Fueling Your Growth With Facebook Groups And Communities
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview John Cantarella. John is the VP of Community & Impact Partnerships at Facebook. Prior to joining Facebook, he was the president of Digital, News, Business, and Sports Properties at Time Inc. where he oversaw TIME.com, CNNMoney.com, Fortune.com, SI.com, and Golf.com. John also spent several years at The New York Times Company at NYTimes.com running strategy, marketing, and operations. He was part of the management team that was instrumental in launching NYTimes.com’s first digital paid product and the acquisition of About.com.
Building a community creates a space to engage with clients, advise potential clients, and help people who want support, encouragement, and a place to share and connect. If you’re a brand, business, coach, consultant, course creator, author, expert, or speaker, cultivating a community of raving fans will get you results and impact your bottom line.
In this episode, I talk with the VP of Community & Impact Partnerships at Facebook, John Cantarella, about how to leverage Facebook for businesses of all kinds to build groups, communities, and raving fans to fuel your growth.
Questions I ask John Cantarella:
- [2:19] How has the business use of Facebook evolved from those early days to where we are today?
- [4:15] How complex has Facebook become since the early days?
- [5:40] Why do you think Facebook has such a hold on businesses for creating groups and communities when there are other tools where you can do the same kind of thing?
- [7:58] What are some other places along the customer journey that you think groups or communities fit that maybe people aren’t thinking of?
- [12:31] What are the best practices to really stimulate, grow and keep a very engaged community?
- [14:55] Say I build this 80,000-person community with great tools and a great community, but I don’t really own it, and it’s on somebody else’s platform — how do you address that?
- [16:44] I have a lot of listeners who own traditional local businesses, so they have real geographic constraints just by nature of the model of their business. Are there ways that you’ve seen local businesses use this in a way that might effectively drive revenue?
- [19:23] What’s next for businesses on Facebook?
- [22:24] Retention and recruitment have become really hot right now for a lot of organizations – what role can community play?
- [24:13] What resources do you want to share with listeners?
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John Jantsch (00:44): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is John Cantarella. He's a VP of community and impact partnerships at Facebook prior to joining Facebook, he was the president of digital of the news business and sports properties at time, Inc, where we are versa saw time.com, CNN money.com, fortune.com, si.com and golf.com. He also spent a number of years at the New York times company at NYT, I guess it's NY times
John Cantarella (01:30): John, thanks so much for having me just hearing that a while it goes back a bunch of years too, but I really appreciate you having me, uh, on, on your podcast.
John Jantsch (01:38): You, you bet about.com is really a blast from the past. You actually, of course, people are listening to this. You don't look old enough for, to have, uh, been involved in that they, the about.com. There was a, a guide. I think that's what they called them in my community. That was, you know, interviewed me a number of times. So about, this was like around 2000 ish, I think, or something like that. But
John Cantarella (02:00): You probably remember it was called the mining company before it was about.com and it was kind of an early community platform, you know, with those guys who are really building it.
John Jantsch (02:08): Yeah. Very early on. And it it's kind of been absorbed into something else now hasn't it?
John Cantarella (02:13): It has, I think the New York times ended up selling it to, to Barry DI's company interactive core, I think.
John Jantsch (02:20): Yeah. Yeah. All right. So let's go. Not quite that far back, uh, but let's start at about 2008, which was probably the date that Facebook really became a business tool or started the journey becoming a business tools. So could you give us a quick, in your view, you know, how business use of Facebook has evolved kind of from those early days to where we are today?
