Have you seen that Esurance commercial with Beatrice, the Offline Over-Sharer? She’s taped pictures up on her wall and is clearly misguided on how to use Facebook. Her level-headed friend protests, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”
I don’t know what Beatrice’s friend’s name is, but I wish I could find her and hug her because it feels like, daily, I grimace at people’s postings in Facebook groups and hear myself repeating the same phrase in my head, “That’s not how it works.”
Facebook is probably one of the single most used websites in my house. It’s certainly always open on my laptop and I find myself dragging the newsfeed down on the regular to see what’s happening with my friends, family, and brands that I follow. But there’s a part of Facebook that makes me want to flip my desk in a pint-sized hulk-rage: Facebook Groups.
Love them or hate them, Facebook groups have become popular spots to connect with a circle of people that might be outside of your personal circle but inside a larger community circle. I’m a member of at least thirty groups and they run the gamut topic-wise: diet and exercise, old friends, local for-sale groups, and technical communities. By far, the technical communities (like Advanced WordPress and WordPress Designers and Genesis WordPress) are the ones that have helped me learn and grow as a developer and designer the most – there are some really brilliant people hanging on Facebook, answering questions and just, generally, being incredibly helpful people. I have, however, recently dumped about six different technical community Facebook groups because of rampant bad grouping.
This is when I wish you could hear my voice and inflection, but since this is a blog post, you’ll have to put your emphasis on the words as I italicise them: I’m going to teach you how to group.
1. Search the group
If you’ve got a question for the group, do a quick search in the group for your question. There’s a good chance, especially in those behemoth groups with thousands of members, that someone at some point has had the same question as you.
Bonus tip for those of you that aren’t sure how to search on Facebook: If you’re on your tablet or phone, the best way to search on a Facebook group is to put your tablet or phone down and go over to your computer. When you open the group’s main page, there is a search box there. Just put your search words in the box and hit return.
2. Share with the group
Sometimes, my husband will have half a conversation with me in his head and then turn to me, sharing the conclusion of the conversation. I’m left looking at him like, “Whosawhat?”
We do the same thing when we rush to a Facebook group because we can’t find a solution. There’s a lot of pressure to deliver solutions to our clients quickly and efficiently, and when we find ourselves hitting a brick wall, it’s easy to forget that every member of this Facebook group hasn’t been sitting next to you while you scour Google search results.
Instead of drive-by posting something that is unclear and incomplete, take a minute to break down what you HAVE discovered in your journey. Otherwise, you’ll have people answering your query with the simplest solutions and then you have to be the jerk that replies, “Oh, I did try that,” over and over again.
So, before you post your question, ask yourself these questions:
Did you google it or search the group? If you answered no here, go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Did you search for the appropriate terms? You might know what a thing does, but if you don’t know what it’s called, it’s hard to tap into the hive mind for answers.
Can you succinctly share your process thus far with the group? Let’s save ourselves all a heap of time by sharing what you’ve tried that hasn’t worked so that we can help you sort out what will work.
3. Be a good citizen
It’s unfortunate, but the majority of people that join these technical communities are not interested in being good citizens. They’re looking for fast and free tech support. This isn’t a TERRIBLE thing, but all too often, people abuse these groups and the people that post in them.
If you’re a moderator of a group, set some boundaries and guidelines and stick to them. Nothing devalues a group faster than drive-by posters abusing the group and being allowed to do so. Don’t feel bad for removing a post that violates your rules, even if the person shows up to complain about how you deleted their post (pro tip: delete that post, too!). If you’ve got the means and the time, message the violator to let them know what rule they broke and how to avoid breaking the rules in the future. If you don’t have the time or means, don’t worry about it.
If you’re a member of the group, familiarize yourself with the rules. Every time I see someone posting something like, “What’s the best plugin for comment spam?” I dutifully report the post to the administrators. The best way I’ve found to accomplish reporting posts to administrators is to go to the group page and click on the inverted caret icon on the top right corner of the post, then report to admin.
For the most part, you do not need to thank anyone for approving your membership to a group (these posts often times clog up the feed and distract from posts that are helpful or useful) and, unless your group specifically encourages it, you don’t need to introduce yourself or tell us your favorite color. Keep your posts helpful, useful, topical, and within the parameters of the rules. If you see a post that doesn’t hit the mark, report it to admin. If you see a post that doesn’t sound like it belongs but doesn’t implicitly violate the rules, ask questions or tag an admin in your reply to get some more input.
4. Swallow your pride
Admittedly, this is not my forte. It might not be yours either, but I assure you, if you approach each reply to your query for help with a level of decorum and tact that would impress your grandma, you’ll make friends. You know why it’s important to have friends in the developing community? Because friends send you business and friends bail you out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to friends I’ve met on Advance WordPress to get help with technical issues that are over my head. And there’s nothing worse than someone coming to ask for help, getting help, and then responding to that help like a jerk.
Also, try not to be a jerk to people who are posting. I’d wager to guess that the majority of people that are breaking the rules and junking up our precious groups don’t mean to do it – but there are some folks who intentionally live on the edge of reason when it comes to grouping. In one group that I’m a member of, there’s a member who constantly almost-spams his product at every opportunity. It’s never a blatant violation, but is always a carefully crafted attempt to tip toe right around the edges of the rules. I’ve tried not to be a jerk about it and just report the posts (which are always removed, by the way), but I’ve started to call him out on his posts in a not-entirely-jerky way.
Don’t be a jerk. It’s not a terrible philosophy for life in general.
Hopefully, you’ve got a firm grasp on how to group. If you’ve still got questions, you can ask below and, as a Facebook group expert (addict), I’ll do my best to answer you!