Digital Parish: Engaging and empowering Facebook Groups with Dana Malstaff

Dana Malstaff of lets us know why Facebook Groups matter. This session delivers ideas on building ministry-impacting, disciple-engaging groups. We’ll go from start-up to engagement-building to leadership-sharing.

We’re also going to get some clear and relevant leadership and ministerial advice from Dana, who leads an online community of 60,000 engaged users.

Dana Malstaff is the founder of Boss Mom. She helps other mothers raise babies and businesses, offering resources and a support system. A big part of Boss Mom’s support system is digital engagement in a Facebook Group. Dana wrote the book, Boss Mom, back in 2015. She is a master content strategist, podcaster, speaker, coach… as well as being Mom and CEO.

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Dana Malstaff:

A Facebook group to a lot of people just feels like this digital space where we all log in online and we do things. But when you create it the right way, it becomes home for people. It becomes the place where they can feel loved because they are being asked to participate.

Ryan Dunn:

That was the voice of Dana Malstaff, our guest professor on this session of Pastoring in the Digital Parish. Dana is joining us to offer some insight on Facebook groups. Mostly Dana gets into Facebook groups and delivers great ideas, but she also dropped some really great knowledge around community building and delegation and empowerment kinds of things that we sometimes struggle with in ministry.

So in this session, we'll learn why Facebook groups matter. We'll get ideas on building ministry, impacting disciple, engaging groups. We'll go from startup to engagement, building to leadership sharing. We're also going to get some clear and relevant leadership and ministerial advice from Dana who leads an online community of 60,000 engaged users.

Dana Malstaff is the founder of Boss Mom. She helps other mothers raise babies and businesses offering resources and a support system. A big part of boss mom's support system is digital engagement in a Facebook group. Dana wrote the book, Boss Mom, back in 2015, and she is a master content strategists, a podcaster, speaker and coach, as well as a being mom and CEO. She's got some really great things to offer. So let's meet Dana Malstaff.

I'm going to start you off with kind of that base level question that I get asked a lot. I'm sure that you get asked it all the time as well. And it sounds something like my organization already has a Facebook page. Why do we need a Facebook group too?

Dana Malstaff:

Yeah, and thanks for, thanks for having me on.

I get this a lot and, and there's a, there's a couple of things that really differentiate pages from groups. So pages are a lot like the menu in front of a restaurant, right? A page is a lot like what you walk up and you, it helps you decide whether you want to go inside. So there's a lot of value to having a page that allows somebody to understand what it is they would get if they decide to participate in your world.

What that means is that on our page, it's really important now that we have consistent content because it's increasingly hard to grow a page. The relevance of your page is diminished continually over time through the Facebook algorithm, right? So the only people that are really gaining traction there are the people that are on 24 hours a day.

And oftentimes they're selling things they're doing like they're, you know, they're engaging in really like off the wall kinds of ways. And they just have this big following. But most of the people that have huge followings there they've, they've gotten it from the early days when you got big followings, right?

So now what we have to look at it is the, is what is it that is going to get somebody to go, oh, I want to, I want to be in this world. I want to learn more. Which means the best thing you can do on your page is voice your opinions, voice, your belief system, voice. What is it that they can expect if they walked through your doors? Right? That's what we would want to see. It's the little pamphlet they get before they come into the church that they would want to, to get your group are the people that have said, I want inside your space.

And I want to be a part of this group. I have something in common with you that I want to be a part of. Now, the way that we get people into our groups is, you know, is, is it location-based, is it topic-based right? Is it a particular kind of church? Is it based around you and your personality?

Uh, so for us, we have Boss Mom, which it's about moms who are starting businesses and that's where a lot of people come in. But we also have a more subgroup that is more of my, uh, the people who are in my paid program. And they're the ones that are trying to grow a very specific kind of business. So there's a lot of people that have different groups based on very different things. And so you don't just want to have a group that's based off everything.

But the big thing is, is if you're going out and you're teaching and you're doing all these things on your Facebook page, what you're usually doing is a lot like standing outside of a grocery store, asking people to sign a petition or donate money, right? You get a random onslaught of people. And, and imagine that it's not only is it a random onslaught of people just randomly going to the grocery store. Facebook is actually diverting 90% of those people to a different grocery store.

So you're getting a trickle of people, right? That are, that are coming to that space. It's the people that are only, they're going to that particular grocery store. Um, if you're going, and there's a difference between that or, or actually preaching it in your church where you have a group of people that come in every single day and you get to know those people and those people start to create, we create, we call it a community ladder where certain people become leaders and certain people become the shoulder to cry on.

And certain people, you know, become the advocate. Certain people become your, uh, your, your police officers, uh, that tell you when things are awry or someone's going off the path. And so the group is, is very much, if you view it, it's very much like the inside of your church, which means you get to decide what the rules are. You get to decide what the culture is. You get to decide what the dynamic is, what it is you're teaching and when, and how your members participate. And those choices you don't have on a page. So if you want to lead, you should have a group.