John Cantarella (02:43): Yeah, I know it's a really interesting question. You know, what I, I wasn't around in 2008, but you know, early days, I mean, you know, Facebook was really an effective, you know, marketing platform, particularly in the early days, really focused much more on, you know, customer acquisition, which is still obviously a large part yeah. Of our business, but because it was one of the early platforms to allow, you know, self-serve, it really built, you know, a huge ecosystem of small businesses. Yeah. And, and, and, and it helps scale the platform really quickly. I think, you know, this company has gone through so many transformation. I mean, you think back in 2008, you think about early advertising and banner ads. And, you know, I could remember, I remember all the different formats, but, you know, in those days, Facebook really pioneered, you know, and didn't use traditional ad formats like the, you know, 300 by two 50 and, and really started, you know, you know, running ads and feed, and then obvious, you know, mobile happened, the company transformed and pivoted very quickly towards mobile. And I think you've seen that we've innovated on, on formats over the years from, you know, feed ads to ads in stories. And, you know, and now you're starting to see, you know, ads and things like reals. I, I think that the thing that's, you know, what we hear a overall is that I think about it in terms of economic opportunity. When I think about the millions of small businesses that use Facebook and, you know, it's an incredible platform to drive people, to, you know, take action for your business.
John Jantsch (04:15): So going back to my early use and it, I mean, it was such a great place in the early days to get exposure for your content, because again, the way the feed was first off, it wasn't as, as busy, but also the way the feed was as you, anybody who followed you saw your stuff. And, and obviously as it became so many more users and so many more, so much more functionality, you know, adding Instagram now and, and other purchases it's really in a lot of ways is it's become much more complex. Hasn't it?
John Cantarella (04:44): I think it is complex from a, from a, you know, you have to be somewhat skilled in knowing how to reach an audience. And I think that's why we have a large ecosystem of partners that, that help you. But, you know, if you're a small business, you know, you can't necessarily hire a third party. I think where they've innovated really well is, you know, to your earlier point, you know, obviously we have Facebook, we have Instagram, there's WhatsApp, and, you know, you know,
John Jantsch (05:40): So a lot of small business owners certainly use the ad, you know, functionality and dependent upon types of businesses have done really well. I've also seen, uh, a lot of small businesses in a non-paid environment, the groups that, you know, creating communities for various reasons. So
John Jantsch (05:56): Why do you think, I mean, there are a lot of tools now that you can create groups and communities. I mean, HEC slack, you know, this is one that a lot of people will attempt to do that. Why do you feel like Facebook, uh, has such a hold on? I mean, obviously part of it's just sheer numbers. There's so many people on Facebook already, but it, it feels to me like, you know, the group functionality at FA on, on the Facebook platform is, feels far superior to a lot of other, you know, options out there of kind of doing it on your own.
John Cantarella (06:23): You know, it's a, it's a great point. I would say, fundamentally, you know, we talk about product market fit. The product works incredibly well. And we have an unbelievable product team who, you know, over the last year is literally launching new features based on what the community's telling, what they need on a weekly and monthly basis to really ensure that people can manage and grow their community or their groups. I mean, to your point, like, so we call them groups, but to be honest, you know, fundamentally our mission as a company is to give people the power, to build community, to bring people closer together. And, and Mike to team specifically works with people that build communities. So we know there are over 70 million people, um, that are managing groups. There are over 1.8 billion people, monthly in groups. And, you know, with that's your scale, you know, these are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
John Cantarella (07:13): And we like to think about them as communities. And, you know, you wrote about this in one of your books. You know, a lot, lot of these folks are purpose driven. And there are a collection of people that receive a sense of belonging through the connection, and frankly, a feeling of safety and trust that they invest in over time. And when we see small businesses or even larger businesses use, uh, Facebook groups, we see it because they're driven by a purpose and, and something they want, um, they're consumers to have around a short interest or a goal or an attitude. You know, they're not looking them as just a as capital, right. They're looking at it for purpose.
John Jantsch (07:49): So I think a lot of people get the idea of, of say putting clients or members or, you know, whatever we wanna call them into a group. I mean, that's quite obvious what are some other place along the customer journey that you think groups or communities fit that maybe people aren't thinking of?
John Cantarella (08:06): So the, the thing that we're seeing you think there's a stat out there that 80% of small businesses have used digital tools in the past month, you know, for advertising and communication. And overall, you know, you know this, and you've been doing this for years and consulting for companies. I, I think gone are the days when one way communication is gonna work. You can't speak at your audience anymore. And so, you know, what we're seeing is, is that companies that are purpose driven, small business that are purpose driven, you know, are finding real value when they're building a group. Right? So they're looking at for multiple things. So, you know, we call it and I, I have to give all credit to a woman. My name milita tub was an early investor in communities and started the community fund. You know, she calls it C C ROI community return on investment.
