Why Facebook Groups is a Terrible Idea for Coaches

If you want make yourself a commodity, distract your clients from doing meaningful work, and neatly package all of your clients into one convenient spot for your competitors, by all means, send your clients to a Facebook Group.

If, on the other hand, you really care about your clients and/or the profitability of your coaching business, you might think twice before sending your clients to Facebook for group interaction. Here’s why:

Facebook Commoditizes Coaches

Facebook is “free,” requires virtually no setup, and your people are likely already there (even if they’re mostly wasting time). So what’s the rub with using Facebook’s convenient groups feature?

It’s exactly because it’s so easy to use that so many other coaches also use Facebook. So it makes all coaches look exactly like all other coaches. In a competitive space, you want to stand out, not look like everyone else.  But when you use Facebook, you look exactly like every other coach in your space: you’re undifferentiated from your competition.

And trust me, your competition is on Facebook. But it’s your competitors who don’t have Facebook groups that you have to worry most about, because:

Facebook Makes It Easy for Your Competitors to Advertise To Your Clients

If you want to give your competitors easy access to your clients, send them to Facebook. Just organize them into a nice group, have them talk about all of the things your coaching program teaches, and let Facebook’s data robots collect all of that info. Its advertising engines will be happy to serve up your clients to savvy competitors.

Think about it: when you send your clients to Facebook and encourage them to talk about their problems and your coaching work, Facebook literally mines all of that data about your tribe and serves it on a silver platter to your competitors. I’m sure your competition is more than happy to accept your generosity: you do all the hard work of finding and organizing your clients, and then they get to swoop in with their tested marketing bait, irresistible offers, and sales funnels and happily take over for you.

I was recently at an Internet Marketing conference with a VERY savvy marketing crowd. One of the speakers asked the audience, “For how many of you is Facebook your primary, or only, marketing source for leads?” Nearly 80% of the hands in the room went up! The point that the speaker was making was to not put all of your eggs into one advertising basket. My point to you is that very savvy, smart people IN YOUR NICHE use Facebook as the primary way of reaching out to the people you’ve spent time and money on to become your clients.

Distraction is Facebook’s Business Model

Facebook doesn’t care if your clients achieve the goal of your coaching program. The goal of Facebook isn’t focused work, it’s the opposite: to distract your clients from whatever it is they were doing before, or whatever intention they have, so that they stay on Facebook. The longer your clients stay on Facebook, the more ads they’ll see, and the more money Facebook makes.

“If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” – Andrew Lewis

If you think that you or your clients are unaffected by Facebook Ads, think again: the only reason advertisers come back to Facebook is because it works.

So if I’m a part of a Facebook group that’s focused on nutrition and weight loss, when I go to Facebook, does it take me straight into my group? Of course not. My first stop on the way to the group is the general news feed, where relatives and friends are sharing their latest posts from vacations, their opinions on political topics, random birthday notifications, and more.

The longer Facebook distracts me from making it into my group, the more money they make.

And if you think that your clients are safe once they get into your private group, think again: Facebook already views ads in groups as its next big cash cow, because it’s reaching full saturation in its regular news feed. When the question comes down to the value of Facebook’s stock price versus keeping your clients undistracted, who do you think will win?

Bottom Line: Advertise on Facebook And Send Your Tribe Elsewhere

Dan Kennedy says that once you’ve assembled your “herd,” to build a high fence around it, get it depending on you for food and water, and to guard all entry. Obviously this is metaphorical, but you get the idea: when you do the work to pull a “herd” or “tribe” together, why in the world would you make them accessible to anyone else?

So what’s the real cost of Facebook’s “free” groups? Distraction at best and lost business at worst…just so I can save a few hundred dollars per month on a membership site tool? No thanks.

Personally, I’d rather be that savvy competitor: advertise on Facebook and fence in the “herd” elsewhere.

