Private Facebook Group to build teamwork (courtesy Marco Verch on Flickr Creative Commons)

All about the teamwork (courtesy Marco Verch on Flickr Creative Commons)

Think about this idea….

Are you looking for a straightforward way to connect more effectively with your tourism partners? A private Facebook Group for them might be the answer.

It’s a wonderful way to bridge any communications gaps between your CVB, DMO, Chamber, or Main Street organization and individual partners.

Benefits of a Private Facebook Group

1)  A private Facebook Group is exclusive; no one can see the discussions or participate in them unless they are a member of the Group.

2)  It is a place to openly share ideas, get feedback (try polls,) explain best practices, ask questions, and get answers. It can be invaluable in crisis management situations as well.

3)  It’s a way for you to build an even stronger community, and to help you build a stronger team of tourism partners.

4)  It costs nothing, but it has powerful features like the ability to share documents and files, photos, and video, plus personal, private engagement among members.

5)  Most of your partners are on Facebook anyway either personally or professionally, and it is easy for them to check in on a mobile device while they’re out and about. It can be more efficient than email for connecting and building a strong local destination marketing team.

Cautionary Notes About
Private Facebook Groups

1)  They are NOT “set it up, then it will run itself and be awesome.” Building and maintaining a lively private Facebook Group takes a bit of work, both in the short term to get it going, and in the long term to maintain interest and usefulness.

Until you get a critical mass of enthusiastic, talkative participants who will help carry the Group and bring value, you will need to seed questions and start/nurture conversations yourself as the Group Admin. This takes planning, like any content.

2)  There may be drama at some point in Group discussions.

You must be ready to be a tough but fair moderator. If someone is poisoning the Group’s atmosphere despite numerous warnings, you must be ready to kick him or her out.

3)  Be sensitive to how your partners already use Facebook. Some may be super-active, and experiencing “Group fatigue” from being in lots of Groups. You’ll have to show them very high value to get them active in yours.

Others may not understand Facebook at all, so you’ll have to step them through how to participate. Email may still be the best way to reach them; never assume that they’ve seen something posted in the Group.

Getting Started

1)  Decide on a privacy setting – whether the Group is Open, Closed, or Secret. Most private Groups we know of are Closed, which affords privacy without making the Group too hard to find and join.

2)  A private Facebook Group is only for those who “qualify” to join, so you’ll need a simple screening process. In your Group description, be very clear about who can join, and define Group rules/guidelines.

Leslie runs a private Facebook Group for a downtown association. Her rules clearly state that the Group is for association members in good standing, and that it is a place for positive communication and networking. Her Group does not allow “selling,” but does allow promotions to be posted, so merchants will know what everyone is doing and can be helpful to visitors.

3)  To further tighten up who can get into a Group, consider setting up screening questions that people must answer before joining (an Admin then reviews the answers, and approves or disapproves the Join request.) Go here to learn about setting up Group screening questions.

Here are the questions we ask of people who want to join our own private paid client Facebook Group, Our Town Matters … as you can see they are a mix of “Do you belong here?” and “Let’s get to know you, and hear what’s on your mind.”

  • Were you invited to join this private Group as a client of Tourism Currents, Opportunity Strategies, SaveYour.Town, or Cygnet Strategies? (If not, we must regretfully decline your request)
  • What are you most proud of in your hometown?
  • What is particularly challenging for you as you work to make your town a better place?

Leslie has had many local residents who have requested to join her downtown Group, but once they see the questions they need to answer, they realize that the Group is not meant for them.

When someone asks to join a Group, you will see the following atop the Group Discussion when you are logged in as an Admin:

Facebook Group join request notification seen by Admins

When you click on the link, you will be directed to a Member Request page which will show Group Admins information about who has requested to join.

If they have not answered the questions, you’ll see the following under their profile information:

Screenshot notification of people who haven't answered screening questions yet

Once they answer the questions, you will be notified, and you can then decide whether to approve them or not.

4)  Pin a friendly Welcome message to the top of the Discussions for your Group. Ask that new members introduce themselves. Briefly remind people to review the Group description (rules) to keep everyone on track.

Tips For Private Facebook Group Admins

1)  Keep things fresh! There is nothing worse than starting a Group that just sits there and goes nowhere.

2)  Be a good moderator. Keep true to the Group guidelines. If something sensitive or controversial is posted, move the conversation to Facebook Messenger and deal with it one-on-one.

3)  Post at least one interesting piece of information relevant to your membership each week at a minimum. That could be something for your retail partners, posts for your restaurants, information about the latest Facebook changes, etc. You can now pre-schedule Group posts, too.

Your partners are so busy running their businesses, attractions, or hotels that they generally don’t have time to read a lot of things online, so you should be their eyes and ears. It is your responsibility to make their lives a little bit easier by posting information that could be important to them.

4)  If possible, have more than one Group administrator who can help keep the conversation going. Not only does it take pressure off of you, but having a second or third person allows for more conversation!

5)  Pay attention to your Facebook Group Insights (analytics.) See when Group members are most active during each day of the week, and note which types of posts resonate most with your Group members. Facebook tells you how many members have seen your post; that is an effective way to judge reach, which can be increased if there is a lot of engagement on posts that matter to the Group.

Final Thoughts

Encourage your members to do what you want them to do, including posting about their sales, specials, events they are hosting, etc. Encourage them to ask questions, and to post about issues such as vandalism problems, or positive promotion of the area; whatever they think the Group should know about.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a lot of interaction in the beginning. It takes time for a Group to get rolling.

Overall, they might not be too talkative, but you will be seen as an organization that is positive, that keeps the communication lines open, and that helps them stay on top of what is going on with not only their individual business sectors, but with the destination as a whole.

Are you currently hosting a private Facebook Group? What else would you add?

Let us know down in the comments….

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Building Community conference May 2018 Clear Lake Iowa logo

We are always interested in opportunities to build connections between online travel media and tourism organizations.

For U.S. Midwest region travel bloggers and CVBs/DMOs, that’s exactly what the Building Community conferenceis set to do in Clear Lake, Iowa, May 9 – 11, 2018.

We’re proud Media Partners of this new event, and our co-founder Sheila Scarborough is one of the speakers.

Go here to see the Building Community schedule, and we hope to see you soon in the U.S. heartland.

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