Catapult your campaign: Why community building through Facebook Groups is the next frontier in politics.
In the past year, Facebook has invited beta testers to try out a group-centric social platform. Then, they starting signaling on multiple occasions that they would begin catering content and prioritization towards their groups platform and away from the newsfeed. Now – as if it weren’t obvious enough – they’re taking out entire billboards in Times Square telling you to join a freakin’ group.
A. Freakin’. Billboard.
There are so many implications here. In fact, the ramifications of how we engage with content, share it, trust it, distribute it, and target people from it, based on a small subset of people we openly and willingly associate with (beyond our friends list), are immeasurable. Imagine: you can not only target a group based on behavioral interests within the Facebook ad platform, but you can establish a seemingly organic community, share exclusive content, and shape perceptions and narratives within a trusted circle of people. In fact, people have been building business empires through Facebook Groups for the better part of three years.
It’s no wonder Facebook is all but slapping you in the face with the fact that they’re going to cater their content to the groups platform. It’s how Facebook is maximizing engagement on content. People implicitly trust the other people they’re in a group with. It’s a tight-knit community, and you can share content outside of the group if you find it particularly compelling.
In fact, it is the author’s personal prediction that, as Facebook explores the cryptocurrency space, Facebook groups will be a way to maintain ledgers and accountability. This would work similarly to Bitcoins ECDSA keypairs, in which people’s profiles, not their physical computers, contain the currency.
Can you leverage a Facebook Group?
Before I get too nerdy, let’s back up. I want to talk about how you’re already losing the social media political battle if you’re not maintaining and managing at least 5-6 localized groups. I want to talk about how you can best leverage hyper-local geographic communities to evangelize your candidate or cause.
I want to shake you violently, dear reader, if you’re running a campaign or a 501c3 or a 501c4 or a business and not developing a group strategy. You’re losing. You’re not thinking innovatively. And you are certainly not positioning yourself for digital victory based on what Facebook is blatantly telling you.
Groups have been used for political good and political evil, often times in secret. If you haven’t started, you’re already losing.
BUT BEFORE ALL THAT: what the heck is a “Facebook Group”?
According to Facebook: “Groups provide a space to communicate about shared interests with certain people. You can create a group for anything — your family reunion, your after-work sports team, your book club — and customize the group’s privacy settings depending on who you want to be able to join and see the group.”
While Pages were designed to be the official profiles for entities, such as celebrities, brands or businesses, Facebook Groups are the place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue, or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos, and share related content.
When you create a group, you can decide whether to make it publicly available for anyone to join, require administrator approval for members to join or keep it private and by invitation only. Like with Pages, new posts by a group are included in the News Feeds of its members and members can interact and share with one another from the group.”
There is a difference in nature of Facebook pages (personal and public) and what they’re beginning to cater the platform towards. This reflects a difference in nature of how we, as human beings, engage with each other: a cloistering, a tribal reverting, a desire for like-minded community and nearly nothing else. Because that is what sells. And if you want to build a base, sell people on your cause, and cash in on social media, groups are going to be the way to do it from now until the next big idea. You may not like the game, but you certainly must play it.
Click the image below to see the POWER of building a Facebook Group
What can political organizations learn from the private sector when it comes to Facebook Groups?
There are countless articles about businesses that have fostered communities, marketed their products, and grown their groups. From pyramid schemes to apps and games, you’ll find no shortage of people who are rapidly growing END CONVERSIONS and PURCHASES from public, closed, and secret groups they manage. A classic example is Grown & Flown, which almost exclusively utilized Facebook groups to grow their business. There are, of course, countless content creators and entrepreneurs who have utilized Facebook groups as a value ad for their customers — allowing the access to exclusive content, etc. through platforms like Patreon. Empires have been created every day through this method for the last 4-5 years.
As you invite neighbors, friends, family members to a group, you begin to gain exclusive access to their notifications and newsfeeds in a number of critical ways:
- Facebook Groups help create genuine and meaningful communication.
- Facebook Groups posts will appear more in the news-feed.
- Facebook Groups populate new notifications with EVERY admin post, unless a user opts out.
- Facebook Groups has a polling tool that will send EVERY member a notification and solicit instant feedback.
- Facebook Groups fosters a level of trust that is MUCH more likely to prompt people to share to and from the group.
- Facebook Groups let you host exclusive watch parties for video content
- Facebook Groups will alert ALL members when you go live on video
- Facebook Groups is adding NEW features and widgets faster than anything else on the platform
Private brands are utilizing groups as a way to use all of these features and apply social pressure to everyone else in the group. In some cases, brands are subtly building groups which boast hundreds of thousands of members. The reach of those groups is incredible and, because people trust their closed communities, the conversion rate – that is to say, the amount of people who actually purchase a product – is like nothing that’s been seen in the industry before.
I say that as a guy who’s been doing online ads for a decade.
Imagine that power in activating voters, getting the message out about a cause or candidate, and ultimately activating an enclosed constituency. For candidates, in particular, replicating what the market has been doing and fully utilizing every new tool Facebook has provided to its group platform could be a game changer. At the heart of Facebook’s Group platform is an acute ability to shape the narrative.