14 comments for “Why Facebook Groups is a Terrible Idea for Coaches

  1. May 31, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Hey Joel,

    Great article. And you bring up several valid points. But I’ve got to disagree with your overall statement that FB Groups are a horrible idea for coaches. As of right now, May/June 2017 running FB groups is one of the hottest lead gen strategies for coaches. (I date this comment because in a few months, or even weeks from now that might change.)

    In just the past 90 days I’ve had several coaches (new and well-established) build a following of hundreds, even thousands of HIGHLY TARGETED people, turn many of them into high-quality leads and subscribers, and convert a good number of those into high-end clients generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in new coaching revenue. That’s HUNDREDS of thousands PER EACH COACH – not combined.

    Done right, the brand-recognition, affinity-building, authority and trust development that hosting a FB group can create more than offsets the negatives you mentioned above. Consider these three things…

    1) Our audiences are already distracted and on FB. You removing yourself from there won’t stop people from using the platform. It’s essentially like being a kid who gets mad and leaves the playground; the only one worse off is that kid – everyone is still there and continues to have fun.

    2) In-content ads are here to stay for a while and will be reaching our audiences whether we like it or not. I’d suggest that each of the readers does a quick look through their subscribers list – how many of them are on gmail or another free email platform? Probably a lot. Most likely a majority. Guess what – your smart competitors (that includes me) are advertising to them right above your email in their inbox! What are you going to do? Stop sending email? Yeah – I didn’t think so. 😉

    3) I love Dan Kennedy. I learned a lot from him and think he’s a genius. BUT… Everything changes. His “build a high fence around your herd” statement would like piss off 90% of your readers who find the concept of anyone viewing them as a “herd” offensive. That said, the real power of FB groups is in developing deep connections with a large audience and building authority. So today’s idea of “building a fence” around your audience is not trying to prevent them from seeing competitors (that’s a futile effort), but in developing deeper connections by providing greater value and being of more service.

    My bottom line: Do advertise on Facebook BUT don’t stop using it to build your audience, grow your authority and develop deep connections with your followers. 😉

    P.S. Joel, thanks for providing a great platform. I just looked – I’ve hosted 678 events using Instant Teleseminar, the first on on Feb. 12, 2008 and I do at least one new one every week. I wonder if I’ll be getting a gold watch or something on my 10th year anniversary. (Just kidding!) 😉

    • May 31, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      Hey Adam, I appreciate the counterpoint, even though we disagree. Let’s do a call together soon, & I’ll have your gold watch waiting!

      • Marian
        June 1, 2017 at 5:44 am

        Well played Adam and Joel. Great thoughts on both sides

    • May 31, 2017 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you Adam! I totally agree with your thoughts on Facebook Groups. Building my presence on FB has allowed me to show up as the authority that I am and not only connect with a targeted audience, but wonder or wonders, to collaborate with a wonderful team of professionals who respect and honor one another.

    • June 1, 2017 at 2:39 am

      Totally awesome insights, Adam. What I’m wondering though is how much time these coaches had to spend to build and grow their Facebook groups. I can only imagine that it must be incredibly time consuming. I ran a Yahoo Group for 5 years and although it gave me direct access to my tribe, tremendous insights and dozens of questions for FAQs (that I used in my book, etc.), I just couldn’t maintain that level of involvement. It was really draining and demanding. I need to focus more on refining my new program.

  2. May 31, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Joel you articulate exactly why I do not & will not use FB groups for my clients. With all due respect to Adam whose list I sit on & learn much from, I can pick off the right targets for my business wholesale, like fish in a barrel. And I would gain a reputation for being unethical.

    I can write a killer ad and attract those markets which is fair game. But if we want our clients to feel exclusive, special, pampered and extraordinary, do some work to find that right place and build that walk ala Dan Kennedy.

    Just my two cent perspective.

    Ellen J Harris

    • May 31, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      Yep, my feelings exactly, Ellen…but I know there are many who disagree. Love it!

  3. Teresa Wagner
    May 31, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    I don’t know who Dan Kennedy his, but from this quote I shudder thinking of how the humans who are his clients must be treated. It sounds like he should be selling real estate with donald trump, not working to help people:
    Dan Kennedy says that once you’ve assembled your “herd,” to build a high fence around it, get it depending on you for food and water, and to guard all entry.

