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5 Ways Facebook’s Discussions App Will Make You a Better Blogger

This guest post is by Tommy Walker, Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name.

“Build a community.” You hear it all the time. “Comment on other people’s articles, guest post, and join the conversation.”

One of the problems with the way most online communications systems are set up is that they’re top-down in nature. A blog requires posts before people can comment, Facebook’s Pages require updates if they’re to stand out in the News Feed … the list goes on and on.

And while these methods are essential to community building, getting more comments or tweets or Facebook shares on an article is not an act of community building. You’re building a successful broadcasting platform—sure—but broadcasting to a bunch of people is not community.

Community isn’t defined by a high number of comments, either. Community is defined by the conversation that’s happening between the people leaving comments.

If you want to be an authority, creating killer content is only the first step. A true leader has the ability to embed ideas, spark conversation, and inspire others to rise to the occasion. The next step is to give those you inspire the resources to communicate with each other about the ideas you’ve implanted.

This is where the Facebook Discussions Application comes in.

The Discussions App

1. Facilitate lateral communication

Think of Facebook’s Discussions Application as a poor man’s forum. While it lacks the ability to share photos, link with anchor text, or even give users a signature, it does one thing that’s vital to community building: it allows members to communicate with each other.

Find a healthy balance of topics that you can discuss, and invite readers with whom you have a relationship to start topics on their subject of expertise to help out. Topics can be started by any person who “likes” a Page—they don’t have to be started by the Page administrator.

At first, it’s likely you’ll have to get people into the habit of checking the Discussions tab through status updates, because conversations in the Discussions Application are not published to the News Feed. However, once you’ve got people communicating with each other, your Discussions application will take on a life of its own.

2. Have exclusive conversations

Have a favorite book, tool, or other secret weapon that you’d like to talk about, but it doesn’t quite fit into your content calendar?

Instill a sense of comfort among your community members that encourages them to start conversations that apply to their specific situations. Use the Discussions App to share resources with your community and keep the information exclusive. In other words don’t tweet it, post it on youtube, or blog about it: keep it exclusive to the Discussions tab.

Of course anyone can “like” your Page and gain access to it, but the idea here is to keep little gems tucked away so your loyal and most active readers gain a feeling of exclusivity.

3. Field questions

If all of your content surrounds a specific theme, but a member of your community has a question about something else you’ve established your authority on, the Discussions Application is a great place for them to have a side conversation with you.

One of my clients runs a regional restaurant chain. Fans of their Page frequently use the Discussions App to ask questions about a new stores opening in their area, vegan/vegetarian friendly food, and upcoming events.

Hubspot, an online marketing agency and technology firm, sees frequent queries on their Discussions tab ranging from questions about their products and reports to blog-and-website-101 type questions.

By encouraging your community to ask questions in this setting, you do two things:

  1. If they’re asking a Frequently Asked Question, you can address it in a public setting so others may be able to see it.
  2. You make it possible for other members of your community to show their expertise on a particular subject.

Of course, sometimes not everyone will agree on a particular answer, which brings us to our next use for the Discussions App.

4. Discuss incendiary ideas

Can’t we all just get along? Well, quite honestly sometimes the answer is just plain “No!”

Discussions can be a great tool to either spark or facilitate debates on incendiary topics. Sometimes when a conversation has the heat turned up on it, people come out with their best stuff, so every now and again bring up a topic on which you know people will have opposing and strong viewpoints.

Just a word of warning, though: a good debate can bring a community together—or tear it apart. Your job as the authority is to keep debates respectful and to prevent people from crossing the line.

5. Extend the conversation

Don’t let the conversation die simply because it gets buried in the News Feed. Start a topic in Discussions to extend the conversation further.

One of the perks of being a Page administrator is that all participants of a comment thread are notified when you respond to that thread.

So let’s say for example you publish a status update that, for one reason or another gets a ton of feedback. Chances are that the conversation won’t die simply because it’s no longer interesting. More likely, they’ll die because it’s no longer visible.

Why not start a Topic on the Discussions tab to allow members to continue the conversation? Though the conversation won’t be published to the News Feed, it does bring people a little deeper into the overall experience, giving more meaning to your relationship. Also, depending on the topic, the thread could become a resource that you can link to from time to time.

These are my preferred ways to use the Discussions App to build community around a blog. Have you tried the Discussions App yet? What tips or advice can you add?

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name. He is about to release Hack The Social Network, the ultimate guide to Facebook Marketing, and is currently developing a “mind hacking” course.

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Comments

  1. Akos says:

    Great post! I never heard of this Facebook app. But now… :D

  2. Interesting, I’ve never thought of using the discussions app. Will “fans” be put off at first by the suggestions to join discussions from the feed?

    • Tommy Walker says:

      It’s entirely possible, but my experience with my own personal brand has been largely positive.

      One of the things I decided to do when I started using the Discussions more frequently was sent an email out to my list asking people to participate and introduce themselves.

      Sure enough, a handful of people did, and the discussions have been pretty active since. Every now and again I’ll put the link out, and haven’t found anyone being put off by it, but a lot of that has to do with the topic and the community as well…

    • dotCOMreport says:

      Tommy is right. You have to know your community and what sort of topics to introduce to them. Thus far, I’ve found the Facebook app to be a huge success and haven’t really had anyone turned off by it.

  3. HomeList says:

    You’re just feeding my facebook addiction!

  4. Marveloper says:

    The hardest part is to get people to actually use it. I also don’t remember to check my own.

  5. Tommy,

    This sounds really cool. I’ve not looked into this app. just yet, but you’ve pretty much sold me on it. I’ve used facebook for marketing for some time (as any good Internet market would), but it has always been difficult to keep track of various interactions. It seems this app. could make that much easier.

    Do you have any advice for drawing new people into conversations, if the same people keep posting in a given thread?

    • Tommy Walker says:

      That’s the beauty of this app that I forgot to mention in the article…

      Notifications are sent around to the people interacting in the thread… so If I post then you post (and neither one’s are admins of the page) You’ll be notified when I reply back and vice versa.

      Something that I’ve found very effective is utilizing my email list and sending messages out to those I think would *really love* the conversation that is happening.

      To start, I asked my entire list to introduce themselves in an intro thread, and every now and again if a thread is getting some good traction, I’ll send emails out to those who I would love to hear their two cents, or can shake things up a bit.

      I don’t recommend blasting your entire list for hot threads, unless it’s something that everyone can benefit from reading.

      Yes it’s a little extra work doing it this way, but it’s SO worth it in the long run, because people are having these conversations around you.

  6. Great post, will have to check app out.

  7. My own personal experience is that discussions on facebook rarely work. Sure they work if you are a big brand and have 10s of thousands of likes and people need customer service or to engage with each other and help each other out (say with technical questions etc) but by and large the discussion page lies dead.

    I guess it reminds me of a forum on a busy site. You can’t just start a few theads and just leave it to spur itself on. Instead you need to be in there seeding content and engaging non stop to get them going and believe me it is a lot of hard work! The other interesting thing is that it looks like facebook are thinking about changing the whole page layout and discussion tabs are going to be getting a less prominent position as well.

    I do agree with you that you need a more permanent place for the discussions though because some of them are of great value but simply slip off the feed never to be seen again. No doubt something that Facebook will address with some new innovation that will get us all hooked!

    • Tommy Walker says:

      I thought I was going to have a similar experience, but what ended up working best for me was to send an email out to my list just asking them to introduce themselves. From there I started to really look at *who* was interacting with me and with each other.

      I found in the interactions that I had a handful of artists and some writers. This was great because it allowed me to turn around to another person within my network who is launching an “Artists-Only” educational program to do an interview where we can focus on strategy (which is what I’m really all about) and what Artists can do to help out with that. Turns out, there’s a lot to be learned from the Artists marketing techniques that can be applied to a lot of other business.

      You are absolutely right though, you absolutely can not expect to seed a few threads and expect it to take off. Just like writing a few blog posts won’t make you a popular blogger, anything you want to work out takes a high level of input before anything comes out.

  8. Oliver says:

    I’ve not created any discussions of my own on Facebook, but from what I’ve seen on many pages, the discussion section is quickly (and irritably) filled with spam. I can, however, see how this is a quick and easy way of setting up a membership program that was posted about a day or two ago, as joining a Facebook group is the easiest thing anybody could do. So, thanks for the idea!
    Just curious, how many people use the discussion app within your network?

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Do you mean my personal network, or within my own community?

      On my own page (which I’m intentionally keeping small until some new things are rolled out i.e website redesign, membership program etc) I have 170 fans. Out of them there are about 15 people that interact in the Discussions.

      That’s just under 9% of the people on my page. I also saw a huge increase in my Page “likes” this past Thursday, and haven’t really had the opportunity to bring new people into the conversation, so this will be something I will be sure to do more of moving forward…

  9. Jimmy says:

    I don’t use FB to market my blog very much, I feel it will alienate my friends.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      This is why you create a Business Page, which is really the best practice for marketing on Facebook anyways… Profile pages are for friends and family, Business pages are for Business… Discussions isn’t even available for the profile page :-)

  10. Doug Brock says:

    Thanks for the tips Tommy. Really interesting use of a tab that I never considered very useful.

  11. mark ways says:

    I haven’t heard of facebook discussion apps before. But, thanks for the insights and I will give it a try. Your information are a pretty good starting point by the way.

