Building Reader Subscription through Facebook Groups

Building Reader Subscription through Facebook Groups

The new Facebook newsfeed algorithm persuades publishers to rethink their content strategy. Facebook plans to promote user content, and to thereby de-prioritize content from publishers, brands, celebrities, and other Facebook pages. Most publishers predict this change to be the end of Facebook dependence. Arguably though, Facebook has a daily user base of around 1.4 billion users, a number too large to ignore.

Facebook Groups are the New Page

The new algorithm is all about connecting friends, family and communities. Facebook groups by themselves are all about communities! Acknowledging this change, big names in the industry including The New York Times and Buzzfeed have already launched special-interest groups on the platform.

Why Facebook Groups?

Facebook groups are not just an alternative for referral traffic to your website but also a tool to build great reader relationship. Groups are where you deliver content for members with niche interests. These groups drive readership, engagement and build direct bonds with readers, which ultimately leads to subscriptions.

The Washington Post for example, has been growing subscriptions with its Facebook group ‘Post This’ and recognises it as an efficient way to promote accountable journalism that garners more subscribers.

So How to go about Creating and Managing your Facebook Group?

Choose niche interest topics

As a first step, decide the topics on which you will be creating your groups. Address the below questions before you get started:

  • What is the USP of my brand?
  • What are the causes that you as an organisation really cares about?
  • What do your people love talking about?
  • What are topics that are trending right now?
  • Which topics do your readers engage a with the most?

Brainstorm with your whole team and arrive at ideas for these topics. Assign each group to a journalist, who would lead and manage discussions on the group page. This practice also builds the credibility of your brand as a journalist, which further increases the number of subscribers.

Your group need not be a long term plan. You could create short-term groups similar to how PBS NewsHour created a group during the 2016 election debates. You could also create it specific to locations for which your topics are most relevant. E.g.Boston globe media created the group - ‘Things to do around Boston’.

Set the Rules

Treat your group just like an organisation and set all the by-laws.

  • What is your group’s aim and objective?
  • Who are the admins?
  • What are their powers?
  • Who are the members?

Choosing members is one of the most important decisions for your group. Ensure that your audience is limited. Selecting a privileged list of members ensures that readers feel special, and drives quality discussions. For this reason, set up rules for entry to your group. Asking topic related questions serves as a screening process. Remember that your audience is representative of your forum.

It would also be ideal to lay down strict ground rules to ensure that comments on your group are not derogatory.

The Boston Globe media has a strict delete policy against commercial messages, foul language and personal messaging.

Driving Engagement

“It’s engagement, it’s community, it’s urging people to build conversation around your stories,” - Meena Thiruvengadam, Bloomberg News

Engagement is key to the success of any group. Post content that sparks discussions and debates, and use more interactive forms of content like polls and quizzes. Bloomberg’s Facebook group ‘Money talks’ came up with a 30-day challenge to get people to improve their financial health. Explore such innovative ideas in your field to drive engagement while making sure you that have a strict content strategy and schedule. Posting regularly is mandate to driving more engagement.

Always remember that your primary aim is to deliver what is valuable to your group and that posting content is just one of the ways you do it. That being said, posting anything that's relevant to your group works - do not restrict posts to your content alone.

Get Feedback

Use all the data that you have access to. See what works and why. Also get direct feedback from your members. The New York Times has used this understanding to invite five of their group members to provide consistent and valuable feedback about their group.

Facebook groups are a great way to build your subscription base, one that doesn't cost you much money or time. Make the most of it!

Quintype’s content management system(CMS) can share your stories directly from the editor to Facebook. We also help you manage reader subscriptions. Leave a comment below or write to [email protected]

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