Retailers will often ask me why their sales aren’t doing so well online, that they post in their group but their group members don’t seem to be interested in buying anything from them, but they will engage on posts for freebies and giveaways. Some will even say that their page is active, with lots of engagement, but no one is purchasing. The first thing I do is look at their VIP group to see where the problem may be occurring. 9/10 I have found that retailers are engaging in 3 very specific habits that are resulting in a decline in sales – and once we are able to target why those activities don’t work, and replace them with ones that do, they usually see a massive change. For our inaugural 3 podcasts I will go over what those 3 items are in SOME detail, and what you can do to mitigate them.
A topic near and dear to my heart as many of you may know is understanding why people engage with others, what makes it so that one person wants to talk to another person and share their stories with them? I am a big believer that we as human beings relate to each other through our stories. I will tell you a story that gives you a window into my life, and you will share one of yours to reciprocate. Over time we will share many stories together, and even create some of our own stories together – that’s how we build a relationship with each other.
If we do that with a few people, and they do it with a few people, and they do it with a few people, all in a closed environment – we create a community. A community of people with interconnected experiences and lives. The level of connection differs based on the level of information shared, the familial relationships, among other things, but the basic concept remains the same – a community is a group of people who have shared experiences with each other. This community doesn’t have to be in person, though historically they all have been. With the advent of the internet we had new ways of building communities.
When it first started it was about bulletin boards, people of like minds would find a BBS they could participate in and then they would have conversations with each other about whatever topic that board was for. As the internet became more sophisticated we had forums and group chats, and now we have Facebook. Facebook, the current model for online communities. People have many social media accounts, each one used for a different purpose, but Facebook – that’s the one used for community. And if you think about it, its brilliant – you have a virtual profile, which is you, only it’s an electronic you and you share your stories on your profile. Its important to the company that you be you, a real person, with real life – and Facebook works their butts off to make sure that it is in fact you and not some rando person.
Then once YOU are established as a person, you have the option to go out and “like” things. See an adorable picture of a puppy, Like! Oooh, that house in Vermont, Like! And through all of this, the algorithm in the background runs and runs and is building your profile of the things you like and the things you don’t like. But that really is still you being an island – you running around liking things. What if you want to have a community online?
Enter the Facebook Groups feature. You can make a group for anything. Like Leggings from LuLaRoe with Hamburger Prints on them and want to talk to others with similar likes – create a group! What about World of Warcraft? Cant kick that habit, no problem, there’s a group for that too. Groups are where people come to build online communities – and like in real life you can be a part of hundreds of them. You aren’t limited, go join as many as you want to! In fact, if you want to, you can make your own community.
And so we did. As LuLaRoe retailers we found that this was an amazing way to gather all of our friends, family, and customers together, online, so they can have a convenient place to shop with us.
But there’s a problem.
Facebook NEVER intended for Groups to be used in this manner. Groups are not meant for selling, they are meant for building community and talking about things that you have in common with other members of said community. All the retailers showed up, and immediately started making thousands of groups for the sole purpose of selling. There was a rumour going around that Facebook hated LuLaRoe and they were going to shut the retailers selling via Facebook down. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but I would argue it probably has a kernel of truth to it, but not for the reason that you think. The reason isn’t that we were retailers, the reason was that we were taking what was supposed to be a community tool, and turning it into a sales tool – and they already had a feature for that, called the Marketplace.
But in the meantime, groups are still around, and we all still have our VIP groups up and running and many of us sell a lot on them, some of us to the exclusion of selling any other way. The problem is, there are many of you who are struggling with getting anyone in your group to perk up and participate at all. If you think back to what we were talking about earlier, it becomes painfully obvious why.
90% of retailers do not think of their group as a community, and do not think of what they post on those pages as a mechanism for building a community. They think of their group as a place they go to sell stuff. If you think that your group is basically a shop where your members are hanging out until you post, then chances are that you aren’t seeing engagement, and your sales are struggling.
You may be thinking that you DO post on your VIP group, and no one responds. But I have been to a lot of the groups out there, and I can tell you that though you do post, what you post is not the kind of thing that will build community.
Let me ask you something, think about this scenario. Imagine you are on the street, just walking by, and you walk into a store, and the owner of the store comes up to you and says, “Hi, can you do me a favour, I need you to go to my Facebook page and like it. I don’t actually care if you like it or not, but my Facebook algorithms are causing me some anxiety and the only way for me to get more sales from other people are for you to please like my page, so could you please go do that for me right now?” How inclined would you be to do that for them? And more importantly how inclined would you be to shop with them?
Not very I would imagine.
The problem is that the members of your VIP group know that this is a thing, they know the Facebook algorithms can be problematic for us, and they know that in order for us to be seen, and to be prioritized, and for other people to see us and to shop, that we need to make sure our engagement is up. And they can recognize when you are posting something just to get engagement. No one wants to feel like a screw in a toolbox or a means to an end. People need to feel like they matter, and more important that they need to feel that way, they actually NEED to matter to you. This is your group, and your community, and I know that each person in your group matters to you, but the question is what are you doing to make sure that they feel that way? What are you doing to make sure that they feel important?
Giveaways are a fine answer, but what about giving them the gift of your time, the gift of your honesty, the gift of your vulnerability, the gift of just being with them the way you would be with your friends. Share a story about what happened to you today, or your journey to getting healthy, or the anxiety of Christmas shopping, whatever is going on in your life. Use your posts as a way to get to know your customers, to let them get to know you. As you consistently share of yourself over time, and allow your customers into your life and into your experiences, you will find that they begin to share more with you as well. This doesn’t happen overnight, but once you do, your group engagement will increase on its own. you won’t have to do fancy giveaways or “engagement posts” because that will happen organically as your community grows. And because people now have a place where they feel like they belong, they are going to come and hang out in your group not because you are selling things, they are going to come to hang out there because it’s a place they want to be. And part of that place IS selling clothes, but it becomes about so much more than that, it becomes about hanging out with friends, having conversations, bettering your life, sharing about your lives, AND ALSO, did you see this outfit? Buying and selling clothes becomes the reason people join your group, but your community will be why they stay, and more importantly, a community that is active and engaged is going to shop as a matter of course, and sales become a happy byproduct, NOT the purpose of your group.
What this will accomplish is that you will be happier in your community, your VIPs will be happier, more engaged, you will sell more, and it will all be well within what Facebook considers to be an appropriate use of the Groups feature!
If you want to test this out, Go to your VIP group and post something meaningful. It can be any of the following: post about your family, childhood memories, your favourite movie (with a story please, don’t just list it), a recent success and how it made you feel, your why, something interesting about your town, what you wanted to be when you grew up, the hectic life you have with your kids, your life while your husband is deployed, your happiness that you have selling LuLaRoe, weather that you love and why, what is your most prized possession and why, who was your favourite band growing up and why, who would you like to meet most in the world and why, who is your best friend, what are you most grateful for, a picture of you and your significant other when you first met, or the earliest picture you have. Get started today! Your goal is to do this 1x per day for 5 days every week.
You won’t see return right away, but you will start to see it after Facebook figures out what you are doing, and starts to make your posts more visible to those who would care about it. Make sure you keep at it, and a difference will be made!