29 Oct 2018

Do you run a large Facebook Group? Unlock this powerful revenue source!

In 2011, when the seminal pop-rock band The Monkees reformed to celebrate their 45th anniversary, a journalist asked band member Davy Jones why they were getting back together. They all had successful solo careers, after all, and were decades removed from their 1960s glory days. Jones simply replied: “There’s an audience for everything.”

That same logic can be used to explain the popularity – and opportunity – of Facebook groups and pages.

The numbers are staggering:

Around a billion people belong to Facebook groups, centred around an almost unimaginable range of topics and themes, from memes to maths, from politics to pets. Groups and pages bring people together around a ‘common cause, issue or activity to discuss issues, post photos and share related content.’

In his book ‘Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us’, marketing expert and best selling author Seth Godin argued that the web has given us all an opportunity to be a part of movements, bringing together groups, or ‘tribes’, of like-minded people. Whereas once upon a time we might have been the only person in our immediate peer group with a particular interest or passion, making it seem quite fringe and unusual, we are now able to connect instantaneously with similar people all around the world, hungry for connection and meaning.

Not only can we join and be a part of these communities – we can create them. This means that hundreds of thousands of people, around the world, have unwittingly found themselves as leaders of deeply engaged audiences.

And it may sound cynical, but if there’s one universal truth of online marketing, it’s that – where there’s a highly engaged audience, there’s potential for revenue. In simple terms, if you’re in charge of a large, active Facebook group or run a Facebook page with a large and active following – you’re potentially sitting on a goldmine.

The importance of being earnest

‘Monetisation’ is what it is. But there are right and wrong ways to do it. You’ve done the hardest part by building an engaged group – it’s no easy feat. The last thing you want to do is undermine all that hard work with intrusive, irrelevant sales posts, or by moving away from what you’ve already been doing.

Each opportunity to monetise your group should be evaluated and weighed up to make sure it’s a good fit for your users, and doesn’t diminish their overall experience.

The opportunity of custom merchandise

With that all said, one monetisation technique you definitely should consider is custom merchandise – apparel, accessories and gifts. We live in the age of self-expression; we all enjoy communicating our passions and interests in the ‘things’ we wear and use.

Our favourite places…

Slogans and mantras that make us smile (while expressing a unique world view!)

Our favourite people…

And our favourite art…

By combining the theme or topic of your group, with great products that people use often – you can monetise your audience in a way that’s seamless, unobtrusive and adds real value.

And by creating a print-on-demand merchandise range, you can eliminate many of the traditional headaches associated with selling merchandise. You can create your product range in a matter of minutes (as we’ll explore shortly) and all the actual ‘work’ of printing, fulfilling and shipping your order is done for you.

All you need to do is create great designs, and get those designs in front of your audience. Let’s get into that…

Creating designs that resonate

As we’ve already established, people are only too happy to buy and use products with designs that speak to them. The challenge is not only to create aesthetically beautiful designs for your merch range – but, crucially, designs that resonate with your audience.

This means isolating the passion of your group – what is it that encouraged people to join and contribute so readily? This passion then needs to be rolled out into the merch range, in a slick, professional, beautifully-designed way.

Take the group ‘World of Coffee’ for example – a group for ‘coffee makers and coffee lovers’ to share their passion. The group has more than 122,000 members and is really engaged. When you click onto the group page, you can see that the group founder ‘Barista Dristan Alsela’ has a ‘Shop Now’ button linked directly to his store.

Clicking the ‘Shop Now’ link takes you right to his store page – with a range of barista tools and cups, espresso machines and – crucially – merchandise.

The designs across his merch range, as you might expect, are pretty broad in their appeal. The ‘World of Coffee’ group is founded on a shared love of coffee – and that theme follows through into the range of merchandise. Slogans like ‘But first, coffee…’ and ‘Make coffee, not war!’ are depicted in beautiful typography. Simple, but effective.

Following the same logic, let’s imagine we have a highly engaged group called ‘I Love My Dog’ – a place for members to share pictures, videos, stories and advice about their precious pooches.

There are a couple of ways to come up with a merch range that would resonate with that audience.

First, we could search Google Images for our niche with the keyword ‘quotes’ bolted on the end. We could pick out a few quotes that reflect the attitudes and opinions of our typical audience member.

