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Our take on managing successful online communities


6 reasons why you shouldn't just settle for a Facebook group community

Whether you run an existing community or are taking tentative first steps into setting up an online community forum around your brand, an important choice you need to make is between social networks like Facebook or having a community you own and control.

Let's take a look at the benefits of an owned community versus a Facebook group - as well as how you can still use Facebook (and other social media platforms) to your advantage.

 

With an owned community, the rewards of your hard work belong to you and your business alone.

You own your data
The biggest point to consider when using Facebook groups is that you do not own your own data. Facebook owns it and does not even allow you direct access to it. If you decide later to move to a different platform, need to run reports to extract meaningful insights, or otherwise work with your community data: you are out of luck.

In contrast, with an Invision Community, your data is your data. You can use it in any way that makes sense for your goals; be it analyzing trends, sending promotions to users, or generating reports and statistics. We never hold your data hostage and there's no fee to get it.

Beyond owning the data, you also control how it's used and presented. Facebook is notorious for changing algorithms for when (or even if) people see your posts. When you run your own community the experience for your and your users is in your control.

 

Branding opportunities
This is a big one. An owned community gives you the tools you need to make your community a seamless part of your user's interaction with your business. This naturally includes your brand styles (your logo, colors, site navigation and so on) but also your community web address (URL). With an owned community, your URL will be easy to find - customers normally opt for something like forum.yourname.com or community.yourname.com. 

Users will have more confidence that they're in the right place, and more closely associate your community and your message with your brand.

Emails sent out by your owned community can also carry your branding, consistently reinforcing that connection between your business and your community.

And, of course, when users share content from your community to Facebook and other social networks, they're sending users directly to your website where you have the opportunity to lead with your most important call to actions.

 

More control over user experience
All Facebook groups are, essentially, the same experience and yet your business needs almost certainly aren't the same as every other. One size doesn't necessarily fit all when it comes to community!

When you control your own community, you have the ability to control your user's experience. Need to show specific types of data in specific places? You can do that (and more) with Invision Community's easy to use Blocks feature. Need to create a custom community application to serve as a resource center for product support? You can do that too.

Another huge benefit of this control is that, unlike a Facebook Group, users won't be seeing ads and 'recommended content' from competing businesses and communities. With user attention being pulled in so many directions these days, the last thing your community needs is for users to leave because Facebook has suggested a competitor!

 

No barriers to monetization
Not all communities require a monetization strategy. In many cases, the community is part of a larger customer relationship strategy rather than a revenue-generating destination in its own right.

But for those communities that do plan to monetize, options with a Facebook group are at best difficult to act upon, and at worst practically non-existent.

In contrast, Invision Community gives you the opportunity to explore monetization strategies that work for you. These might include paid subscription plans (a particularly attractive option for fan club communities), traditional advertising through Google AdSense and other networks, or sponsorship deals with other businesses that might be relevant to your members. Invision Community has tools for each of these approaches built in, allowing you to start monetizing with minimum fuss.

 

Fine-grained permission controls
Facebook groups struggle to reflect the real-world roles that staff members play in your organization, limiting your choices to 'administrator' or 'moderator'. And the same is true of users, too - your options for recognizing different levels of user (such as VIPs, or brand ambassadors) are limited.

Invision Community is different. Since you are creating and configuring each member group, you can precisely control who can see what, and how they are recognized within the community. You can even sync these roles via Single Sign-On (SSO) making setup and assigning users to groups painless.

For staff groups, you can limit access to key community functions based on roles or responsibilities, ensuring access is granted on an as-needed basis only.

For users, you can get creative and find a group structure that works best for your specific needs. For example, support communities often find that recognizing the most knowledgeable and helpful members with a new member group (complete with elevated permissions) is a great way of engaging users.

And finally, with this control over access, it's very easy to create restricted areas of the community. Whether you want to create a private subforum that staff can use to coordinate tasks or a file repository that's only available to subscribers, Invision Community can achieve it.

 

You can still reap the Facebook benefits
Setting up your community within Facebook's walls might not be the best approach for you. That doesn't mean you should ignore Facebook, however. On the contrary, it's an influential platform and there's a very good chance your users are already using it.

