Kickstarter Lesson #242: How I Run Our Facebook Groups

15 January 2018 | 16 Comments

Over the last 2 years, I’ve fallen head over heals with Facebook groups. Specifically, I actively help to run a different Facebook group for each of our games.

I love the community and engagement these groups foster. I’ve mentioned this in several posts (see links at the bottom of this article), but I haven’t actually described the specifics of how a creator can run a Facebook group. That’s what this post is about.

Why Facebook? And why a group, not a page?

Facebook now has over 2 billion active users. So even though some fans and potential members may not be on Facebook, most of them probably are. It’s already a part of many peoples’ daily routines, and it’s super easy to use.

Stonemaier Games has a Facebook page, and it’s great for broadcasting information and letting people comment and share on the content you broadcast. It’s also the best place to host Facebook live videos.

However, groups are all about conversations and discussions generated by any user, not just you (as is the case with Facebook pages). Yet they give you, the creator, as much control over the content in the group as you want.

Also, groups enable focus. Stonemaier Games publishes several games, and someone who is interested in Charterstone or Viticulture might not be interested in Scythe, Euphoria, or Between Two Cities (or vice versa). Groups allow people to precisely choose the product-specific communities in which they want to participate.

When should I start my group? How should I name it?

  • Existing products: Start the group today! Though, before you do, check to see if someone else already created it. If so, join as a member to get a feel for the group, and maybe request permission to be given admin status.
  • Upcoming products: Start the group today! I started the Charterstone group long before the game was released, and it provided a great place for people to post questions and for me to share updates.
  • Upcoming secret products: Stonemaier has certain products we want to reveal at just the right time, so we’ll wait until the official announcement to start groups for them.

Is it better for a group to be public, closed, or secret?

For a long time, our groups were “public.” But then I got some feedback from users who explained the downside of the public setting: It means that your activity in the group is visible in the scrolling feed of your friends and followers.

Compare this to the “closed” setting, which is a bit of a misnomer. It’s no more closed than a public group, which still requires admins to accept new members (and anyone can search for the group and ask to join). The difference is that only current members of the group will see your activity within the group.

The downside to a closed group is that members can’t share content from the group with other people, which impedes word-of-mouth expansion of the group. So my current method is that I make a group public when I announce a new product, and then when we release the product, I change the privacy setting to “closed” (followed quickly by a post in the group explaining that the group is still as open and inclusive as ever–again, “closed” is a huge misnomer).

The last option is “secret,” which means that people are only going to know about the group if you specifically invite them. I have a secret group for the Stonemaier Games Design Day, as the group is only for people who actually attend Design Day.

There’s a chart explaining the various privacy settings here.

How should I define the purpose of the group?

When you create a group, Facebook will ask for a description. This isn’t a place for a few throwaway sentences. Rather, this is an opportunity to define the purpose of the group with as much or as little precision as you desire.

For example, when I create Stonemaier game groups, I use some variation of this as the description:

“FB group for fans of X board game to discuss the game (rules questions, strategies, anecdotes, photos, etc). Members will remain respectful, considerate and aware of the many diverse people in this group. No insults, swearing, belittling, name calling, etc. Also, no selling–this isn’t a marketplace. Constructive criticism, considerately shared opinions, and stated preferences are welcome, but if you’re here to complain about X, please do it elsewhere. Members who don’t follow these guidelines will be removed from the group.”

That’s just one example–your group may have a vastly different purpose. But I’d highly recommend thinking about this description carefully before posting it. You can revise it later, but when you do, it’ll jump to the top of the group feed (so make sure to proofread the description before posting it).

How should I moderate the group?

This is something I’ve learned over time, and I’m still learning. I’ve found that people choose to share their passion in a variety of ways and with different levels of social awareness. I view my job as a moderator/admin as one of making people feel safe in the group. That means a lot of different things, but perhaps first and foremost, it means that it’s a group where you can feel safe as a fan of the game. You don’t have to defend your love/like of it here because you’re with other people who love/like it.

Sometimes there’s a clear violation of the purpose of the group (spam, hateful or inappropriate comments about a person/gender/ethnicity, etc). If it’s a post, I’ll delete it and contact the user privately to explain the guidelines. If it’s in a comment thread, I’ll chime in publicly–when someone is hateful or inappropriate, I consider it a time to show the group that we simply won’t tolerate that type of behavior. You can also simply turn off comments in a thread if it gets out of hand.

Keep in mind that someone may exhibit this type of behavior while attempting to support or defend you. That doesn’t make it right.

Also, you don’t need to be the sole moderator in your group. I’ve assigned several different admins to our groups, which gives them an official-looking badge.

As the creator, how should I interact in the group?

This is really up to you. I genuinely enjoy participating in our Facebook groups, so I’m often there just to have fun. It’s also work, as it’s a place for me to post updates, joke around, celebrate fans, host live videos, and answer questions. I often get a lot of the same questions, so for most groups I pin a link to the FAQ page for that game on our website.

***

What’s your experience with Facebook groups as a user or a creator/admin? I’m curious to hear about different methods, as there are many ways to run a group.

Also read:

16 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #242: How I Run Our Facebook Groups

  1. Thanks for your insight!

    Creating a facebook group for my game is something I have been going back and forth on. So far I have been focusing on just growing my business page and twitter profiles. I dont even use my personal twitter which is something I have been going back and forth on. My aim is to grow my business not me, but when it comes around to it I am my business so maybe that is important too. Either way I still am on the fence of making facebook groups for hopefully all of my upcoming games
    – Cody Thompson

    1. Cody: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would say that a Facebook group is very much a business decision, not a personal one. It’s a chance for people to interact with each other in regards to a specific topic or product.