Ryan Dunn:

And so then it offers just the opportunity for, I think, a little more authentic interaction in the way that, uh, we as leaders and in a Facebook group, we might be administrators, but we get to share a little bit more of ourselves. Is that what you find going on with, with Boss Mom?

Dana Malstaff:

I have my belief about a group is, is much less about sharing of ourselves, at least from the leader's perspective, right? And, and it's much more about creating a community where there's connection, right? So, so what I tell people is it's much less about the training or the teaching you give. And it's much more about the permission and the belonging that you create. And because of that, what you want is, is we all live in, and this is my personal belief, but we all live in a world where we are surrounded by people that love us. And we are often not loved in a way that makes us feel special, right?

We have a lot of people that wake up every morning and we feel alone and we feel isolated and we feel misunderstood. And there's a lot of ways where God tethers us to being excited about life, to having things we want to live for.

When we start to feel the disconnect of family or church or career purpose, or any of those things, then we just start to lose excitement about what we're doing in life, right? A Facebook group to a lot of people just feels like this digital space, where we all log in online and we do things. But when you create it the right way, it becomes home for people. It becomes the place where they can feel loved because they are being asked to participate. Right?

And so in Facebook groups, if you have one and you go and see spaces where people just go in and they teach and you constantly see that the person that runs the group is always posting and nobody else is posting. People are just being talked at and there's, there's some value there. But the real value is when the person who owns the group is actually the one posting the least.

They're the ones that are participating in and the facilitation of everybody else, connecting with each other and lifting up the voices and allowing each other to feel connected and, and facilitating that connection. And that's where the real beauty happens, right. Is when you can, because when you're not talking, you're listening and you're watching. And as a leader in our groups, we can start to see this person needs my love right now. I'm going to talk to that person, but I'm not going to talk to them, everybody, and hope that somebody needs to hear what I say. I'm going to look at the people and what everybody's talking about. And then I'm going to help people at in real time as they need it, as I see it. But you can't do that if you're the one always talking.

Ryan Dunn:

How did you turn that corner then from being, you started these groups, obviously you have to be engaged in the beginning in order to get any kind of conversation going, right. How did you turn the corner from being, uh, I guess the, the chief poster, the poster in chief to being, uh, just more of a moderator and fly on the wall sometimes.

Dana Malstaff:

Well, there's, so there's a couple of things. So number one, my, my education and corporate background is I was a broadcast journalism degree. Um, I have certification in questions question-based selling, um, appreciative inquiry, which is a type of facilitation. Um, I've done a lot of things that involve community building through facilitation. And so what I'm good at is asking questions. So from the very beginning in my group, I sought to ask more than I told. Right? I don't want to tell people things I want to ask so that I can, I do teach. I teach all the time in that, in my, in my larger group, in smaller groups. And you know, my, all my programs, I do teach all the time, but I, I teach in just in time, I teach as they need it with what they need, as opposed to me selecting.

And that's one of the things when you walk into a church and we make a decision on Sunday, what it is we want to talk about, right? The difference is, is everybody coming in and you sitting in the back for the first 30 minutes and hearing what everybody's concerns are and what they're struggling with, and then deciding what to talk about, right? You sitting in the back and you hear everybody talking about how it's really stressful to go to church and get your kids excited about, you know, about God. You're really talking about, okay, how it's hard. And during the summer, during the vacation to keep up with prayer and connection about how you want to, all these things are happening. So, you know, volunteering and giving or tithing has become difficult or whatever it is you listen. And all of a sudden you go up and you start to talk to them.

You're saying the thing that hits them right there, and it's really marketing, right? Because what do we do? We market what we understand the market needs. We're solving a problem. Facebook groups allow us to talk about the actual problems that people are having. So our groups were really, actually really only had boss' mom up until very recently, but boss mom grew so fast because we called it a think tank. We based it around people asking questions of each other and asking help of each other, as opposed to teaching each other. And we don't, we actually don't even allow teaching posts in the space because nobody asked you for that thing.

But I want you to teach when somebody asks that question, but wait for the question, because people don't need more information. They don't need more reasons to feel like they're not doing life. Because what training is is it's telling you, you're doing something wrong. I'm going to train you how to do it right.

It's hard to create community when you're constantly telling people, I'm going to show you how to do it better. So we have to start meeting people where they are and saying, what do you need? What is hard about life? What do you want to celebrate about life? Um, and then the, the way that you make a group engaging is the part. We could definitely talk more about this, which is how do you decide what you're asking? How do you create an environment, an ecosystem where people start to know and understand what they do ask and how they participate in the group so that you aren't the one pushing everything uphill?

