If you’ve been on Earth in the past couple of years, you are probably aware of the existence of Facebook Groups. I would even go so far as to say that you are a member of a couple of groups yourself.
Facebook Groups, back in the day, were a lovely place to hang out with your mates from school, plan birthdays or weddings or, in a bigger scale, because someone always has the make-it-public, make-it-viral idea, discuss your favorite TV series and make fun of other fans’ theories.
Those days are unfortunately gone. Most groups now have the sole purpose of being a marketing tool for yet another online entrepreneur wanting to build a community “around their brand” – aka, eventually post sales offers for their services to a targeted audience without having to pay for ads.
It would be fair – and clever – enough, if it wasn’t for the Beyoncé Feelings that some group owners have, thinking that everyone there is their fan or will eventually become their fan 1. Groups are no longer mainly a place to hang out and share experiences, especially if you’re equally experienced as the group owner and enjoy sharing your story as much as asking rookie or advanced questions. Now, any mention of your own expertise is dreaded, forbidden, and met with “fire-and-fury”.
So I was suddenly blocked from a Facebook group, by participating on an #OfficeEnvy thread, and what’s worse, with no links or reference whatsoever as to what I do, only the words “#ThrowbackThursday from back in the day when Free2Exist was not a thing”, inside a bigger caption.
I was instantly blocked like a computer virus. The blocking came across as so over-the-top that I had to message the group owner. And here is what she replied, justifying it:
Wow. Little did I know, when I innocently joined, that not only the purpose was to drink from *her* fountain of wisdom, but also to encourage others to do the same. Where had I seen this before? Ah yes, in religious conversion.
And knowing that other people had told stories of being blocked or banned from Facebook groups before, I started thinking about this current over-protectionism:
By all means, filtering SPAM is not only reasonable, but desirable.
For example: I have another Facebook Group myself, that I created back in the day to generate a community around my other YouTube channel, since that demographic is very much into Facebook, and I thought they would find out about the channel more easily on that platform (it happened). However, they’re all actors or aspiring actors, and if my whole thread is people saying “like my page” to other people whose only interest is having their page liked, or if any relevant discussion is gonna be flooded with spammy links to “pay $$$ for my course and I’ll make your kid famous because I know a TV director” scams, then I need, as a group owner, to moderate posts in the name of keeping the community interesting, attractive, and healthy.
If people are asking for feedback on their headshots (a consultancy service for which I charge, by the way) and other members want to help with their opinion and wisdom, and someone recommends a photographer, or even a coach, that’s great! If a photographer or career coach enters the group to do nothing but dumping links or images with their services 4 times a week, without ever having introduced themselves, interacted with the community or provided any sort of value, then it’s fair to say that this community is not for them, and their post is spam. If every response to the member’s post is also going to be met with “hi hun, get my 1:1 consultancy and I’ll help you”, “click on my page”, “look at my course”, “BUY MY STUFF!!!”, the poor group member will also get annoyed.
But forbidding conversation and connections makes you a control freak.
OK, so some people will “take advantage” of the group and start private messaging all 11,543 members with unsolicited “join my group / join my program” invitations. Is this really going to be a problem for the group owner?
1) You don’t have a way of knowing they’re doing that. You have ZERO control over that. And guess what, they can do it even without being part of the group. So stop freaking out. Now.
2) Most people, including me and probably you, find these messages too inelegant and desperate, and the author of the invitation becomes a no-go. You know when you follow someone on Twitter, and you get that annoying automatic DM thanking you for the follow like they’re One Direction and you’re a hardcore groupie, and requiring that you download something, subscribe to something, click on something? Well, at least the spammy message was prompted because you clicked on “Follow” 2, so it’s only half as cringe-worthy as when you were merely minding your business.
3) Most of the desperate attempts at self-promotion that we get really don’t apply to us. I receive all kinds of unsolicited messages, from condescending “I want to teach you how to have a freedom lifestyle and you don’t even need to have any skills” (when I do have a lot of skill and I’m already living a freedom lifestyle, thanks), to completely off-mark links to groups such as “Juicy Brown Girls” (I’m not juicy nor brown). It only shows desperation and a total lack of marketing skills. Talk about selling yourself as a professional anything, when you can’t even target your outreach properly.