  2. I have also heard that there are going to be changes to the Facebook algorithm that will put a huge emphasis on content in groups over content on pages in regards to what people see in their timeline and news feed. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it is what I’ve heard.

  3. Jamey,

    I haven’t run one yet, but I’m in discussion with Mike and Stan Strickland as TAU CETI gets into more and more hands around the world, I want to move beyond the Comments section on Kickstarter and focus in a more intimate way than BGG on those who play the games. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of folks who post on our BGG page to ask questions about rules, expansion news, etc., but I think that FB provides a much better platform for communicating with one another.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    1. Joe: I absolutely agree. With all due respect to Kickstarter, Facebook pages are so, so much better for engagement and discussion. And you don’t have to pay anything to get access to them, which gives that conversation room to expand after the campaign ends.

      1. I have watched how engaged you have been with Facebook and using those groups to interact with community. When I read Zuck’s announcement (https://money.cnn.com/2018/01/11/technology/facebook-news-feed-change/) earlier this week, my first thought was wondering how it would impact Social Media engagement for small companies (because I have big dreams!). Any thoughts, that if you had to, on what platform or other method to use if Facebook becomes not longer effective?

        1. Thanks for sharing, Paul! Based on the article, I think this is great for groups: “Facebook (FB) said late Thursday it is changing the News Feed to prioritize posts from friends, family members and groups over posts from publishers and brands.”

          It does seem like pages will suffer a bit, that’s okay with me. I prefer our e-newsletter as the best way to broadcast information.

  4. I run a FB group for Polyversal, our sci-fi minis game which is coming out soon. I’ve noticed the members in the group are really the champions of the game- they cannot wait for it to hit- and they’ve generated and posted a lot of user-content and plans for the game already. I’ve kind of sat back and learned and watched as group members seem to feel more included when they join (vs. simply being a fan of our FB Page for the game or general company page). I think this is a key difference you alluded to regarding Groups vs. Pages. Pages are great, but as interactive as you try to make them, ultimately in my experience, it’s marketing from me, and it’s typically not as engaging as a Group. I think people feel more comfortable that our Groups are not a place they’re going to be sold to (there’s enough of that). Plus, if they’re members, they’re probably already owners or backers.

    Post visibility also seems different in a Group vs. a Page. Pages seem to not feature or even show content posted by others- at least not all of it. Groups seem to show everything to everyone, and I think (I don’t know FB algorithms) every post in a group is visible and shown, not just 8-12% of Pages posts… unless boosted of course).

    I like Pages and Groups for different reasons. Both have their place and ultimately like you said, presence is key. Whether or not you like FB, as a company, you must go where the 2 billion active users are…

    Best,
    Byron

  5. Hey Jamey,

    Do you see having an active social media presence as something all game designers should have? It seems like there’s a wide range of social media participation among designers, with some, like yourself, responding to countless individual comments, while others seem to be nearly unreachable.

    I also wonder how sustainable this is? I know I really appreciate your posts, because I can rest assured you read it and take the time to personally respond to it, but do you think Stomemaier games would ever “grow out” of allowing you to do that? I would think after you have 10, 20, 30 games under your belt, managing that many Facebook groups would grow tiresome, and you’d need to stop paying as much personal attention to them.

    Anyway, thanks for the article!

    1. Kyle: Thanks for your question. I don’t know if I’d necessarily say “should,” but I certainly think it’s an asset. When a publisher is considering a game, the person behind that game is almost just as important as the game itself.

      I think I’ll always be active on social media, hopefully very active. It’s a big part of the Stonemaier brand.

  6. Hi Jamey,
    thanks for this article, I really appreciate your insights. They are super usefull. This theme is especially sensitive to me as I guard my privacy relentlessly since the social media stormed the internet (my fulltime job is internet and security :). I virtually do not exist on the internet, my real name is never registered with any of my accounts, I do not publish anything under my real name and I avoid facebook and all other invasive services as much as I can. I almost do not use smartphone apps. Yet I still am a honest guy and I want to be part of this great hobby as designer and publisher. According your story, it seems that these days you cannot gain trust and make community if you do not put your face to it. This is hard step for me. Was it easy for you? Did you ever considered your privacy and your personal life impacts?
    Is it really good idea to connect your business with facebook, instead of utilizing just another plugin on your own site with the same or even better functionality (and keep control) ?. What about your customers who are not on fb if it is your primary source of interaction? FB popularity seems to be declining. Why do not build community as part of your web?

    1. Ivan: I must admit that my perspective is very different than yours. My approach to the internet is that it’s an opportunity for me to present myself exactly as who I am. In a way, it’s about control–when someone searches for my name, I want them to see the content I’ve created about myself to give them fully informed results. I don’t want privacy–I want transparency. That’s an approach I’ve used for many years, and coincidentally it provided a great foundation for crowdfunding, where trust and transparency are paramount.

      As for using a plugin here instead of Facebook, I think it’s like comparing two completely different things. I could add third-party forum software to my blog, but no forum in the world has Facebook’s user base. Facebook, for most people, is part of their daily routine (and more and more people are becoming active users every day), and I want Stonemaier Games to be a part of that routine.

      As for customers who are not on Facebook, they can either connect with my company on this blog/website, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, BoardGameGeek, or our e-newsletter….or they can join Facebook. :)

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