Digital consultant Rick O’Neill explains the benefits of Facebook groups for growing your practice
There can be little doubt that social media is a powerful tool for engaging patients and growing a medical aesthetic practice. But while you may have ‘followers’ on standard Instagram and Facebook pages, do you really have a community?
It’s this subtle but important difference that means the ‘closed’ nature of Facebook groups can bring a different dimension to your online engagement and bring your patients and potential patients together into a community, leading to deeper and often more meaningful interactions. In this article, I’ll explore the differences between pages and groups, and look at the ways groups can be used to grow your practice.
Facebook and Instagram pages are your public-facing presence and are your platforms for broadcasting to your patients and to the public. They are essential if you want to run advertising campaigns and are also indexed by search engines, allowing anyone to follow and engage with your business. Content on these pages tends towards being curated, branded, and considered.
Facebook groups, used by 1.4 billion people every month,1 are a semi-closed (depending on the type of group, you often have to apply to join) place where your patients and potential patients can gather around your brand for deeper discussion, to ask the questions they may not be comfortable asking in a more public place. This allows them to get to know you much more, as well as each other.
Essentially, Facebook pages are for broadcast whereas Facebook groups are for discussion.
1. Groups offer a ‘direct line’ to your patients and potential patients. Those that join groups have often had to apply to do so, and sometimes they’ll need to have answered a few questions or agreed to some rules before joining. They are there with purpose, so are likely your most engaged customers. This presents you with the opportunity to really learn and gather insights from these people that know your business best, and then implement those insights into your future content and engagement plans.
2. You will enjoy increased reach. Facebook’s algorithm is designed to feature content from groups with high engagement.2 The more you and your group members are posting and interacting with one another, the more your content will feature in their News Feed, increasing your natural reach way beyond that of a standard Facebook page (with Facebook pages having an average natural reach of just 5.2% of your total audience, and still declining).3
3. Benefit from having a forum for discussion. Facebook groups are not just for you as the group/business owner and can be just as beneficial for the group members. Members benefit from the ability to post questions, talk to other patients, discuss pros and cons of treatments in an environment that provides not only the technical ability to do so, but the feeling of sufficient privacy. This in turn positions you and your practice as the facilitator and expert on-hand, and could lead to increased enquiries as a result. To avoid your patients getting overfamiliar, it’s important to set clear rules, moderate the page, and work on the tone of your responses, to ensure you continue to be seen as the professional in the room.
4. Groups can grow by referral. Unlike a standard Facebook or Instagram page, groups have a simple mechanism enabling any member to invite a friend or contact to join (pending acceptance from the group admin). This can lead to organic growth of the group and brings new potential patients into your community.
5. Establish your credibility. In groups, you have the opportunity to lead the community and demonstrate your expertise and credibility in deeper and more meaningful ways than you might be able to achieve on public-facing pages. For example, you can run Facebook Lives to your group members, and answer questions in real time utilising the real-time comment facility. You are also the moderator, so you set the rules, decide what members can or can’t post, and this allows you to create an empowering environment in which your patients feel comfortable and protected.
6. Facebook Lives in groups offer a new level of engagement. Facebook Lives, on average, get 10 times more comments than a pre-recorded video.4 A Facebook Live is a feature that uses the camera on a computer or mobile device to broadcast a real-time video to the platform. Broadcasting through Facebook Live within a group means you not only have an increased level of engagement, but within a community that you can reach much more readily than on a page (thanks to the algorithm favouring group content), and to a group of your most engaged patients or potential patients. Broadcasting at a regular weekly time is good practise and allows your members to add the viewing to their diaries.
Instagram Live can still be good for your outward/public social media efforts, but those interacting on Facebook and within a closed group are, in my experience, likely to feel more comfortable in asking questions, and providing more details, than they might on Instagram.
Some good examples of well-established Facebook groups within the aesthetics industry include The Aesthetic Entrepreneurs, the AlumierMD Professionals Forum, Champions Under Construction (by The Wonder Clinic, Bristol), Skin Deep West Mids and Staffs (by Sally Wagstaff), and The Lynton Lasers Customer Forum.