Invision Community offers a number of tools that allow you to benefit from Facebook while avoiding the drawbacks we discussed. We'll go into more detail on utilizing social media in a future article, but to summarize:

  • Invision Community features social sign-in options, enabling users to register and log in using their existing social media accounts, substantially reducing onboarding friction.
  • Content can promoted by staff back to your social network pages, automatically and on a schedule you decide.
  • Invision Community supports automatic embedding of a wide number of social networks (and other services), allowing users to share their favorite Facebook and Twitter posts and spark a whole new conversation - but this time in your community.

 

Summary
When you are creating an online community for your business or hobby it is important to think about your goals and future growth by choosing a platform that is there to work for your needs.

When you establish your community on Facebook, you're helping to grow someone else's business (including, potentially, your competitors!) and hoping that some of those spoils fall to you. With an owned community, the rewards of your hard work belong to you and your business alone.

Invision Community has been enabling users and businesses to communicate online since 2002, and we're proud of our reputation as a platform that puts control in your hands. Contact us if you'd like to discuss how we can help you too.
 


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We use Sharing to our corresponding Facebook.Group as a method of getting new members. It drives a lot of traffic to the site, and many then Sign Up for broader access. The last snapshot I took, 12% of our new traffic was coming from Facebook.

That is why I was so disappointed not to be able to Promote to a Facebook Group....

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15 minutes ago, KentT said:

We use Sharing to our corresponding Facebook.Group as a method of getting new members. It drives a lot of traffic to the site, and many then Sign Up for broader access. The last snapshot I took, 12% of our new traffic was coming from Facebook.

That is why I was so disappointed not to be able to Promote to a Facebook Group....

What do you use your group for? Do you run two communities or is there overlap?

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Good and weighty arguments from @Rikki
Who knows, maybe the future communities will be others and IPS will beat the Facebook at all.
All the more so the Facebook is experiencing security problems these days:

So, according to his strategy for transparency, they can become like faeces happened in The Circle movie:

Till then the IPS team have a spirit of warrior - i will be fight together on my community (i mean to use IPS products). No matter the Facebook is, the members are the first of all and the main focus, as well as private life:

 

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The main reason to not use Facebook/Twitter/Google+ is to fight against centralization of Internet, which hurts freedom of speech. Privacy issues and data ownership are other extremely important reasons.

I'm really glad that we have IPS as an alternative community building tool. I also hope that IPS will eventually have built-in functionality to interact with Diaspora and Mastodon (decentralized alternatives to Facebook and Twitter).

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23 hours ago, Matt said:

What do you use your group for? Do you run two communities or is there overlap?

Let me set some context, before I explain. My site is a 19 year old virtual club for enthusiasts and collectors of a specific brand of antique garden tractors. It includes a significant online library of contributed resources of all types, plus an active Classifieds ads (free) that allows them to buy, sell or trade for free with real folks avoiding Craigslist scammers and hassles ( we have always required users to provide their real name, city, state) or eBay costs. It also supports an aftermarket of reproduction parts. In addition to researching and finding things or asking questions, users can document their collection and their projects in a variety of ways (a custom tractor registry - now using Pages + collections, photo gallery, build log blog, a Show & Tell forum specifically for that, etc.)

We also have a Facebook page and a Facebook group. The page is simply to stake a place and hang a shingle on Facebook - because we are a virtual club, many of the FB tools for a business owner to use on their page simply does not apply - and most imprtantly, because search engines and such penalize me if I don't have one. Consequently that page doesn't see much traffic, and the content is not very dynamic. The Facebook Group is used to "push" key things from my site into Facebook so that users can then share that info with their friends, family, other groups, etc. We share new classified ads, blog updates, new photo gallery items, new registry entries, etc - so that our users who are in Facebook can then share their hobby with their friends, family, etc. My site has over 9000 users, and the FB group has over 1000 members.

