8 people on how to use Facebook groups for free, marketing

  • Around this time last year, Facebook experienced its first drop in users.
  • Still, more than 1.8 billion users flock to the site to become part of Facebook’s “team” communities.
  • Insider spoke to people who use groups for parenting advice, fan clubs and running businesses.

Between privacy violations, misinformation, hate speech and more, Facebook is no stranger to bad press. The company recently saw a decline in users for the first time in the last quarter of 2021. However, more than 1.8 billion people still use Facebook for a feature that sets it apart from other platforms: groups.

Users turn to these groups for career advice, item upgrades, parenting tips, and even to promote their small businesses. This is not only due to the huge variety of Facebook groups to join, but also thanks to a wide network of volunteer moderators and administrators who keep them running.

Small and specialized support groups

Siblings Raising Siblings is a small group started by Heather Dennis, who has been raising her two younger siblings since she was 21. As a sibling guardian, he relied on food stamps and struggled to get legal and financial support.

“I wanted to make a career change and be able to help other people who are in the situation I once was,” said Denise, who started the Facebook group as part of her master’s program in social work. The online community welcomes caregivers and their dependent siblings from around the world, whose parents either could not or would not fulfill their parental responsibilities.

Learning new things

Cassier Weiner participates in over 50 Facebook groups mostly based on hobbies. Although Weiner has seen many people behave in nasty ways on the platform, she stays away from toxic comment sections. Although she doesn’t have a favorite team, she likes to learn new things through different ones. An example of a group that regularly visits is called “Home for Peculiar Artists”.

“This is a home for art that is any medium, outside of the mainstream,” Weiner said. “I like this team because you see so much creativity and everyone is there to encourage each other.”

Cassier Weiner stands in front of a hot dog mural.

Cassier Weiner stands in front of a hot dog mural.

Cassier Weiner

Opportunities to connect locally

“The Buy Nothing Project” is a global network of Facebook groups that aims to help people give away things or ask for things they need without any exchange of money or exchange. In densely populated areas such as Brooklyn, these groups are divided into neighborhoods.

After having her baby, Sonya Reynolds turned to a Brooklyn neighborhood group with more than 2,000 members for help with items. She said she hasn’t had to buy anything new and has gotten everything she needs from neighbors, except for a few perishable items like diapers.

Sonya Reynolds in a park with her child.

Sonya Reynolds in a park with her child.

Sonya Reynolds

“We got a crib and a stroller through the local Buy Nothing Group and it completely changed my perspective on consumerism,” Reynolds said.

The members’ generosity just seems to beget more generosity in the neighborhood, he said. It has also turned her into an enthusiast for giving things away and avoiding online shopping.

Doreen Maag, another neighbor in Brooklyn, said being part of the Buy Nothing group has been socially beneficial, helping to connect her to the community during the pandemic lockdown.

“We’ve gotten to know more of our neighbors through this group than any other way,” Maag said, adding that she found it easier to drop off sentimental items when she knows someone nearby will use it personally.

Strong leadership of coordinators and managers

However, Facebook groups are not all happy and it takes many volunteer hours to manage these communities. Some groups have seen behaviors like doxxing, where personal information about users is published. This led them to demonstrate their values ​​upfront as “The Non-Toxic Star Wars Fanbase”.

As membership grew from 2,000 to more than 81,000, former moderator Nick Chamberlin began to see more toxicity in the group. That’s when the team decided to tighten up the questions and admissions rules.

Nick Chamberlin wears sunglasses and headphones while operating a large camera.

Nick Chamberlin wears sunglasses and headphones while operating a large camera.

Nick Chamberlin

An interview process is required to become one of the team leaders, which ensures that watchers understand how to handle misbehavior. A shared chat room is used to communicate around the world, covering multiple time zones, so there’s always someone watching.

When there are disagreements, they discuss it in the chat and vote. Leaders interact regularly within the online community, building trust among members.

Sarah Dahan, an online community strategist, said the root of a thriving online and offline community is maintaining a consistent value system.

Sarah Dahan stands in front of a yellow taxi.

Sarah Dahan stands in front of a yellow taxi.

Sarah Dahan

For example, the “Buy Nothing Team” upholds the values ​​of generosity, sustainability and a focus on the environment. If someone tries to sell an item, the moderators will intervene with a comment that this is against the group rules and ask them to delete or adjust their post. Members are also encouraged to request something they are looking for or need before purchasing it new.

Buy Nothing team member Maag said she likes it when she sees “people rushing to the comments to help someone who’s asking,” and Dahan said that kind of culture of values ​​that emerges is key to not becoming toxic a community.

Because moderators often keep their profiles public to receive messages, it leaves them vulnerable to harassment and even death threats. Chamberlin said Facebook does its part when it comes to such threats, blocking or terminating accounts when such users are reported.

Cliff Lamb, a University of Michigan information professor and expert on online communities, said moderators have an emotionally draining role. Lambe said they often have to deal with conflict and can experience burnout.

“Coordinators should have a succession plan,” Dr Lambe said. “Identifying, training and investing in volunteer members.”

Facebook is doing its part

Jonathan Twombly runs a real estate business through his “Multifamily Investment Community” Facebook group, which has about 12,000 members. It relies on a team management service in the Philippines, a few friends and volunteers to moderate the page.

Jonathan Twombly in a green shirt.

Jonathan Twombly in a green shirt.

Jonathan Twobley

But in recent years, he said he’s seen downsides to using Facebook. One problem is seeing some appropriate content flagged by the system while inappropriate content gets passed. A bigger, more persistent issue is Facebook changing its algorithm without warning, which can affect what a user often sees on the platform.

Lambe said coordinators and team founders can only do so much. He believes groups can be improved with more granular moderation tools, such as the ability to remove the use of emoji reactions, and more mechanisms for crowdsourced moderation, such as Reddit upvoting and downvoting. Lambe also believes that moderators should have more resources than they already have, such as mental health professionals who specialize in online harassment.

“Facebook itself has a moral responsibility from a technological standpoint, because algorithms versus individual humans is never a fair fight,” Lambe said.

Policing and individual responsibility

Given the way algorithms guide users to specific content, it can be difficult for monitors to keep up with everything posted in their group.

Michelle Kim is one of 560,000 members of the Noodles and Asian Dishes group. She said growing up on different online platforms as a member of Gen Z gave her intuition about how to avoid group toxicity.

Michelle Kim sits in front of the greenery in a white dress.

Michelle Kim sits in front of the greenery in a white dress.

Michelle Kim

Kim believes Facebook was meant to connect people locally, but said she sees more people using it as if they were completely anonymous. Sometimes she responds to a mean comment once, but sets a boundary not to engage again.

Kim says she uses Instagram for friendships, TikTok “just for fun” and stays on Facebook for the groups and because some family members are on it. She finds the groups most useful to her as a resource for finding roommates, renters, and freelance writing opportunities.

“Facebook groups are underutilized by people my age,” Kim said. “If you haven’t been doing it since you were 10, it’s considered archaic. But it’s a really cool way to do hobbies that I really enjoy, while also getting great knowledge and advice on certain things.”

Despite Facebook’s constant pitfalls, Lampe said groups are perhaps the biggest benefit to people using the platform. At least that’s the case for Cassie Weiner, who said she only uses it to her advantage.

“Facebook is as good or as bad as you make it,” Weiner said. “I choose to let it only be good.”

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