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The Pitfalls Of Running Your Community On A Social Network (In 2023)

 | by 
Abhinav Arora
Abhinav Arora
min read

Facebook Groups became the go-to for many course creators - and it worked. But, today there's a risk.

The Pitfalls Of Running Your Community On A Social Network (In 2023)
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Facebook as a platform might have lost its relevance over the years but there was a time when the whole world was on Facebook. Remember how we all used to play Farmville and Candy Crush on Facebook inviting friends for lives? This was the earliest form of how Facebook used incentives to bring back members to its platform. Facebook Groups did something similar.

The emergence (or re-emergence) of Facebook Groups

Source: CNBC

Facebook somehow realized that only its News Feed was not enough to engage and retain people. This made Mark Zuckerberg shift companies' focus to communities post 2016.

What did he do? He gave more algorithmic reach to conversations happening inside Facebook Groups. This encouraged many course creators to focus on building a community on Facebook Groups.

Why do "Groups" matter to course creators in the first place?

There's a statistic you know but you'd hate to admit. Only 5%-15% of learners ever complete a pre-recorded online course. Even if you're contemplating building your first course - this is a stat I had to tell you.

Source: Edsurge

This means, over 85% of people who pay for your course - never really consume the value you've built for them. And it doesn't have anything to do with selling cheap courses (like Udemy does for $10) - the pattern is similar even if you buy something for $3000.

- What's the problem?

Remember we all buy more books than we can ever read? Learners enroll for a course with the same excitement as buying a book. In both cases, the excitement is about:

1) Finding a solution for a pressing pain point (via the book / course)

2) Buying that solution

Both of these are forms of pleasure. Buying is celebratory. However, being disciplined enough to take action is not.

This is a consumer behavior that plagues several other businesses too. 

- Why is it bad? 

Because if your consumer buys the product and never derives the value - chances are they'd not buy again. This hurts your business. 

Software companies face this the most - which is why they have a fleet of "customer success" representatives to make sure the customers "use" the product well.

To solve this for an education business, take a moment to think about where people go to complete courses and even finish gruesome textbooks.

Inside a classroom (or a college).

Learning, by design, takes a toll on you. It's a sort of suffering that you undertake. In a classroom, it becomes more possible because of social motivations. However, in isolation - it can leave you frustrated, bored and lonely.

This is exactly the experience that your online courses offer. It isn't just boring; studies have shown it’s also not a very effective way to absorb or retain knowledge.

Fortunately, there's a simple way for you to get people to complete your course. 

- Introducing the power of an online community

Classrooms and colleges are the strongest example of a community. They're also one of the most memorable experiences of one's lifetime.

If you manage to add a classroom or a college campus experience to your program - you boost student satisfaction, engagement, and completion rates. In fact, it's not uncommon for your students to want to take up another follow-on course that you run. In a business sense, that's a repeat purchase by the same buyer.

- Facebook Groups solved all this (and more)

Course creators using Facebook Groups to run their course communities saw an uplift in their course sales by at least 50-60%. Why? 

Firstly, the community acted as a warm-up funnel for members to make them aware about the creator’s offering.

Secondly, the members could ask questions to the creator and fellow members and solve their objections to buying that product.

Thirdly, they could get sneak-peaks of the paid offering as the creator could do occasional live-streams breaking down the product and letting in access to some bits of the course.

Fourth, the community was the value add as you can get answers to your questions and share valuable stuff amongst each other.

Lastly, the group facilitated social selling. When members who bought the course shared their results and testimonials, this acted like a trigger for more people to buy the course.

Case in point: Depesh Mandalia 

Depesh's free Facebook group

Depesh Mandalia runs a Facebook Ads Agency and built a very popular course around that. He started a Facebook group by the name “Facebook Ads Expert Academy” which today houses 20k+ members.

This was his “nurturing community” where he shared snippets of his knowledge, hosted events and live streams. 

Depesh would shared often share success stories from his program - this "nurtures" more people into buying.

But more popularly, the free Facebook group became internet's favorite place to discuss Facebook ads (trends, doubts, changes, etc) where marketers (new & experienced) got together. 

His program, the “BPM Method” too has a small Facebook group - only accessible if you buy the course. The premium community is separate from the free community and only has 450ish members. This community is a “value add” for his course - because this an inner circle of Depesh's students where they get personal attention from Depesh & team.

Depesh's paid course group

Many more course creators sprouted on Facebook groups and followed the exact above model. But this was 2015-2020

Are Facebook Groups STILL Reliable?

Things changed over time. I remember seeing this post recently:

The risk involved: you are at the mercy of Facebook

This is a possibility that creators are wary of in 2023. Countless creators accounts get flagged, taken down, banned or shut (across social media for various reasons) and there's no revival. If that could happen to creator pages, it could happen to Facebook groups too - and it did.

Source: Naval Ravikant

Social media is good for customer discovery. But building a full-time base on it is very dicey for a business. What's the solution? I explore this topic in detail (click here).

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