How are Facebook Groups being utilized for politics right now?
You’re part of a group.
You’ve seen posts you might not normally share to a general newsfeed but agree with in the safety of your closed group. At the heart of this entire post is that very fact. You have a community you trust, with content that may not be suitable for your broad network, and you’re much more willing to share content/take action within that group.
That’s how the platform is being used.
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Colin Sholes, a liberal activist and digital marketer out of Philadelphia, lays out step by step how to create a group, manage it, and activate it. His Medium post should be a central, technical resource for all candidates, committees and causes on how to organize through Facebook Groups.
At the crux of his article is how you ramp up activism through the platform itself:
“When you’ve reached critical mass, getting your Group to take action is the next step. As Group leader you can coordinate with other organizations to throw your support behind their efforts, and you can organize your own activism via Events on Facebook. Some ideas:
- Phone and E-mail bank for causes in your area. Coordinate Group members sending messages and calling on the same day to amplify the effect.
- Create ‘public’ Events in your area and have everyone in the Group RSVP to them. Some examples would be calling elected reps about an issue, attending a rally or town hall, or carpooling to polling places. RSVP drives will cause Events to have a wide reach as they become suggested to locals.
- Advise members to write ‘public’ posts on their personal Facebook accounts as opposed to sharing links from other Pages, because Facebook weighs personal posts more heavily than shared links when it decides what to show on the Newsfeeds of friends and family outside of your Group.
- Advise members to write ‘public’ posts on their personal Facebook accounts as opposed to sharing links from other Pages, because Facebook weighs personal posts more heavily than shared links when it decides what to show on the Newsfeeds of friends and family outside of your Group.”
When it comes to activating people, Facebook Groups gives you direct access to people, their hearts, their concerns, and their notifications/newsfeeds every, single day.
Are you a candidate in suburban Salt Lake looking to get door knockers based on social issues? Imagine having a captivated audience you built over months who trust you implicitly.
Are you a Tobacco company looking to defeat local 21 ordinances or flavored tobacco bans in each city? Imagine fostering a local city group that trusts you enough to call their city council when prompted.
Are you a Senate candidate who plays well in the metro center, but struggles to gain outstate support? Imagine having a group of hunters and anglers that you exclusively feed environmental policy proposals to over the course of time.
Facebook Group organization and activism is not new. In fact, it’s been happening for years in more progressive circles. But as Facebook adds features, caters content based on group participation, and slowly does away with the current public newsfeed, the land grab for people’s attention only becomes more tantalizing for those who want to shape the narrative in their local communities, states, and countries. One need not look beyond the rampant growth of white supremacist groups on Facebook to know the power that it has. Ideas within a community, even a toxic community, prompt action. You can mobilize knowing that.
How should I utilize Facebook Groups to mobilize people for my candidacy or cause?
First things first, you need to build a Facebook group and have an effective team to manage it. Ridiculous comments, unruly members, and trolls can derail real activate-able audiences quickly. A good overview on creating a Facebook Group can be found here.
Candidates exploring a run for 2020 office should begin NOW. Political causes with a longer legislative play should also begin NOW, as your strategy for execution is going to take TIME.
- Create a Closed Group with a clear signal for your audience: “Citizens for Max Rymer”, “Draft Jon Crappel for Congress” or, if you’re a cause: “Concerned Citizen of Minnesota for Environmental Reform”, etc.
- If you’re running a geographically-relevant campaign (a city council race or a statewide/federal race with diverse agendas in every city), make sure you create MULTIPLE groups that focus on content relevant to that location.
- Develop a public-facing Facebook page to associate with the group. It’s how you’re going to advertise to that group and their friends down the road.
- Create an easy to remember URL for group members, so they might share it with their network.
- Grow the group through direct invites within your immediate network. Develop a system of promotion within the group to appoint moderators.
- Require administrative approval for initial membership and select trusted constituents or members of the group to invite members.
- Continuously post relevant, rich content that Facebook allows: live video, polling, imagery, relevant links to articles surrounding your candidacy or cause, calls to action (donation requests, volunteer opportunities, outrageous news articles that prompt oppositional activism), and fully utilize the platform.
- Begin to open up invites and reach a critical mass. Encourage group members to keep their notifications on and consistently prompt your audience to action. Keep them motivated and engaged in what their specific tasks are.
- Utilize Facebook Pixel to call the audience to new actions through your website. Run ads to lookalike audiences based on those in your group. You’ll be amazed at how much you unearth within those lookalike audiences.
- CONSTANTLY monitor new features. Facebook is prioritizing Groups and will continue to give you new, powerful tools to reach an enclosed, passionate audience.
As Facebook continues to prioritize this content, this mechanism for outreach and this way of engaging with one another, your political candidate or cause will have never-before-seen access to the people who will organize on your behalf willingly. If you’re not utilizing Facebook Groups RIGHT NOW – before you’ve publicly announced or before your C4 is fully formed – you ought to be.