John Cantarella (08:55): And when we think about that, there, there are three things that we're seeing, small businesses and businesses get out of community. One is, you know, potentially revenue. There's a real lifetime value when people are, are in your group, because they're your best customers. Secondly, you know, from an operational standpoint, you know, it could be a customer support tool where your community, it's making your operations easier because people are talking to each other to help solve problems. And, and that third piece is really the insights piece. You know, we're seeing multiple companies use it for product development and they're, they're using what they're hearing in their communities to make their product better and have a, a continuous conversation with, with a customer. And there's so many great examples of that.
John Jantsch (09:40): Well, and I, I think you missed one that I'm seeing a lot of is peop it's actually become a top of the funnel, you know, tool for a lot of people where they're building these free communities, where people get a taste of what it's like to be in that community, or to be coached by that person or whatever is before they really even go into the true sort of sales funnel.
John Cantarella (10:00): It it's a great point. And we, we hear this from a lot of small businesses. I have an example. There is a founder called Priscilla side. She started a, a beauty company called Coco kind. And, you know, it was all started out of a need. She really wanted to have a clean, deep brand. She felt a lot of the beauty brands out there weren't aspirational for her because she suffered from, you know, pretty bad skin. And she, you know, didn't relate to a lot of what she was seeing out there. So she started this beauty company called Coco kind. And as she started this company, she started to interact through Instagram and direct message with customers to really understand, like, what formulas do they like? What, what is the packaging, what the colors that they like really finding that they're educated consumers. And then as her community on Instagram grew larger, she started to do polls that you get things like she gets things like 30,000 responses from her community through this, what she calls her Coco kind lab. And then she also started a Facebook group called skin positivity because, you know, these folks really love the products that she produces, but they also wanna connect with others around, you know, tips and tricks and to support each other. And to your point, you know, this becomes an organic top of funnel, as opposed to, you know, if you, if she doesn't remain true to permission of skin positivity, you know, people can see right through that.
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John Jantsch (12:09): Yeah. So you really hit on kind of where I was gonna gonna go next. You know, are there some, I, I hate the term best practice. It implies that there's no better practices, but are there some best practices to really stimulate and grow and, and keep this very engaged community? Cuz you know, I see all kinds of people I get invited to 'em all the time, these groups that you go there and it's like a ghost town, you know, so what are some, if somebody's really one to do this, what do they have to, what what's their investment gonna be?
John Cantarella (12:37): It's a really important point. And it's an important point because you know, everyone, not everyone, but, but most companies have someone who's their marketer and they have someone who's their social media manager, community management is none of those. Yeah. And you know, we've seen cases of large companies starting communities and then quickly losing control of it because they don't have a clear mission of what they're doing. And you know, we've spent a lot of time to make sure that our ecosystem of community builders really have the resources that they need. So first of all, we have everything from a community management certification program to a playbook for small business or any business to really figure out how to get started to use, you know, Facebook groups and also just figure out like what community platform works best for you. So I think number one, we'd like to say why like identify what your community objective is, right?
John Cantarella (13:29): You know, it, it, your community objectives should number one, be I just want more customers. Right? And then once, you know, oh, your why it's really, how do I list the right person to, to manage that community and then really develop a strategy to support your desired outcomes. And then once you're there, then you start to build the guiding principles and you start to engage the community. And what you see is, you know, these communities start to grow pretty pretty quickly. Uh, and I'll give you an example. One of our, our partners is, is a young woman called DEHA Kennedy. She started a community called broke black girl. And, and her mission was really to provide culturally relevant financial information to African American women. I mean, she, I love it. She called herself at a five financial activist, right? And so she started this community to help women save money and it quickly became 80,000 people wrong.
