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Why Aren’t You Using Facebook Groups for Greater Engagement?

By Wayan Vota on July 13, 2017

facebook groups philippines agriculutre

Recently, I was talking with a Philippine rice farmer about the new agricultural practices he was using to achieve large crop gains on his farm. Surprised at his innovations, I asked him where he learned his new skills.

  • Was it a training course by the Department of Agriculture? No.
  • Was it outreach from an agricultural extension agent? No.
  • Was it from friends and fellow farmers? Yes!

He did learn them from other farmers – but not those in his barangay. He was learning new agricultural innovations from farmers all across the Philippines – on Facebook Groups!

The Power of Peer-to-Peer

We all know that one of the best ways to effect change is to have that change recommended and models by peers to those that we want to adopt the change.

When someone sees a friend, a colleague, or a family member doing a new action, there is an exponentially greater likelihood they will adopt that action vs. hearing about it from an outside source, be it a community health worker or agricultural extension agent, or see it in a mural, flier, or text message.

People we interact with regularly are also the ones we inherently trust more. That trust is built over multiple mini interactions that culminate in us thinking of them as a “friend”.

We instinctively know this, and we can even define and quantify the social network that can improve our behavior change communication activities and trust-based exchanges. Yet why do we leave out the world’s largest social network in our development work?

The Power of Facebook Groups for Learning

How many Facebook Groups are you a member of? I just counted my own account and I’m part of 32 groups, two of which I engage with on a daily basis. I’m sure you’re a member of many too. So too are your constituents.

In fact, those new to the digital world may be more active Facebook Groups users than more experienced digital experts as they have less a tie to email and the original online groups, the listserve. Where we’ve been emailing each other in professional and personal listserves for decades, newer users only know Facebook.

When I asked the 40+ Philippine farmers how many of them were using Facebook Groups to improve their farming techniques, every hand went up. I asked them how they used the group, and all the normal uses came up: reading others’ posts, sharing pictures of their own progress, and following links to outside sources.

When I asked about impact, all the farmers reported learning something useful on a regular basis from their farming group, and many of them were actively finding new business partners through Facebook Groups as well.

Look to Facebook Groups for eCommerce

You might not think that Facebook Groups are the most popular agricultural eCommerce platform, yet new research by Acres of Data shows that Facebook is the most popular online forum for buying and selling produce in Kenya. Where marketplace platforms have 14 buy/sell requests on average per month, Facebook Groups have 430.

Acres of Data found that Facebook’s success is due to three primary reasons:

  • It is free to post
  • People are familiar with how to use it
  • Many already have an account.

That’s driven Facebook Groups adoption to scale with large farming Facebook Groups of up to 40,000 members in Kenya ready to buy and sell produce.

Why Aren’t You Using Facebook Groups?

If your constituents are already in Facebook Groups, and using them to effect change in themselves and others, and find new markets, why aren’t you there too? Why aren’t you putting Facebook Groups into your proposals, and your projects, as a central engagement strategy?

Do you really think another unsolicited SMS text message is going to work?

If you need guidance, here are a few helpful ICTworks posts & be sure to add your links and resources in the comments section below:

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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