Facebook groups are excellent tools for building communities online. And with Facebook’s recent shift of focus in favour of community-building they’re now also one of the better ways to market your race online.
But when it comes to setting one up, many race directors hesitate. Where should one being?
Right here, as it happens. We’ve got 3 great ideas of groups you could look to launch and link to your Facebook page.
Create a group for participants (past and present)
In any kind of race, there’s so many things participants will want to know and discuss, from training and equipment tips to accommodation and travel options. A dedicated Facebook group where they can meet and share thoughts about your event is the best place for this to happen.
You may have considered creating a forum on your race website for this purpose. Our advice is “Don’t”: a Facebook group works great, has everything you’ll ever need and offers fewer barriers for users (remembering to visit your site, log in etc).
And a group isn’t only for your current participants. Past participants also have a great contribution to make.
Engaging past participants in the group will not only get them interested in returning to your event, but also provide first-hand race insights to first-timers and help keep activity in the group lively.
You could have two separate groups for participants (past and present), but we think it’s best you combine the two into one. Here’s a couple more tips to keep in mind:
- Keep the cover photo in your group relevant. An inspirational finisher or race action photo would work great
- Keep the discussion going with regular stimulating posts and timely responses.
- Use the group alongside your mailing list for sharing key race announcements – but try not to promote your race too hard.
Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind the golden rule: if you’re going to launch it, make sure you have the time to grow and maintain it.
Create a group for your volunteers
Successful events are built on the back of a motivated, highly-engaged volunteer force. So there is no better community to engage with a Facebook group than your volunteers.
A closed Facebook group for your race volunteers is a great way to rally and coordinate your team, as well as create a public Q&A between them and you on all things race-related that everyone can follow
Here’s a few tips on making the most of your volunteer group:
- Invite all your volunteers and aim to maintain a vibrant discussion.
- Grant your volunteer team captains admin or moderator roles in the group to help you coordinate content and keep discussion on track.
- Make sure to include a group cover photo showing your volunteers in action.
- Comment on suggestions and be seen to respect your volunteer’s input.
Try this and you’ll be surprised how far these small touches will go to inspire loyalty and a sense of pride and community in your volunteer force.
Create a themed group linked to your race
Unlike what you may think, your Facebook group need not associate very closely with your race. In fact, creating a broader group around your sport could have a lot more benefits than the obvious [You-Race-Name] Group.
What do we mean by that?
Let’s say you’re putting on a trail race. You could launch a group called Trail Running Tips or Trail Running Newbies or [Your-City-or-Region] Trail Runners and link this group to your Facebook race page. All kinds of people interested in discussing trail running would join one of these groups.
There’s many advantages to being first to launching a themed group of this kind and bringing it under the umbrella of your race brand:
- People joining this group are potential future participants in your race.
- Because you are not stamping your race brand explicitly on the group name, you can end up attracting a broader membership.
- You can use access to the group as leverage to cross-promote with other non-competing races in your area.
One thing to be careful about when running such a themed group is to keep the race promos of your own event at a minimum. You may even have to allow other events to be discussed and, to a limited extent, promoted within the group. Be patient and be subtle.
By fostering this type of group, your race will reap the benefits indirectly. But there is a fine balance here and you should tread lightly or risk the whole thing backfiring on you.
By the way…
You should not think that the ideas presented above are an either/or. You could absolutely launch multiple groups, catering to different audiences.
That means having your [My-Trail-Race] Group for participants where your race has a more prominent involvement *and* a [My-City] Trail Runners group where you host a larger discussion around your sport.
And there you have it. Our top suggestions for community groups on Facebook.
If you want to know more about what to do with your group once you’ve launched it and how to get the most out of the synergies between your groups, Facebook page and your race website, check out our in-depth look at the Facebook group revolution.
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