“What if I don’t want to use a Facebook group for my course community”
It seems like quite a few course creators are looking to move away from Facebook groups for their courses. I recently had a client make that shift and it wasn’t an easy decision. So, I thought I’d take a look at the pros and cons of not using Facebook for your course community.
I took my first online course about 10 years ago and I loved it. It was well designed – had pre-recorded video and a custom-built community forum that we all used to ask questions, chat to each other about assignments and get help if we needed to. Once the course was done – the forum stayed open for another week or two and then was gone as the course was set up for the next cohort.
Since then, most of the courses I’ve signed up for over the last couple of years have offered a Facebook group. And with a lot of these courses, the Facebook group is a selling point for the course. Because they don’t close after the course teaching period is done – and new members just keep being added to the group every time the course is run. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about and are probably in a few of these groups yourself.
But recently (over the past year or two) there’s been a slight shift in the course market – with people looking for alternatives.
And the reason for this is that there are some downsides to having your course community on Facebook. Exhibit A – Marie Forleo’s B-school Alumni Facebook group.
The B-School alumni Facebook group was a closed group for B-school Alumni – originally created by one of those alumni in 2014 (when it grew too big for her to manage Marie employed moderators to help out). And it grew to over 30 000 people who had finished B-school over the years. It was a pretty vibrant community and a great place for people to connect and network with others – and probably a big selling point for B-School.
Then in the second half of 2020, this group imploded. Her team messed up – deleting posts and comments discussing the Black Lives Matter movement saying they didn’t belong in a business group. She responded to the uproar by apologising and saying that she would employ more moderators and make sure they were trained to actively combat racism and remove anyone from the group who participated in racist behaviour. (You can read her full apology here).
Unfortunately, a lot of people considered this to be a case of ‘too little – too late’ and the furore continued until Marie made the decision to return the group to the community and basically left the group to its own devices.
So, things can go badly wrong with a Facebook group.
Here are a few other downsides to using a Facebook group for a course community:
- People may not want to use it. A lot of people have been deleting their Facebook profiles due to the increasingly problematic and damaging nature of the platform. It can be toxic.
- You’re at the mercy of Facebook’s rules, which can change at any time
- You’re competing with other Facebook ‘noise’ on your members feeds which may make it difficult for them to keep track of topics they may miss important posts.
- It’s away from your course content so if a question pops into their heads while working through the course content – they need to open Facebook to ask it.
- You’re going to have to moderate it – or employ a moderator.
The pros to hosting your course community on Facebook are:
- There’s no learning curve – for you or for your community members. People know how to use it and it’s pretty quick and easy for you to set up the group.
- People who do use it will log in regularly – possibly daily
- It has an app for easy phone and tablet use which may lead to quicker post replies – especially with the instant posts and response notifications
- It’s great for social proof and fence-sitters may be persuaded to sign up for your course if they see a large Facebook group
- It’s free!
Ultimately you need to consider what your members prefer. The main purpose of a course community is to deliver value to your members. So, make sure you have a clear understanding of their needs before deciding whether to use/not use a Facebook group for your course. Make the wrong choice and you may end up with a community that no one uses.