Every now and then I get the opportunity to present seminars and workshops to smaller business operators about the digital world and how it applies to them.
Just last week another opportunity to do this arose as part of Victoria’s Small Business Festival. This time it was outer suburban Warrandyte hosting a one-day business festival at a community hall.
As far as outer suburbs go, Warrandyte is quite unique. In fact it’s really more of a country town surrounded by outer Melbourne suburbs as it’s managed to keep its sleepy riverside appeal intact.
And like sleepy regional towns, the local business community bands together for all sorts of local activities, of which this festival was just one.
A thriving Facebook community
What I didn’t know though was just how well this community had migrated to the online world and in particular, Facebook.
While preparing my presentation for the festival, I checked out their Facebook Group to get a sense of what people were saying about it.
To my astonishment, the Warrandyte Business and Community Group was populated by no less than a whopping 5,460 members. That is under one hundred fewer than the town’s entire population!
By comparison, in Business Victoria’s statewide Facebook Group, “I am a business owner in Victoria”, the numbers are nearly double at 10,800 members, while national and popular group Business Business Business boasts 11,620.
Mixing business with pleasure
Now every Facebook Group dedicated to business is different when it comes to governance. Some are very strict about self promotion while others aren’t.
In fairness, as its name suggests, this Group is Business and Community rather than strictly business, so its rules around promotion are a little looser than most.
In terms of content, it’s more local community information on everything to lost cats to local sports news. However, business operators are allowed to openly contribute and promote themselves (within reason)
That makes sense. In most regional towns the local business operators are very much part of the local community, much more so than their city counterparts. I suspect this is due to their being a more visible part of the local school, sports and other community aspects other than business, whereas suburban communities tend to spread themselves out much wider than just the immediate vicinity.
But that doesn’t lessen the significant achievement of attracting that many people all willing to allow business operators a generous presence in their Group.
As a guide to the kind of conversations the Group was posting, the latest six were:
- A local café getting opinions on a new play area
- A mum putting out a call for costumes for her child
- A teenager looking for work
- A skin care distributor promoting products on sale
- A dance wear product manufacturer advertising their wholesale prices
- A local football club advertising for a new coach
Admittedly, some of this content would be far too ‘consumer’ and loose on its content policies for many business networks.
Without due diligence, a Facebook Group starting out with worthy intentions just ends up looking like a shop-a docket: all advertisements and deals and little useful conversation.
I know from my own experience with business networks that it’s tricky to accommodate the networking needs of both business operators and consumers.
But provided the Group rules are clear and the moderation active, there’s no reason why the two can’t make successful bedfellows.
The Warrandyte Group really is a great case study in just how well a local community can embrace the online world for all kinds of community interaction, including that pertaining to business.
In fact I came away not a little envious that my own suburban community didn’t have as active a forum as theirs.
How active are you in online Groups and communities?
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.