  12. Jane says:

    Great post Tommy. It is just now I am starting to get decent traffic from Facebook. I basically do nothing, but just share my post on Facebook, respond to questions and comments that come through FB messages and basically do some sort of networking (resharing, liking others content and so on). I have never used apps and you have convinced me enough to give a try.

    Thanks for the useful post.

    Jane.

  13. Jodi says:

    Great tips! I’ve started copying over good wall posts into discussions an now my readers actually start doing it for me on good posts. Nobody wants to lose the great info and discussions. Can’t wait until facebook improves the discussion tab to be more like a true forum and to get in to people’s feeds!

  14. Lakhyajyoti says:

    I heard first time about Facebook discussion application.Surely I’ll give a try.

  15. trokze says:

    Facebook integration is something I hadn’t thought about till now. Thanks for the tips!

  16. Stuart says:

    I hadn’t realised that the Discussions app could be used for this much! I just thought it was something to have a good chin-wag over a nice cup of tea, but this post has taught me something!

    Thanks Tommy :-)

    • Tommy Walker says:

      well… you can still chin-wag if you want… nothing wrong with that… In fact a good chai might be alright right about now ;-)

  17. David says:

    Thanks, never heard of that before but its really interseting and useful, have to try it ;-)

  18. Amy says:

    I’m still doing more ‘learning’ than ‘earning’ but moving forward nonetheless. thx as always for helping us to do both!

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

  19. Heather says:

    Great info as always, Tommy! Looking forward to putting this into practice. Except that I’m having problems getting the app to work. When I click “Add this to my page” it says “No results found”. Any tips? Thanks!

  20. Good article. Definitely gave me a new perspective on the way I should approach my conversations on Facebook. I’m more of a Twitter user but I do have a Fan page I’m trying to build up. Thanks for the info.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      I’m pretty active on twitter as well. The way I approach the platforms with my clients is to ask “how can I use each platform to tell a different part of my story?”

      That way you create a multi-layered presence for yourself and give people reason to follow you across multiple platforms :-)

  21. Tai Goodwin says:

    I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a Facebook group in addition to my page. One of the benefits of using this app is that it will keep things in one place. I won’t be asking my network to “like” my page AND join a group. What benefits do you see to using the discussion app over creating a group to build community?

    • Tommy Walker says:

      It depends. Groups are a great tool too and I recommend them to people who don’t mind giving people the possibility of access to their Profile.

      Personally I do all three.

      I use my Page to host discussions and curate content that is in line with my brand image.

      I use groups for more Mastermind and project management work (I’d use basecamp, but don’t want to pay the monthly fee)

      And my personal profile is for friends and family.

      Groups do offer a lot more functionality in the way that posts go to the News Feed, people can share images, and you can do a group chat, but depending on the size of the group, every post getting published to the News Feed (and people getting email notifications) it can get out of control.

      Also posts are visually still top down in nature, I publish something, you respond in the comments… which doesn’t necessarily give that “we’re peers” feeling from the jump.

      So I guess really, the answer is, it depends… there are pros and cons to using both, and without doing any sort of audit on your presence, it’s hard to say what will work best for you. But those are my thoughts…

  22. Greg says:

    The fact that discussions don’t pop up anywhere in the news feed is frustrating to me. I’d at least like something along the lines of “A new discussion was created: XXXXXXX.”

    That would make me much more inclined to use the function. But the points that you make in your article are very convincing. Maybe I should stop ignoring it!

    • Tommy Walker says:

      I agree. Though on the flip side, if you have an active discussion section, that could get out of hand, which is why maybe they didn’t let that happen.

      However I don’t see any problem with creating an email list for people who are active to give them an update when something hot is going on. Nor do I have any issues with publishing an update directing more people to a thread when it is started.

      It does take a little bit of training your readers to get active, but once they do, the results can be incredible :-)

  23. I love facebook…it’s such a great social media application. :)

    When I get around to starting my blog, maybe I’ll do this (not that I want my blog to be huge or anything, that’s not really my goal, just wanna blog maybe every week or bi-weekly, plus I’m a student).

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  26. Great post Tommy. This is definitely one thing I haven’t tried yet but plan to try.

  27. Jan Bowman says:

    Great post! I’m wondering how the Discussion tab would work for “real time” discussions? What if you wanted to host a “chat” using the Discussion tab? I’m thinking that I’d invite or notify certain fans of my page, and then plan on a limited date/time for live discussion. What’s your opinion on that possibility? Thanks!

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Real time discussions are a little more tricky, and the discussions app might not be the best fit for that. However there is an app called clobby that is quite literally a chat room that you can live on a tab on your Page.

      Even better, it will send out an update to fans that will notify them that you’re doing a live chat :-)

      There is a free version and a paid version, the paid version is $9.00 month, and I would highly recommend using it simply because the free version is ad-supported and the ads are kind of obnoxious.

      Hope that helps!