The other day, I was listening to a recent episode of The Membership Geeks which is popular podcast for entrepreneurs building paid communities.
In the episode, founders Mike and Callie revisited an age-old question that community managers love to debate: should you build your paid membership with Facebook Groups or in a community management platform?
Here are some highlights from their hour-long discussion of the pros, cons, and dealbreakers for Facebook Groups in 2023.
The pros of building with Facebook Groups
The biggest pros of Facebook Groups are the new features. As Mike put it, “some of the new features are truly awesome and Facebook has stepped up its game in the past couple of years.”
For example, you can now designate group experts to help you answer member questions, run live virtual classrooms, and the “guides” feature lets you organize content and discussions with static content blocks.
In addition to these new features, Mike and Callie broke down the most common argument for using Facebook Groups, the idea that with Facebook, you’re reaching people where they already consume content online. Entrepreneurs often worry that if they don’t use Facebook Groups, they’ll reduce the visibility of their content and make it harder for members to find their community.
The cons of building with Facebook Groups
“Despite the pros that have stacked up for Facebook Groups in the past few years, unfortunately, we’ve also seen the cons stack up at an equal pace,” says Mike.
The key problem is the context: you’re selling access to an elite program or exclusive professional community. And then delivering that experience in a human swamp, filled with political content, competitor advertising, and now even ads delivered on the sidebar of Facebook Groups, plus prompts from Facebook for your members to join other groups, even ones run by competitors.
“Paid ads being shown in a paid community, it’s just cheap,” Mike says. “It’s tacky. People paid for it, they shouldn’t see ads.”
“A lot of the communities that do great on Facebook are more of the informal chat-connection communities. As opposed to somewhere where you want serious learning to happen,” added Callie.
The other big negative is that Facebook is actually quite inconvenient for members, as you’ll need to host your courses, events, and content in one place, and run the community in Facebook.
“The whole point of using Facebook Groups is to make things convenient for your members. But if you offer content and community in your membership, you’re actually making it more inconvenient and adding extra hurdles for people to participate by having to access your membership in two different locations,” Mike says.
Finally, Mike and Callie broke down some deal breakers for why they personally wouldn’t build a paid community with Facebook Groups.
“Even with all of the awesome features Facebook has been adding, the fact that it’s now harder than ever to reach the people in your group makes it a huge issue for me. In a group of 19,000, less than 10% of members will see your group’s posts these days which is terrible,” said Callie.
For Callie, this cancels out the primary benefit of Facebook Groups. With restricted organic reach and algorithms deciding which posts your members see, you’re not getting much extra discovery or added convenience for your members by using Facebook Groups.
“The fact that Facebook can determine that a post from a new member isn’t worthy of being seen, because Facebook’s algorithm decided that it wasn’t worthy of being put in front of people, that to me is a dealbreaker,” says Mike.
Mike and Callie also talked about how Facebook Groups do not offer automations or integrations, something that is unlikely to change. For paid communities, this makes it a huge pain to manage payments and subscriptions as you need to manually scrub people who cancel, check email addresses and collate the email they paid with versus the one they use for Facebook.
And finally, the shutdowns. Mike and Callie shared stories of group owners who were banned or censored in their own Facebook Groups for minor comments or misinterpreted by the algorithm.
“It’s different if it is a free group. But with a paid group, can you imagine the owner of their own membership community being locked out for inappropriate content that a computer algorithm has detected?” asked Mike.
“Every day on Facebook was strain and stress.”
For a real-world look at a membership business owner who ditched Facebook Groups and ClickFunnels, we interviewed the entrepreneur and successful fitness coach Cristy Code Red.
Cristy "Code Red" Nickel is a badass multimillion-dollar business owner and former retired boxer who was completely OVER using Facebook Groups and ClickFunnels.
She told us, "My clients weren't having good results with all the algorithms, ads, and getting constantly locked out of our accounts. Every single day was strain and stress."
Cristy's team used six different platforms to run their courses, group coaching, and host their digital products and video content. And the core tools they used to deliver their coaching and community programs—ClickFunnels and Facebook Groups—kept failing.
Finally, Cristy ditched Facebook and launched her own custom apps with Mighty Pro.
“Our revenue is going up and up and up,” she says. And members now have “one app, one platform, one community” to achieve their fitness goals with unmatched access to Cristy's inspiring livestreams, nutrition plans, and fitness coaching.
In this 2-minute video, she shares her journey to Mighty Pro. Cristy is so fiery and full of energy, it's well worth the watch.