But it becomes an engine that runs and runs on its own. And then other people start to fill these roles. And now you can really become the leader as the person that was first, you know, starting it up the hill, and now everybody's pushing it with you.

Ryan Dunn:

We can get some of and exploring some of your story a little bit, Dana. So when you started, uh, boss, mom, for us in the ministry world, that might be something that we might call like an affinity group or a, you know, it's specialized ministry. And we can really identify with that. And in fact, in practice that that is kind of what you have going on there with boss, mom. I mean, this is a group of supportive group of, of people learning from one another, which for us in the church world, we might call it discipling, um, in your world, it might be apprenticing or, um, or just as shearing community. What inspired you to start that community? And then how'd you get a role?

Dana Malstaff:

Yeah. I love apprenticing by the way. I'm one of those people that I'm, I'm actually not a massive fan of colleges these days. I don't know why we don't have apprenticeships and internships as a core part of, I don't know why from like 16 to 20 there isn't internships and apprenticeships. I think there's that the world would be a better place if everybody went out and worked and to help decide what they wanted to do. So I love that you said that. Because I feel, I feel very passionate about people finding themselves.

And when we talk about the group, you know, I quit my job to start my own company and had, we've been trying to have a, have a child and it wasn't working. Um, and we both worked really long hours. And when I quit to start my own company, I immediately was able to get pregnant.

So it was a, it was a big blessing that it was this scary decision I made. And then my body was like, oh, okay, well definitely you're not going to be working 14 hours a day. You are allowed to have a child. So, yeah, but when I had my son, I felt what it turns out a lot of women feel, which is alone, unsure isolated. I did not want to be a stay at home mom. That was not my calling. Although I'm a big believer when I got married that my, like the vocation of having children is very important to me. And, you know, raising good contributors to society is very important to me. But yeah, I felt, I felt very alone. I didn't, I felt like I must be, there must be something wrong with me. And I, and I started to, uh, take a lot of courses on behavioral psychology and I've always been fascinated with humans and how humans work.

I think anybody that's in any leadership role should understand how, how humans work. And as I started to get into it, I started to really realize how, yeah, how much everybody thinks something's wrong with that. Right? Like it must be me. There's a very small population of, of the world that doesn't think they're the problem. That there's, if I were just this, if I just did this, like if I could just, and it's not, it's not that we aren't trying. It's not, you know, it's just this natural state of being.

I have discovered after talking to thousands of women and I don't, I can't say this for men because I'm not a man, but I, I mean, from a female perspective, we just carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders is like our favorite hobby. Do not know why. And yeah. And so when I made, when I made this group, it was, I ended up it started because I wrote the book boss mob, which I was not intending to write.

I was going to write a different book on content strategy. And I ended up writing Boss Mom, and we started the group because I went out and asked everybody in different groups, what are good titles? You know, what, what, what are these topics? What are the things that you care about? What, what should we talk about in this book? And from there, everybody said, oh my gosh, I need to read this book because I feel guilty about wanting to have a business. I feel guilty about wanting to do more than just be a parent.

Yeah. And so our group initially was able to grow to about 500 pretty fast, just because I had been talking about the book and other places. So one of the ways to get people into your group is to become somewhat micro, famous and other people's groups, write collaborations in other people's groups or just going in and being helpful in answering questions in other people's spaces.

And so, yeah, so we got people in and, and the basis around the way I created the group filled a hole in me. Right. Which, which was that I felt alone. Like I felt guilty that maybe I was a terrible mom or a terrible person for wanting to be more than just a mom and through the whole process of writing the book and starting this community and connecting with other women who feel the same, um, that we realize I'm not alone. That most people feel this way in one area of you know, of their life. And that it's really important for our kids to see us doing things that we love, that creativity and passion and interest and curiosity are really important. And if we don't show those things for anything other than our children, then we are not doing them justice by showing them the opportunities in the world because they don't need to be the center of the universe.

They should see that the universe is vast and it's, and it doesn't just include that. And I think because I came from that idea that I recognized how much we need each other to feel loved and alive that our group is just a very kind loving group. Every once in a while, when someone gets angry and bitter, we don't let them stay like it become very mama bear. So you've got to protect your group. Fiercely, there are conversations we don't allow people to have because there is no possible way of having that conversation digitally without varying opinions becoming mean we don't allow that in our group. And so there are rules that you have to have in order to keep the culture that you want to keep. And I've just been very good at not budging on some of those things over the years. And that's really helped us grow. And now, yeah, we're about to hit 60,000 members organically. We get about a hundred people a day joining and it still has that intimate feel. We have women that meet their best friends and, and solve big problems and, you know, have family members that were contemplating suicide that are no longer doing that and find it. Yeah, just all of amazing things that are happening that I think anybody who starts a group, if you create it the right way, you can create that same space.