John Cantarella (14:17): And you know, she was a community first leader because of an issue she was having to really find better financial, um, literacy and information to manage finances from that, she started getting people in our community, asking her to consult for them. And it's gotten to the point now where Dasia could no longer do one-to-one consultation. So she started to build old small business where she's offering seminars, she's offering templates. And it's your point? It's, you know, she's like, look, I can't look at them as capital. I look at them as people and I'm providing value and if they want to migrate to my website and buy one of my courses great. But I, you know, it is topless funnel for her, but it's organic.
John Jantsch (14:55): So you touched just briefly, maybe unintentionally
John Cantarella (15:21): So I, I like to think of it in terms of, we are nothing without these individuals. And what I've found is both when I speak with small businesses and I work with these community builders, they are enormously grateful for the impact that they are able to make, right. With the tools that we provide them. And so, you know, we manage multiple, I mean, I would say not multiple thousands of community builders who are some of the most engaged on that platforms. And we spend a lot of time with them getting their feedback and, you know, and putting them in front of our product leadership to make sure that we can build all the tools that they want. And, you know, we call it our top pain points or people problems, you know, what are the product enhancements that we need to build to support them on the flip side, you know, our team is very focused programmatically to capacity, build individual to make sure, you know, when these communities grown in a certain size, they immediately see that it becomes a challenge. So we wanna make sure how can we make your community sustainable by launching monetization products? How can we support you in your leadership journey? Cuz you need to build a team to support the work that you're doing. And so if you look at the tools over the last year that we've launched, they've really been in response to these individuals, being able to, you know, feel more ownership over their communities. Overall,
John Jantsch (16:44): I know on my show, there's a lot of businesses that are, are traditional local businesses. You know, how would they go about looking at this cuz because obviously they have real geographic constraints just by nature of the model of their business. And obviously social media has oh, geographic constraints. So, you know, what are there ways that, that you've seen local businesses use this? Not, not just to build numbers, but to do something that might effectively, uh, drive revenue.
John Cantarella (17:13): I have, I mean, here's the thing, you know, I just saw the sta this week, it was in the New York times, which is really frankly upsetting and frightening is that with more companies settling into permanent hybrid work from home in New York city, specifically the average office worker is predicted to reduce their annual spending by nearly $6,700 pre pandemic. They were almost $14,000 around their office areas. And if you go down the list, that's a New York city with, you know, largest metropolitan area in, in the us, you know, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's a $5,000, um, reduction in spend that is terrifying. And the thing that I think is so important for small businesses and this is at the local level, right? Most people, you know, think about small businesses at the local level. You know, during the pandemic, we launched multiple things to support small businesses, not only grants for them, as well as you know, in, in communities, but even on Instagram, you could, you can still launch a sticker today that is, is linking to your local small businesses to make sure that, that you can support them locally.
John Cantarella (18:17): So, so local is fundamentally, you know, when I think about community, that's what I think about. Secondly, I say is that it's so important for small businesses to have the digital for front door and a digital front door is not only a social media presence, but also, you know, the people that off by your store every single day, they are your community. And sometimes small businesses don't realize that. And so I would always encourage these small businesses to really engage with their customers. And you know, this is the beauty, I mean, community has redefined itself. We always think about community in real life. And so, you know, now it's both, how do you make sure you can bridge the people that walk by your store every day with this digital front door to make sure they can connect with you? Right. So my local restaurant of the street noodle pudding here in Brooklyn, New York, you know, I follow my Instagram. I would love for them to have a I'd love for them to have a group. You know, they post their menu every single I wanna support them. So it's really important for these small businesses to put that digital shingle out there in as many ways as possible.
John Jantsch (19:20): So this is a big question. I don't know if we can end up on this or not just give us a glimpse of what's maybe next for businesses on Facebook, but obviously community as well.
John Cantarella (19:29): So I think there are multiple things and I, I think, yeah, you are an early evangels of evangels to this, from what I can tell, you know, I think it's so important. We talked about this community return on investment, but to me, the other piece that's so important is the purpose and the social value. You're bringing to people in the sense of belonging. That's why I feel so strongly that businesses, that build community in the future, you know, you, any young person today wants a company that shares their values, whether it's around sustainability, like colo kind or, you know, focus on social justice, they wanna know what you stand for. And they're not gonna find that out. If you don't talk about it and engage them on it. I also think that community is not going to be a marketing function. We're gonna start to see the biggest companies have a chief community officer, and there's gonna be a whole new industry trained up around people being certified in community management.
