Using Facebook Groups for Deeper Engagement with Audience or Your Peers | Beth's Blog

Using Facebook Groups for Deeper Engagement with Audience or Your Peers

Digital Strategy

Note from Beth: Facebook Groups can be used to help build communities and for deeper engagement and learning with your audience or peers.   I’ve been using Facebook groups to projects that are focused on peer learning and I have set up groups of colleagues to provide just in time support.    Facebook Groups can also help nonprofits build community or be used to support and rally champions for your cause.   Earlier this week, NTEN hosted a chat on the topic and the unedited transcript is here and a summary on Storify here.   Recently,  a colleague, Janet Shing, from the Monterrey Community Foundation, mentioned that she was setting up an online book club with nonprofits to read “NetSmart” by Howard Rheingold and asked if I had ever used a Facebook Group for book club discussions.     I remembered that Lisa Colton had set up an online book club discussion about my first book, The Networked Nonprofit, co-authored with Allison Fine.   I invited Lisa to reflect on her experience and share some advice as a blog post.


The Networked Nonprofit Book Club: Anytime, Anywhere Learning – guest post by Lisa Colton

When The Networked Nonprofit first was published I grabbed a copy for myself, my staff, and my major funders, and further recommended it to the leaders of the Jewish organizations with whom I work. As I read the book, I instantly knew that this was meaty stuff that we’d all need to chew on. Facebook had recently revamped its Groups, and it seemed like the perfect place to take the conversation for a spin.

Thus began “Darim’s Networked Nonprofit Book Club”.

My staff and I invited many people in our networks and our professional communities who we felt were “ripe” for the conversation. Those people added folks from their own networks, and the group quickly swelled to more than 50. We began the Book Club by carefully crafting a couple questions per chapter, and focusing on about one chapter per week. We quoted the book, took inspiration from the questions listed at the end of each chapter, and attempted to lead a traditional book club on Facebook.

It was working pretty well as planned. Then members started posting their own questions, and some people just found the book and joined when we were already discussing chapter 5. Actually none of this mattered. In fact, it was great. What began as ‘hub and spokes’ naturally evolved into a network discussion: the Book Club became a rich self-serve space where like-minded people came to learn with and from each other, explore ideas, share knowledge and experience, and challenge one another. We dropped the formal book club structure (Week 2: Question 3 ….”) and started to steward the conversation around Network Nonprofit themes.

We found the Book Club really thrived around 3 areas:

  1. We developed vocabulary and conceptual understandings together: Core and periphery, social media as a ‘contact sport’, and awareness of what “losing control” really means in a social media landscape, for example. By developing a shared language our Book Club bonded in a way – we could talk with each other about these ideas and visions even if our bosses and colleagues didn’t always get it. Having this peer group was validating and supportive.
  2. We rose to the challenge when members of the Book Club posted things they were wrestling with. One person’s “fear of failure” post elicited a robust conversation and sharing of case studies to help us reframe “failure” in this time of experimentation and change. Participants’ willingness to put these kinds of issues on the table furthered everyone’s learning much more than if I had formulated the questions. These posts really helped us focus not only our actions, but also how we are leading culture shift within our organizations.
  3. We embraced the fluid, emergent and evolving nature of the conversation. While we are still actively discussing the themes in The Networked Nonprofit, we are also using our Book Club to explore related works and ideas. I recently wrote a book review on our blog and a member of the Book Club commented, “we should do a Book Club for this one too!” So we introduced the book and have begun a lively (and fairly focused) discussion. Many new people joined the Facebook Group as they learned about the opportunity, and thus the size, scope, topics and energy have evolved over time, and I suspect will continue to do so.

The Facebook Group functionality has been fantastic for the Book Club. Its flat structure has enabled me to steward while not quite leading the group through our discussions. I sometimes stir the pot, drop in links to relevant articles, and ask follow up questions to deepen the discussion where I think there’s room to grow. The ability to tag anyone in the group (whether you’re Facebook friends or not) has supported a very warm and social culture, and has surely deepened the conversation by weaving participants back into threads over time. Unfortunately Facebook doesn’t (yet?) allow groups to have super succinct usernames, but you can set the group email address that does create a customized URJ (, and I also created a customized link through which provides an even shorter and still intuitive link as well:

I am constantly inviting people to the Book Club to continue their learning after a webinar or live workshop, to ask questions of the group to support their own professional development and practice, and to find their peers in this work.

We’ve all found that this “anytime, anywhere” professional development is incredibly valuable, accessible and fun for the 200+ members of the Book Club. It’s amazing simple (and cheap) for us to run, and a great way to build a professional network.  How do you take advantage of “anytime, anywhere” professional development?

Lisa Colton is the founder and president of Darim Online (, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Jewish organizations thrive in the connected age. She writes for the JewPoint0 blog and tweets at @darimonline

7 Responses

  1. Chris Kelly says:

    Thanks for the ideas–this can be applied in many ways!

  2. Janet Shing says:

    This is fantastic Lisa – very informative and helpful. I appreciate the real-life examples. We’re getting ready to launch our book club. Thank you Beth, #netnon force multiplier!

  3. Hello Beth:
    I just bumped into your blog. I like it very much. I am wondering if it would be possible for you to visit my site and after reading it, if you would be able to give some tips about what I can do to fulfill my plethora of wants and needs using these ideas you so aptly handle. Or perhaps you could feel called to get involved in getting my message out into the world. Beth, after 36 years of research I am opened to what may come my way to further my vision and mission in life. Thank you for your attention and any assistance you may care to provide.

    Ricardo Rojas
    Neuroscientist of Consciousness
    Lima Peru

  4. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the great pointer and ideas Lisa. Very informative and helpful.

  5. Lisa Colton says:

    Glad this is useful! If anyone takes a stab at starting their own Facebook Book Club, please let me know — I’d love to see how you do it, and how it works for you and your goals!

  6. shopxinh says:

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into
    any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?

    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any techniques to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d truly appreciate it.

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