4) And if by any chance the spam appeals to someone, they’ll be happy in the other group, so why get affected?
Joining other groups doesn’t mean they’ll forever abandon your group.
It only means that getting affected makes you a control freak.
Ever since I was a teenager I was always calling out this same behavior/mentality in jealousy-based girlfriend/boyfriend relationships in my friends.
“What if he meets someone else?”
So your genius strategy for developing a relationship that will last is to prevent at all costs that he/she ever interacts with other people? If he finds someone that makes him happier, isn’t it great for you as well that you’re not settling for “meh” and less abundant happiness for yourself?
Same goes for clients.
I met one my coaches on Digital Nomad Girls after hanging out there and on Travelettes for a good 8-9 months. And I still hang out there. But I felt that her particular journey spoke to me, to the point I can’t even say I “chose” her as a coach, because I was NOT shopping around, comparing brands, products and prices. It was a chemistry thing. I didn’t even NOTICE the other coaches or coaching offers.
It’s not a first come, first serve process. No one is going to buy from you only because you’re making sure you’re the only one advertising. No one is going to love you because you’re preventing them from meeting or looking at anyone else. Which by the way is quite a sad thing to do.
Besides, say you have a 1,000-people group about mindset. It wouldn’t be outlandish if some are there only to hang out and be inspired, rather than because they have a cultish appreciation for you, your services and your brand, and one day they come across a girl who sells “online marketing for tech-challenged people” services and buy from her, because their pain was not mindset, it was tech.
Will it mean that they are here wasting space or that she is “stealing” clients from you?
Heck no, actually all the opposite! They may say: “I met this girl who solved my life in an amazing group called Mindset People, check it out”, and drive actual clients to your group because of that. The tech girl may say “I met clients in this amazing group called Mindset People, check it out”, and drive actual clients to you because of that. And even the person who was originally in your group and hired this girl may eventually buy from you down the line, we never know, and that’s what an open, thriving and abundance-minded community is meant to produce anyway.
But no, some group owners are still sunk in a stingy scarcity mentality, feeling threatened that someone else will forever take their followers away. There are enough clients for everyone who has a soul-based business, and any member of your group, any PERSON, will find the right mentor for themselves. And if you feel threatened, either work on your self-esteem and self-confidence to tackle those insecurities, or work on your actual product, because too much fear of competition may be due to awareness that your service is THAT weak.
And keep in mind, no business relationship is the final one. Even if someone buys from B, who talked about their brand in A’s group, they may not find B that great, that helpful for their particular problem, or even (ehm, especially) their cup of tea, personality-wise, and may eventually make their way back to A. Everyone has “that” experience of investing in something that wasn’t really worth it. And everyone works with multiple coaches, mentors and tutors over the duration of their career.
I’ve worked with revered people who did nothing for me, and I had clients whom I myself referred to another professional who could help them better than I. Not even for being better or worse professionals, just for being a better fit.
Some groups are overrun with people who are playing a numbers game, unfortunately.
Worst strategy ever, if you ask me. Might as well just go to the central train station at 6pm and start shouting your offer.
So after having this reflection, I turned this experience into something positive, and got inspired to update the “rules” of my own community:
“You are free to promote your paid services, products, other FB groups here, etc.,
AS LONG AS it’s not a general and soulless spammy link.
There may be a lot of cool potential clients for you here, who may even identify with your brand and personality better than with mine, and by all means you guys should meet and be happy together.
So if you see a comment and absolutely feel like this person would benefit from your help, go for it, but in an elegant and respectful way (aka not spammy, not sneaky, not condescending and not salesy – no one likes this, especially your potential clients). And don’t forget to keep me posted on the amazing results you achieved together!”
I’ve learned with this experience that I have enough self confidence to believe in myself and in my work to not feel threatened by similar professionals or programs. Let’s all be a community!
***And if you do want to join my Freedom Hunters tribe, feel free! You’re welcome anytime!***