We do not actively encourage users to post in that FB group, much less use it for general chit-chat. Similarly, we don't encourage status updates on the club site.  I really don't care what they had for lunch, what their kids/grandkids now look like, or where they went on vacation. But, if they have something significant or meaningful related to their tractor hobby, I want to capture that, catalog/index it, and save it for posterity (rather than it disappear with the latest Photobucket policy change, when MySpace or or other free photo repository fades away, etc.) I want to add that to our knowledge base and repository and make it easily searchable and shareable.

In addition, we have a News and Announcements forum for news about the club, the site, or its software - and we share all topics in it to Facebook. Meanwhile, our moderators also monitor that Facebook group and should someone ask a question there, they respond and if possible provide a link back to the site for more details, resources, etc. 

We try to use Facebook as a means for our users to share info about their hobby with a wider audience, to "market" who we are and what we can provide to a wider audience (especially younger users who live in their phones but may seldom use a computer), and as a way to broadcast news and updates about the site and the club. I don't try to compete head to head with FB, while fully acknowledging that it is a part of many of our users lives, and simply want to facilitate that...

So, things I would like to see are:

1. Ability to Promote to a Group in addition to a Page

2. Ability to auto-promote new content from specific parts of my site, to reduce the workload of moderators manually sharing (or promoting) content, and let them work in a "by exception" mode, similar to how they police the forums.

 3. Ideally, I'd like to see the ability to automatically feed or pull back to my site any Facebook reactions or comments to content that has been shared or promoted there...

 

Edited by KentT

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On 05/11/2017 at 2:12 AM, KentT said:

So, things I would like to see are:

1. Ability to Promote to a Group in addition to a Page

2. Ability to auto-promote new content from specific parts of my site, to reduce the workload of moderators manually sharing (or promoting) content, and let them work in a "by exception" mode, similar to how they police the forums.

 3. Ideally, I'd like to see the ability to automatically feed or pull back to my site any Facebook reactions or comments to content that has been shared or promoted there...

Amen +1

Reading through we do a similar thing with our sites where we try to use FB as a feeder to the main site. It doesn't always work, hence the desperate need for the above 3 points.

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Another reason: Facebook is not anonym. There are a lot of things in our lives that we would not share with our real names. E. g. health, family planning etc. This part will never be covered by Facebook entirely, in all parts of our live.

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1 hour ago, Sabiza said:

You can always have a fake profile... this point is not valid at all. ;)

Most of the internet users are not skilled in the internet privacy. I want believe that you know, that not the only fake profile can protect you from identification, but several tools more: VPN, proxy, TOR, etc, etc.

They can read messages, learn friends network, analyse likes and comments, listen your device and camera, and know who you are real behind the fake profile. This year, one bank CEO said on the conference, that AI needs to analyse only 150 likes to know the person better then his relatives. Facebook and others are not social technology, but the government and intelligence agency tools. Every user has bold internet trace. Just imagine yourself as paranoic gov and you will see the truth. Do you really believe that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs (RIP) could ever dictate one's terms to the govs?!

 

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12 minutes ago, O9C4 said:

Most of the internet users are not skilled in the internet privacy. I want believe that you know, that not the only fake profile can protect you from identification, but several tools more: VPN, proxy, TOR, etc, etc.

And you guess that the community forums provide you any kind of privacy? ;) I suppose your answer is also applicable for any website with cookies.

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Facebook has become this scary entity that has really swallowed up communities. I see new groups pop up on Facebook that eclipse forum communities in both membership and activity.

BUT... most activity on Facebook is a flash-in-the-pan. Discussions I see are quick thoughts or image posts with little content that get some quick likes then fade. Any meaningful communication can get buried quickly. With forum communities old convos can rise back to the top and active threads can keep going.

All these people putting time into building communities on Facebook are doing it for someone else! You don't own your data, can't predict changes in the system, or even build what you want. It is something that has grown out of convenience.

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3 hours ago, mudcrutch said:

Facebook has become this scary entity that has really swallowed up communities. I see new groups pop up on Facebook that eclipse forum communities in both membership and activity.

BUT... most activity on Facebook is a flash-in-the-pan. Discussions I see are quick thoughts or image posts with little content that get some quick likes then fade. Any meaningful communication can get buried quickly. With forum communities old convos can rise back to the top and active threads can keep going.

