What makes a successful Facebook group?

When I logged onto Facebook this morning, I spotted that two of my friends had joined a new group. The group name caught my attention: ‘Stop the usage of dogs as live bait for sharks!’. Curious (and slightly sceptical), I took a look.

Creating a sense of credibility

The group has a well-written description:

Innocent dogs are being dragged behind boats and used as LIVE bait for sharks!! Defend the rights of animals! We are asking that the French Government ensure that this never happens again. […] INVITE ALL YOUR FRIENDS. EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW HOW SO MANY DOGS ARE KILLED EACH YEAR!

There is a photo of an injured dog, the description offers a link to a ‘…video that shows one poor dog being rescued’, and the administrators also appear to be genuine. All of these factors combine to create a credible-looking cause, which, at the time of writing, is supported by 1,208,122 members.

But digging deeper…

Looking beyond the facts above suggests slightly less than sincere motives. The story itself has been around for at least four years (as this Sun newspaper article from 2005 shows) and, while it has some grounding in fact, has been blown out of proportion.

In addition, the group’s contact information is not an animal rights organisation; it’s a ‘Home Business opportunity’ and the first (and only) piece of news begins with ‘EARN FROM HOME..ARE YOU INTERESTED?’. The only other links on the page are to the organisation’s website.

Typical social networking behaviour?

I think this shows that people on social networks such as Facebook:

  • take things at face value
  • believe large membership is a sign of credibility
  • aren’t always concerned with the organisation behind a group; simply the cause
  • use groups as a badge of their beliefs, views or interests.

All the ingredients for a successful Facebook group

So, despite its dubious motives, this group is a good example of how to be successful on Facebook.

  • Select a group name that appeals to people’s emotions, beliefs or passions; capture their attention and make them curious, so that they want to find out more.
  • Create a well-written description of the group and present its aims clearly.
  • Provide supporting materials for your group or cause, such as an image or video.
  • Make the administrators easily identifiable and approachable.

Provide relevant links

I doubt many people will have actually clicked through to the amazing ‘home business opportunity’, so this group has probably failed on one important point: providing a relevant link for further information.

If the link had been along the lines of ‘Sign a petition to stop this cruelty NOW!’, I am certain that a large percentage of the group’s supporters would have chosen to follow it. As it is, regular web users are now completely wise to offers of this type and, I would guess, have mostly ignored it.

More information

Here are some more indepth articles from around the web on creating (and maintaining) a successful Facebook group:

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