John Cantarella (20:24): We're already seeing a bunch of third party companies start to build metrics and tools so they can start to measure the value of community overall. And you know, the better we're able to support our partners in being able to measure the value of their community. The stronger they'll be. I'll give you an example. There's a, an incredible startup cold tonal. They're a home startup and they have a home exercise machine and we've been working with them on a case study because they have this toll community on Facebook. And if you go on there, you see these people who are so dedicated to the exercise, but we also found that their most active community members work out with the product more than the average user and they are, are more and they're much more significantly likely to recommend to tool brand. They also get feedback every Friday, it's hashtag feedback Friday on how to improve their product.
John Cantarella (21:17): And they filter it back into the brand. You know, it it's the full circle. So I think you're gonna see more companies like to like Airbnb, like Coco kind and, and broke black girl invest in community and set themselves apart from everyone else. And I, it, you know, it wouldn't be right if I didn't, uh, mention the metaverse, you know, as we're building, uh, virtual reality, we're obviously making a really big investment there, you know, and part of what we're gonna do is really help define what community will look like in the virtual world, which is gonna be fundamentally important. You know, if you can't be there in person, you can be there with your avatar and hopefully get a sense of, what's like to be a part of a community.
John Jantsch (21:56): You know, you mentioned obviously hybrid workplaces, distributed workplaces, you know, are, are certainly they've been going on for a long time. But I think that they just got a jolt
John Cantarella (22:38): I think it's so important to think about that. And, you know, and again, you've written about this. I think if you don't start by building community with your company, it's gonna be really hard for you to create an authentic community outside of your company for your customers. I think the beauty of working company look, I've worked, I worked in media for years and I've been at MEA for seven and a half years now. And we, you, you have a version of Facebook internally, cold workplace, and, you know, beyond the groups that we've created to collaborate. So you might have a group that you're collaborating on a, around one project. We also have a lot of groups within our company that are just really fun. You know, it could be sad work from home meals,
John Cantarella (23:36): And that really sustained a lot of people in our organization and in companies, not only, you know, communities, but even, you know, even tools like zoom or chats, you know, we have a chat for it's a Peloton chat for folks on my team, and it's a great way that we all just, you know, support each other and build a community around a shared interest. So I think that using digital tools is really important, but it can't completely supplant, you know, in real life. And I think that combination of the two is really being thoughtful about how you bring the digital platform and the in real life potluck all together is really important.
John Jantsch (24:14): So John, tell me, you mentioned the playbook. That might be a good place to start, but if there are any other resources you wanna mention or draw our attention to,
John Cantarella (24:21): We do, and I'll send you the, I'll send you the URLs and you can add it to the site, but we, if you go to fb.me/business/community, I know that's a mouthful, but we have a playbook. We have all kinds of resources for people that are building community. You know, I like to say to, to the team, it's, you know, we, we are trying to be as colloquial and as sufficient price, as you know, know, I think that's, again, you know, as possible where it's like, how do you break it down? So that it's really easy. Step one, step two, step three. So that it's really easy for people to onboard. And the beauty of our tools too, the way they've been built is that there's a lot of automation involved so that, you know, you don't have to be air dust 24 hours a day, but, but you do have to be there to tend, you know, it's like being a gardener, you know, make sure you head to it.
John Jantsch (25:08): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, John, thanks so much for stopping by the duct tape marketing podcast and hopefully we'll see you one of these days out there on the road,
John Cantarella (25:15): John, I really appreciate your time and, and thank you so much for having me.
John Jantsch (25:19): All right. So that wraps up another episode. I wanna thank you so much for tuning in and you know, we love those reviews and comments and just, I generally tell me what you think also did you know that you could offer the duct tape marketing system, our system to your clients and build a complete marketing consulting coaching business, or maybe level up an agency with some additional services. That's right. Check out the duct tape marketing consultant network. You can find it at ducttapemarketing.com and just scroll down a little and find that offer our system to your client's tab.
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