All these people putting time into building communities on Facebook are doing it for someone else! You don't own your data, can't predict changes in the system, or even build what you want. It is something that has grown out of convenience.

Agreed! Just this morning we were talking with someone who currently runs a Facebook group but is looking to move to an owned forum approach instead - primarily because it allows him to monetize his community as an essential part of his business, but also because he's finding Facebook's tools for dealing with group membership aren't sufficient for his needs.

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8 hours ago, Sabiza said:

You can always have a fake profile... this point is not valid at all. ;)

A lot of people DO have a non-fake Facebook account and do not want to create another one just to have anonymity with their private stuff.

Creating another account is against Facebook rules and such accounts can be suspended: You will not create more than one personal account. (Rule 4.2 of Facebook’s terms)

Edited by Sonya*

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4 hours ago, mudcrutch said:

BUT... most activity on Facebook is a flash-in-the-pan. Discussions I see are quick thoughts or image posts with little content that get some quick likes then fade. Any meaningful communication can get buried quickly. With forum communities old convos can rise back to the top and active threads can keep going.

In a nutshell this is why I hate FB. Yes my groups are more active, but that's because you get asked the same questions over and over. People can't/wont use the search or follow instructions on a pinned post or even read documentation in the files sections on FB

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We have a forum with 17 years and a facebook group, both with more than 350k users and I can say that if there is no improvement in the ease of use of the forums and especially a better notification system for mobile users, Facebook will swallow and centralize everything very soon. When I talk about making it easier to use it is because Facebook is dumbing down people so easy it is to use and if the forums do not go that way it will be a matter of time to disappear all

Edited by Silnei L Andrade

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17 years and 350k members

And I present to your attention the new form of community, with only 1 year 350k members.

img-2017-11-08-14-11-52.thumb.png.fb8674f1649f0a77bd71814641c17719.png

How to beat this? 

The same situation with Telegram, Facebook Messenger, even Skype, etc

That is the challenge for IPS.

invisioncommunity needs urgent to go this way and that is the 100% win story will be. IPS is only need mobile integration (messenger style) with all the available community features and no one other app will beat this.

Edited by O9C4

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Yes, one of the big problems is also Instant Messengers like WhatsApp. The biggest problem to face are mobile notifications. They have turned users into 24-hour connected slaves, and if forums do not advance in that line, it will be complicated. The trump card of the forums is still the quality and organization of content that is found via Google, but this way of using the web is changing rapidly. People are deluding themselves that there will always be someone willing to answer any question promptly, so information repositories are getting outdated ever faster. All of this is a great challenge for everyone. But still think the way is the extreme ease of use and invest everything in MOBILE. An app in some native mobile language to make forums faster would make all the difference.

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The paradox is that our page on Facebook has 735,000 followers and the forum has not yet hit the 400,000 users. What we are doing now is creating content for this page through our blog. We became slaves to Mark Zuckerbeg, us and almost every newspaper in the world, lol! Now regarding the ease of sharing the content of the blog on Facebook to bring these users to us, Wordpress facilitates this work. Already to promote a forum page in our Facebook fanpage, I need to manually add the og: image attribute through the Live Meta Tag Editor tool. In Wordpress this is automatic, since the featured photo in the post automatically generates this Facebook Open Graph tag.

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IPS can also provide the Developers API support, so the other members could participate in developing the global app - especially IPS already have its own IPS Developer Resources. With the right strategy, IPS can win the challenge against the centralized social networks and instant messengers.

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I'm still confused why IPS has the board index links to these blog posts go to the comments section. I assumed (years ago) it was a bug, because why would someone want to start reading the comments before reading the blog post? And I don't know what it does in other browsers, but in both IE and Edge, it goes to the bottom of the comments, too, so requires scrolling up through every comment on the page and the whole blog entry.

Then, after reading everything, the board index links go to the top where the post is. (actually I am not even sure if this is blog or not, but I am talking about whatever is being used for these news posts... I haven't used blog in a while).

Edited by Midnight Modding

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