With a public Facebook group, anyone can see what members post or share. If they have a Facebook account, they can also see a list of members, admins and moderators.
The benefit of a public group is that you’ll be visible to all potential group members and customers, and there’s no barrier to join. There’s also no need for the admin to manually admit every single new member to the group. However, the downside to this is that with literally anyone being able to join, you have no real control over the community and content can spiral out of control and be difficult to moderate. Groups are affiliated with your business, so it’s important to consider the potential reputational damage that could occur from having a large, difficult to moderate, public group.
Private visible groups
Private Facebook groups can appear in searches, but those wishing to join must be manually accepted by the group admins.
Only accepted members can see who else is on the member list, as well as what they’re posting and sharing. This means the group is accessible, but exclusive private visible groups are a good option for aesthetics practices as they are findable, but still controlled.
Private and hidden (secret)
Private and hidden Facebook groups (also known as secret groups) do not appear in searches. Secret Facebook groups have the same privacy settings as private visible groups (only current members can see posts and the membership list), but they are hidden to the general public. So, the only way to join is by being personally invited by the group admin. This type of group can be more effort to grow, but can work well if you want to create an exclusive community.
Creating a group Creating your Facebook group is a simple process. In the latest version of Facebook, on a laptop, you will see a ‘+’ button towards the top right of the screen. Clicking that will show a list of features that you can choose from, one of which is ‘group’. From there you will be walked through the process to establish your group, including choosing your group type, from the options highlighted above. Once you’ve done this, it is good practise to then take the additional step of adding your Facebook page as a second administrator of the group. This then associates your page with your group, helping patients and followers to find you. Once the group has been created, you can then include it in your onboarding process (inviting new patients to join the group), and promote it on your other social channels, and in email campaigns as a benefit of being a patient. Posting into groups is very similar to posting onto your pages, but you will find there are different options depending on the type of group you’ve chosen. This can include different formatting options for caption text, posting files into the group, and running polls.
Establishing and running a Facebook group is a commitment. Here are some tips based on my own personal experience of running the Aesthetic Entrepreneurs – Digital Facebook Group:
1. Establish the rules. Setting a few simple rules for your group and asking members to agree to them before joining creates a clear expectation and will ensure members feel confident that the group will be of a certain quality. Here are some good example rules for a Facebook group:
2. Be a great host. When new members join, announce them to the group, welcome them in, and let them know what they can expect and how to navigate the existing content.
3. Be consistent, but not overwhelming. Establish some regular posts or types of discussion and stick to them. Be consistent, i.e. this type of post happens every Wednesday night and this one happens every Friday morning. Don’t overwhelm the group with too much content – members don’t want to feel saturated or spammed. A good frequency would be every other day.
4. Use insights to post at peak times. Facebook group admins get access to a suite of analytics and insights reports which tell you in detail what kind of content is getting the most engagement, and when are the peak times for your group. Use these insights to determine what you should be posting.
5. Keep group content different to page content. It might be tempting at first to simply post the same content from your page into your group. However, this defeats the object and benefits of having a group. Your group content should be unique, more intimate, more informal perhaps.
6. Protect the members by being a good moderator. When members break the rules, politely remind them, or remove them if they persist. This will show other members that this is a well-moderated group and a comfortable environment for them to hold discussions or ask questions.
7. Create exclusive group content. Create exclusive ‘first looks’, or special access for your group members so that they feel a real benefit to being part of it. For example, a clinic can reveal new treatment machines or treatment types to their group members first, to gauge feedback, and answer questions.
8. Make time. Facebook groups take time and effort to keep alive and engaged, so ensure you set aside the time each week to post content and respond to discussions. If you have a team member that you trust, then group moderation and management can be trained and delegated.
The best way to start is actually with a pen and paper! Map out your plan for the group, who will join, what the content will focus on, and some ideas for regular topics. Once you’ve got your plan, and some initial posts/topics, create your group and invite a handful of your regular patients into the group as founding members. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your group established soon!
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