7 Things I Learned from Closing My Free Facebook Group

Last week I hit the pause button in my free facebook group. The decision came to me rather suddenly in retrospect and I had a lot of misgivings before finally committing. I started my free group a few months after starting my main blog, when I figured out what exactly I wanted to offer as a service.

Over the last 3+ years I grew it slowly, and then more rapidly in the last year. I created it to be a safe space for Christian women experimenting with personal style, and carefully vetted each new member to keep the integrity of the group intact.

Last year I began to realize that the return on my investment might not be there. The group had grown to over 1300 members, and I struggled as I began maternity leave whether or not to hire someone to help manage it. But since the ROI didn’t support that, I just left it and proceeded to step back some and focus more on my paid community.

As my maternity leave began to wind down, I felt God answering my questions about what to do with the group. Over a period of days, I found myself in various pieces of Scripture that all led me to a decision to close down my free facebook group.

Here is a rundown of the lessons I learned in this process of closing down a major piece of my business.

It’s more emotional than you think.

For months I felt confused about the group and its future. Once I went through the decision making process, I felt relief and assumed that would be the end of my emotional struggle. But it was only the beginning.

I agonized over what to say in the closing announcement post. I considered what needed to be said and what was best left out. I tried to strike the balance between honesty and kindness. I hit publish and intentionally stepped back, knowing it was going to be difficult for the members to hear.

When I went to read the responses I felt anger, shocked by a few of the requests being made. I was resentful that I had poured so much into the group, and even into creating a program based on their experiences. And on the heels of anger just came more relief that this chapter would soon be ending.

This cycle continued up until the day I actually went through the motions and officially closed…sadness, confusion, anger, repentance, relief. 

**Stops writing to go look up the 5 stages of grief…**

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Yeah, I felt them all. And I wasn’t really prepared for that to happen.

Protect the asset.

First of all, don’t DELETE your group. 

Someone asked me if this was my plan, but I never intended to delete. Three years of my work: my time, emotional investment, customer/client/member testimonials, and thousands in ad spend were used to grow and create the group.

Make no mistake that any community you build, on any platform, is a business asset. Every decision you make, all the maintenance, everything inside, is your intellectual property.

It is a direct reflection of who you are and what you stand for, and managing it is a responsibility. I was even asked to transfer ownership since they loved the community so much, but you can’t put a price on something of this value that you spent years building.

So whatever you need to do to ensure your intellectual property, do it. You may need to turn off posts and commenting, block or suspend people, or rely on heavy moderation.

Which brings me to the next point…

The tech can get complicated.

This is likely to be true the longer you’ve had the group. With 3 years and 1300 members you wouldn’t expect it to be much.

However, over the last 3 years I have been linking to the free facebook group from the blog, podcast, social media, and Pinterest. I had a vanity url I used in various places that redirected to the group.

I had to address the fact that some people will still land on the closed group, and what to do in that case. I chose to change the banner and provide the link to the new paid membership group for those that find it. I also redirected the vanity url to the sales page for that paid program. 

Even as a closed asset, make sure there’s a plan for dealing with those that stumble upon the group.

People will be ugly.

This one was a big shock to me. I expected a Christian group of women to behave graciously. Disappointed and sad of course, but to respond with integrity.

I mentioned some comments asking for things that showed a general lack of respect, but also perhaps just ignorance for the business side of owning a group.

But I was never more surprised when a few individuals began intercepting new potential clients and trying to poach them to a new community they had started. Myself and my team were called names, and our values attacked. Ironically these were people who refused to invest in their own growth, which was one of the deeper reasons I was led to close the group.

The relational, problem solving side of me wanted to address the issues, but I remember my husband’s advice that anything in writing can be saved and used against you, so ultimately I decided to ignore the negativity.

The ugliness brought out more of that anger above, but I chose to simply suspend the troublemakers (see above) and pray for them to have an exceptionally blessed day.

In retrospect, this part of the experience led me to this next one…

Don’t draw it out.

I made this mistake. I gave them two weeks (and my initial idea was to give them a month). Terrible idea. I thought they would have time to come to terms, cement any online friendships, and I did a last free lesson stream before closing.

Don’t draw it out.

End it swifty….like a guillotine, rather than slow death. I spoke with a friend near the closing date who had recently closed her own group. She had planned to give more time but ended up closing it 2 days later.

Announce the closing, set the date a few days in the future, and stick to it. No more than 7, and even that’s stretching it. Save yourself the drama and end it quickly.

Your true fans will appear.

For every ugly person, there are 10 more that supported my decision to do what was best for my business and follow where God is leading. There were so many well wishers and kind words of encouragement.

Some of them chose to continue on, but the majority did not. The stats are pretty sad, and really shine a light on the idea of true fans. 

Stu McLaren recently said that people join memberships because they want more of you….it was a bit of a revelation to realize that most of those in the group weren’t there for me and what I had to offer. 

But without the forest of those not here for me, I was able to see the gems of clients that ARE ready to grow and transform and have chosen me as their mentor on the journey.

Pruning is freeing.

Relief. That was the emotion that kept coming on the tail end of every roller coaster of feelings. The group had become something that was no longer in alignment with the direction of my business.

I don’t know all the whys, and I definitely don’t understand the future and how this contributes. 

But I do know that this was a pruning season in my business. In 3.5 years this is the first I’ve actually gone through, and I hold fast to the Bible’s promise that pruning does indeed produce a greater harvest. 

My word for 2024 is “expand” and even that has proven to mean more complex things than I first imagined. From changing my avatar to getting rid of assets that no longer produce ROI, it’s a big time of change inside my business.

As I really try to hand over my existing success and future growth to God, I expect there to be more of these over time.

Final Thoughts on Closing my free Facebook Group

You may be asking, would I ever do a free group again. At this moment, no way. Many business gurus swear by them for lead generation and building know/like/trust…but I did all those things, and the women inside barely converted into paying customers.

Maybe we can say that I didn’t understand them, but I asked over and over what they were struggling with. In the end I realized I had built a group that wasn’t serving the goals of my business, and instead was taking time away from the things that are. 

And that’s really the heart of being a prudent business owner, especially since my first role is wife and homeschooling mom. Now I get to double down on the things that are working well, like my blog and focus on my clients who have committed to change. 

And maybe leave a little extra time for hobbies and side projects. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *