Do online social groups really work?

Been pondering over this for the past few days now. I am a part of several groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and even a few online (reddit-style) forums. And I’ll be the first to say that I get immense value from the forums and a couple of Facebook groups that I’m a part of, probably because it’s a paid community (one has to sign up for a program to be part of such a group).

I’ve heard and been encouraged to create my own specialised groups and invite my target audience to be part of them. I’ve been skeptical about it for a bunch of reasons. Here are a few:

  1. The whole idea of a group is engagement, collaboration and sharing information that’s isn’t just useful but also appreciated. I noticed that the most prestigious names have groups in their names with over 100,000 members! But the average engagement level is ashamedly low! And I don’t get it! Everyone’s busy posting their own curated content or sharing stuff that they’ve already shared in like a dozen other groups!
  2. Everyone inside the group already knows the purpose and strategy. Someone, most likely the group owner, will be reaching out to them for a “warm introduction” and explore avenues to “help each other.” You know how that goes. I’m not sure how efficient that strategy is. It’s a waste of time when you could be doing something better.
  3. Aren’t people sick of all that content thrown at them? They get a bunch of content in their feeds, groups, WhatsApp, feed readers and of course, emails! Who’s got the time to engage and read all that content?

Now, I’m not saying online groups on LinkedIn and Facebook are useless. I’m just concerned about the purpose of these groups. And I’ve personally noticed that the most active groups are the ones that are united by a common goal — coaches, speakers, trainers, marketers, leaders, doctors and so on. Another characteristics of such groups is that entry isn’t free and is often limited or subject to meeting certain (often stringent) criteria.

And let me tell you, being part of such groups is worth the time and effort you’ll be spending. Because everyone wants to grow and develop! A common goal, remember?

Yesterday I reviewed a LinkedIn group with more than 350,000 people in it. I scrolled through the most recent 100 posts (and 100% of them were curated/not original) to average out the number of likes. There were only 24 likes in all! For a 100 posts 24 likes and there are 350,000 people in the fucking group! What the hell is going on?

I wish I had an answer for that.

But here’s another interesting observation — the best out there aren’t really creating groups. They are creating content (or curating it, but giving their own spin to it hence making it more valuable) and putting it out consistently. The focus is on building value instead of groups that basically act as a funnel (and a very inefficient one at that) to reach the target audience.

GaryVee is right — you eat shit and just focus on creating value for the first 5-6 years doing what you love and just enjoy the process. Good things will happen. Eventually. You just got to be patient.

I know you’ve heard this enough times but I’m going to say this anyway — stop hoping for a quick win. This takes time. Just do what you have to do and keep doing it. Enjoy the process… if you can’t, learn to enjoy it. There’s no way around it!

Create content. Something that you deeply care about. And do that with love.

Sales folks — if you’re desperate about qualified leads, I can empathise. But you need to give the audience great value first. That could mean creating that infographic or cheatsheet that just might come off of your company’s secret recipe or whatever you think is valuable to your potential client.

Once you have that, DM/InMail or just message these folks like crazy (LinkedIn is the best for this, IMHO)! Yup, manually. Set a target outreach everyday and stick with it. Commit to at least 2-3 hours everyday. Engage with your potential audience. Have conversations with them. Craft those emails instead of using templates.

I’ll be honest, automation and our lure for quick wins has ruined us. We’ve become more hopeful for basically nothing and that’s a massive time suck. There’s so much that automation would do for you, it certainly won’t talk on your behalf. You need to do it yourself!

This is precisely why I like Seth Godin’s Minimal Viable Audience. It’s an idea that’s pretty doable. Instead of scaling your efforts, you’re forced to focus on the narrow tunnel. Some would think it’s too restrictive, I think it’s just liberating. Think about this — instead of creating customised content for a 100 companies (your ideal buyers) you’re creating custom content for just 10! I’m sure you can certainly nail that.

And that’s precisely where we all should start — from where we are right now.

Screw the groups, funnels and target audience. Go narrow and create something great for them. Rinse and repeat.

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