    The day I think of my clients as a “herd” that belongs to me is the day I would know I should get out of the helping profession.

    Another point, I’m wondering if you are unaware of secret Facebook groups where “competitors” cannot come and “steal” your clients? I use one and my clients love it.

    • June 1, 2017 at 8:16 am

      Thanks for your thoughts,Teresa. Dan Kennedy is one of the highest-paid copywriters in the world (e.g. he regularly consults for Guthy-Renker, the world’s #1 infomercial company). In Dan-speak, “herd” is meant to be funny and entertaining, and it is for those who follow him. Part of growing a culture as an expert is using a vocabulary that seems odd to outsiders.

      I’m aware of secret groups–FB still mines everything clients & coaches share there and sells that data to advertisers. Check out the TechCrunch article I reference in my main post & FB’s privacy policy. Obviously for some people that’s a problem, for others not so much.

  4. May 31, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Hmmmmm. You’ve given me much to think about. I do know that building an interactive FREE group is hard work.

    • June 1, 2017 at 2:16 am

      Robin, you raise a very important point. That’s exactly why I’ve resisted forming a Facebook group. I’m concerned that it would take up far too much time. Besides, i’ve already gone that route.. Before Facebook groups became popular, I ran a group on Yahoo and it was really, really active for five years, but it was soooo time consuming. I finally had no choice but to freeze it when I was on deadline for my first book. However, running a group for 5 years was quite eye opening. it gave me tremendous insights about the needs, goals and pain points for my target clients.

  5. June 1, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Reality: Your competitors can already mine your tribe’s data points and target them. Your private coaching group isn’t what makes that happen. A user’s activity (beyond just your group) is what fills in that profile. This article, while informative, raises a fundamental business question: Is it primarily marketing that builds a long-term business, or value creation? I am consistently amazed by business owners who spend significant time on “fighting” the competition (fear / scarcity based thinking) instead of creating greater value for their customers. News flash – informed consumers follow value. Need some examples? Look at all the failed attempts by many online product sellers to fight amazon, while smart marketers recognized the value creation of free 1 day shipping (ala Prime) and let Amazon grow their reach with FBA accounts, winning new customers who they provide additional value thru direct channels.

    It’s my opinion that the only way a competitor would win your already hard-earned coaching clients is because you’re not providing your customers the value they seek in your group. Focus your energy on being the best at value creation, building strong, sticky relationships with your clients who stay with you because they get value, NOT because they are ignorant of other options.

    • June 1, 2017 at 8:27 am

      Great point, Karl…business IS all about value creation. My view is that more value is created by giving clients a truly private place to interact & collaborate. Facebook is a distracting, noisy, inappropriate place to work on life-changing things. Facebook’s primary business model is distraction, not doing focused work that gets clients results.

      • June 1, 2017 at 9:02 am

        Agree – in part to your comments regarding the experience Joel. But Facebook isn’t any noisier or distracting than my iPhone, computer, other platform. Today, people are looking for the least amount of friction. How many businesses have created “Apps” that provide private communities, only to find extremely low adoption and usage, because people “don’t go there.” Look at your mobile device. How many of the apps loaded to you actually use (Pareto principle in play). Most people use fewer than 6 apps, 4 of which are native.

        Leveraging the Facebook “Platform” to communicate privately (Private groups) with your clients is smart for that expressed purpose, because your clients are already on Facebook. Facebook’s user count and time on site both continue to grow (In spite of all the attempts to move people off onto Twitter, Snapchat, Periscope, etc). Why? People don’t want to traverse multiple platforms.

        There is a downside related to the control of the experience – which is why we still need membership sites. Daily / regular interaction? Not sure threaded conversations can be delivered somewhere else better.

        But to avoid Facebook because of fear that competition will usurp your hard-earned customers is akin to saying don’t take your surfing students to the beach because other instructors might impress your customers more than you have.

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