A very cursory scroll pulls up some simple but effective classics like:

  • “The more people I meet, the more I love my dog…”
  • “Life is better with a dog”
  • “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

You could also search Google Images for funny flat illustrations around your niche. Using the word ‘flat’ will help keep your search results away from old-fashioned, clipart-style illustrations, and give you some great inspiration to work with.

Searching design website dribbble.com will potentially get you inspiration even quicker. It’s an invite-only design community where only specially selected creatives can upload work. Searching for your keyword will throw up a diverse range of illustrations in various styles to inspire your creativity.

Of course, using work created by others is not only unethical, but illegal! It’s important that you only use designs you have permission to use, which generally means you either created it yourself or paid a designer to do so. You can find creatives to work with via sites like Upwork, People per Hour and 99designs – or buy stock vector artwork from sites like Shutterstock. Of course, if you do this, you’ll need to make sure that the license covers you for use on merchandise. We’ve written extensively about how to source ideas and designs for custom merch, here. Check it out!

Selecting your products…

Once you have your first designs, it’s time to map them out on your products. Here at Kite, our product range includes over 250 top quality options. There are times when certain products will work particularly well for certain groups and niches.

For example, if your Facebook group is fitness-themed, you could consider selling protein shakers, or gym towels.

If your group revolves around illustrations or photography, you’ll want to sell prints and canvases…

Certain products, though, will work across pretty much any niche, so it’s always a good idea to start with these. T-shirts, sweaters, coffee cups – they’re incredibly popular and versatile starting points.

To create and sell your products, you’ll want to setup a store page via an eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. We’ve written extensive guides to walk you through the setup process, which you can check out here and here. (And the good news is that if you only plan on selling through Facebook – you don’t need a full stand-alone Shopify eCommerce store. You only require a Shopify ‘light’ plan at $9pm.)

Once you’ve set up your store and the Kite app, it’s a case of taking your design file and uploading it to the Kite Merch App that has a very easy to use product generator. You can then drag, drop and tweak every aspect of your design – plus available product variations, and pricing options – until you’re totally happy with it.

Remember, you aren’t limited to ‘front and centre’ prints. An image like the below, which is available to buy via Shutterstock, for example, would work amazingly well as an all-over, sublimated print or tote bag…

Facebook Shop

Once you’re done building out your whole product range, we strongly recommend setting up a Facebook Shop. This feature is a big deal, and a good piece of ‘low hanging fruit’ for merchandisers coming from a Facebook groups background, since it allows you to sell on the very platform your audience already hangs out on. We’ve written an extensive guide to setting up your Facebook Shop here that gives you all the tools you need to get started.

Promote! Promote! Promote!

While getting your product range set up is easy and quick, getting those products in front of your audience is often slightly more tricky.

For starters, you’ll want to get as much mileage as you can out of organic promotion on your group. It’s your competitive advantage, after all! Posting a few times a week about your product range – plus notifying your members when new products and designs go live – is a good starting point. You could also ‘pin’ a post to the top of your group feed to make sure your shop has good visibility within the group.

You’ll also want to think outside the box in terms of generating interest and awareness of your new products. Everybody likes contests, giveaways and discounts. You could consider giving away some product to random ‘likers, sharers and commenters,’ on posts regarding your merch range, or offering discount codes to members of your group to thank them for their loyalty.

If your budget allows, you might also consider allocating some ad dollars towards your products to target like-minded individuals. You’ll find some advanced tips for marketing your range on Facebook in this guide which could come in handy.

Thanks for reading

As a Facebook group owner, you aren’t just a community leader and influencer – you’re sitting on a real financial opportunity.

There are a variety of ways to monetise your group and make your passion pay.

But, for those people looking to get started right away, merchandise is the proverbial no-brainer. Setting up your range takes a matter of minutes – and with no up-front costs or ongoing running costs, you can continue to focus on the other jobs you have to do. Your print-on-demand merchandise range will provide you with valuable ancillary income – and all you need to do is create the designs, promote products to your audience, and think of ways to spend the money.

Good luck! 🙂

If you want to unlock your Facebook group or page's revenue potential - install our custom merch app:

Shopify Merch Plugin