Facebook’s annual F8 conference is a somewhat celebration of everything the social media platform has been working on in the past year. In 2019, developers and entrepreneurs gathered to applaud Mark Zuckerberg’s speech about the importance of privacy, design changes, and the ever-growing importance of community.

“Groups are at the heart of your experience,” affirmed the CEO of Facebook. And it was this importance of connections and bringing people together that raised a few brows, particularly amongst marketers.

With groups receiving a more prominent position in users’ feed, the organic reach of brand Facebook pages inherently decreases. Most brands and content creators have realized that without paying for promotion, their reach is negligible. But fear not – marketers can flourish even in the new community-centered landscape.

Why are Facebook Groups the untapped marketing secret and how can you utilize them to gain a competitive edge?

How Facebook changes the rules of the game

Every marketer knows that social media algorithms are constantly changing. The past few years have seen organic reach shrink, as Facebook moved towards being more of a pay-to-play platform.

The latest milestone of this development has been the greater focus on community interactions across the network. Rather than facilitating exchanges between brands and users, Facebook has introduced a new Group tab, launched a Group-recommending tool with increasingly relevant suggestions, and further strengthened group notifications.

But there’s an opportunity in the way group activity has become increasingly prominent in users’ feed. Smart companies have already tapped into this trend by starting their own Facebook Groups to encourage users to come and share their stories, ideas, and experiences. The benefits are clear: Not only do these interactions happen directly under the baton of the brands themselves, but they are also all organic – the fundamental premise of solid outreach.

The new holy grail for brands?

Building a community where users can share their thoughts, opinions, and feedback is incredibly valuable. When a consumer sees another consumer promoting a brand or talking about it, that exposure is far more effective than paid advertising. In fact, the overwhelming majority of consumers value peer recommendations with 76% saying they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than that shared by brands.

Groups are a place for engaging in dialogue and discussion. Brands can use this to carry out market research, create polls, pose questions to their audience, and promote an event or product launch. The best thing is that within a community setting, users are more likely to engage with the content than if it was posted on the brands’ actual Facebook page. The group setting adds a sense of privacy and trust that is valued by social users.

For example, Peloton, the exercise equipment and media company, has experienced great success with its Facebook Group. “The Official Peloton Member Page” is a closed group that started growing organically since 2015. In 2017, the brand started moderating it. Now the group has almost 200 thousand members and thrives thanks to posts such as biking success stories after injury recovery or group challenges igniting motivation across users.

Groups can also be an important sales funnel. Brands don’t want customers to just buy a product once – but in a group, they can foster loyalty and advocacy. This form of engagement helps brands build upon the audience relationship progressively and ensure they always stay at the top of their customers’ minds.

Making users a part of the community

Any brand eager to start a Facebook Group should consider best practices. The first essential step is to make sure users are actually aware of the group. Brands can promote their group to a specific audience by connecting it to their official Facebook page.

Making the group a part of the company’s comprehensive marketing efforts pays off too. Companies can add the link in email campaigns with a simple question: “Have you joined our Facebook community yet?” to promote it as the discussion hub of the brand and the first place to learn about new products.

Ensuring that users are engaged and excited to be a part of their group is equally critical. Brands can give out exclusive offers to group members, such as coupon codes or information about limited editions. Brands can also reward top contributors with additional benefits to further encourage interactions.

Effective interaction is key. If someone asks a question, it must always be responded to as groups are very visible forums. The more seamless the interaction, the more users will understand the value of the group as queries and concerns are addressed quickly and respectfully.

Most marketers would agree that strong organic reach is more valuable than paid promotion. But with Facebook pushing for user and community content, brands might find themselves between a rock and a hard place. However, this can be overcome by building an engaged community through a Facebook Group that allows brands to build a direct bridge to their audiences.