How he converted a Facebook Group into a business

Business using Facebook

In digital age, businesses thrive on innovation. I know of one such innovation that I have observed closely. Here, I am going to share how a young man residing in Pune has built an innovative business model. He used one of the most ignored offering of Facebook – “Groups”. He built a hyperlocal community and later designed a model around it to monetize engagements. Let’s see how he started his Business using Facebook.

 

But before I share more details, let me tell you how I got curious to learn more about this business.

It started when I received a phone call…

 

“Hey, Mihir! As you know I’m new to Pune, can you suggest a good place where I would get the best Chicken Tandoori?”

“Dude, I’m a Gujju. Best Paneer Tikka Masala kaha milega batau?”

“No ghaas-phoos, yaar. I thought I could have relied on you.”

“Don’t worry! Login to Facebook and search for Pune Eat Outs! I treat it as the holy grail of food and food related queries in Pune.”

 

As we were speaking, I realized how a Facebook Group trumped Zomato or even Google for that matter!

Delicious Chicken Tandoori (Courtesy - cookwithsonali.com)
Delicious Chicken Tandoori (Courtesy – cookwithsonali.com)

 

What started as a, for the lack of a better word, hobby is now a go-to place for most Punekars. Be it a simple query for the best Wada Pav joint or that for an exotic Quail, this group and the members would return with results better than those that Google would!

 

Behind the scenes

Aniruddha Patil embarked upon this journey a little over a decade ago. To describe the founder – he is a techie by profession, but a foodie by passion. He christened this baby of his as “Pune Eat Outs”. His quest for lip smacking food made him venture from a roadside thela to the most exotic of fine dines in Pune. Following these visits, he would share his experiences on this Facebook group. As time passed the members received his experiences well. Slowly, but surely the community began to flourish.

 

The PEO Group on Facebook
The PEO Group on Facebook

 

The Target Audience

At over 20,000 members, it caters to one and all. The working bachelor – who is tired of the same old mess ka khana /aunty ka tiffin and wants a change, or the college student – who is in search of a tasty, but a value-for-money meal, and is also open to the restaurant owner – who wants people to know about his newest outlet or the latest addition to the menu (the caveat being, he has to declare upfront that he is the owner so as to avoid his post being treated as a mere advert). The page is almost always buzzing with activity.

 

A typical post on the Facebook page of PEO
A typical post on the Facebook page of PEO

 

The Content

The moment you open this page, you would almost involuntarily start cursing yourself for having opened it when you were already hungry. The well-curated content takes you through a plethora of pictures of mouth-watering cuisines complemented by an equally well-written review from the patrons. Not just reviews, there are always posts asking for the “best Pav Bhaji in Pune” and other similar queries which spark a healthy discussion and members pour in their comments supporting their favourite joint. However, the crisp guidelines marked as a “Pinned Post” on the Group Page ensure that any post which tries to indulge in any promotional or slandering activity is deleted and the perpetrator is banned. This only increases the credibility of PEO as a group. Acknowledging the efforts, FBAI adjudged “Pune Eat Outs” as the “Top Group Blog”.

 

PEO certified
PEO certified “must haves” in Pune (Courtesy – http://foodietrails.blogspot.in/)

 

Business using Facebook

Leveraging the growing popularity of the Facebook group, Aniruddha, who one day intends to start a restaurant of his own, came up with a unique way to monetize the platform in a way that would benefit all the stakeholders – thereby resulting in a win-win-win. He started the “PEO Card” for group members at a nominal membership fee. The benefits to the card owners entailed discounts at various restaurants that enrolled themselves as “Friends of PEO”. The  “Friends of PEO” or the owners could use this as a platform to not just draw more crowds to their restaurant, but could also bank on the reviews provided the PEO Card holders to gain more traction on the Facebook Group subsequently attracting more patrons. This in turn would entice more patrons to buy the PEO Card to avail the discount benefits, proving to be a stream of revenue for PEO.

 

Business Using Facebook - PEO Card
Business Using Facebook – PEO Card

 

However, Social Media only seldom works as a stand-alone entity to promote an organization. Focused on improving the user experience, Aniruddha started the concept of PEO Meets. The primary purpose of these meets aligns with the intent behind this page – enjoying food over good company with people with a similar passion for food. With each PEO Meet, the popularity of this group grows and so does the number of PEO Card holders. Like I said, a win-win-win!

 

At its inception, would Aniruddha have thought that Facebook would help him build such a strong community that would help him turn his passion into a fulltime activity? I think, not!

Mihir Shah
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Mihir Shah

An MBA grad from NMIMS, Mumbai and a future marketeer in the making who can be reached out on:

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Mihir Shah
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