially if they’re not a member), and give a short explanation as to why you’re recommending them.  If you are the business owner that was recommended, you can help by expressing gratitude for the recommendation.
  6. Be mindful of time. It is easy to get caught up in helping others and forgetting to focus on your own business and goals.  This was my mistake with Queensland Business although admittedly, because I didn’t know anybody in Brisbane, I felt that I had to work extra hard to get to know people and build relationships.  Set some time aside to visit Facebook Groups and make sure you put that focus back on your business once that hour is up or whatever time you set aside for yourself.

The Featured Image of this blog post was commandeered from a great source for all things social media.  Social Media Examiner has a great article on how to Network with Facebook Groups and I highly recommend you read this post too.

What other tips do you have for people who are new to Facebook Groups for business?  Feel free to add a comment below.  We’d love to hear from you.