Ryan Dunn:

Did you find that when you first started the group, were people ready to engage right away? Or were there some specific things that you had to do to sort of prime the pump?

Dana Malstaff:

I do think one of the most important things is the rules, right, is the boundaries. They did this study, uh, where it was a dog and their owner. Right. And they put them in a field and there was no fence. And the dog on average stayed with the owner. Right. But when they put them in a, in a field and there was a fence, the dog would play, um, it's, you know, the same thing with kids, boundaries are very important. Like boundaries don't keep freedom away. They, they invite freedom, right? Because we know where our parameters are. And, and so boundaries in your group are really important. So very early on in our, in our rules have, have, you know, morphed over over the years. But from very early on, it's like, don't come in here and teach to people. We want you to ask questions, you know, don't, you know, ask for help.

And then in the posts and give help in the comments. That's my biggest thing, you know, ask for help in the posts, give help in the comments. That's, that's where it is. You want to teach somebody about somebody, something then do it in the comments because really the posts are the icebreaker. So very early on, we would have a welcome video that would tell them about that. Once we got more people joining every day and we wanted to make the pinned, posts something different, we now do a daily welcome of everybody. Who's entered. We get a lot of people a day. So you don't have to do that in the early stages, but a, uh, welcoming to set the stage. Here's the rules. And here's how you engage. And here's how we'd like you to start. So give them that little nudge, right? Maybe in your group, it's about introducing yourself and saying one or two things that you want and guide them on what you want them to say.

Maybe you want them to ask a question about something they're yearning for. Maybe you want them to say what their favorite piece of scripture is, or maybe you want them to do so, give them a prompt of what you want them to do first. And usually that can be something where you want them to ask for support and something where you tell them to give support. And then what you do is like we would do in, in any kind of church situation, which is, you know, treat your neighbor, how you'd like to be treated. It's the same thing is create a posting habit that you want to perpetuate because people will come in and they will see how it works. And they will fall in line with how it works. So if they see posts that have no comments, they're not going to comment, right.

If they see that there's a ton of engagement, it frees them up to engage. So if you see things that aren't getting comments and things like that I've gotten in, and if nobody's engaging in the early days, I would delete the post and I would try something else. So instead of it looking like a barren wasteland, nobody engaging, I would get rid of the stuff that didn't work and I would keep the stuff that did. And then I would go and actually tag some members that I knew and said, I'd love your opinion about this, right? And so part of what that is, is in the early stages is treating it like a space where you want to get to know everybody, right? Treating it as a, who are all my members and how can I connect and engage with them. I got on the phone with a lot of people in my group and being like, oh, I love what you do. This looks really interesting. We should hop on a 15 minute call. So I can just learn more about you and what you'd love to get out of this group. I don't do that anymore because it's much bigger, but other people do, other people are constantly getting on the phone from each other. So it needed to look at a Facebook group as, as a icebreaker and as a launch pad to really deep, meaningful relationships, um, that can happen. But it starts there.

Ryan Dunn:

Did you find that there was kind of a rhythm that you had of posting that, that really helped to draw people in? So we were at the beginning, were you trying to post every day, or did you find that maybe that being that aggressive with posting was limiting other people from actually posting on their own?

Dana Malstaff:

I love this question because we've, we've gone, we've gone through different phases of different things. So what I generally recommend for people is what we usually do is we start a group and they would go, I'm going to do like prompts. We're going to do, you know, prayer Monday. We're going to do, you know, like giving Tuesday, don't do that. Don't do that because prompts are on, on certain occasions, prompts can work, right. If, and depending on what kind of prompt they are. But for the most part, it's just like I was saying about training. You've made the decision and you've gone out. So before you do any prompts, we always go back to questions. You come in and you would say, what would you guys like to talk about? Right? What is it, if we were going to have, if we were going to make Monday a special day, what do you guys want Monday to be?

And generally what we'd say is we give them a few options. Like, Hey, I want to talk about what my devotional would be for, you know, for this whole week, like one, I want to talk about a goal for giving, like, well, I want, and so, you know, you give a couple options, but then you get people answering you with, what would you like prompts to be? What would you like Monday to be like, what would you want Friday to be? Do we want to do something on Sunday? If we were to do something in this group on Sunday together, what would you want it to be? And to be like, oh, I would love it. If we, you know, connected with each other in this particular way, I'd love it. If we'd share a story, I'd love it. If you went live and, you know, and, and preached or whatever it is, like, I'd love it. If we had choir together, you know, I love it. If we all just sat and listened to music and met, you know, meditated and prayed silently together, like there's so many ways that we don't, the people have these beautiful, wonderful ideas, but we don't ask.

So don't create prompts, ask people what it is they would want you to prompt. And then you'll immediately start getting engagement, which means once you immediately start getting engagement, Facebook will show your posts and your comments to more of the people in your group. And that's the, that's the beautifulness when you're posting all the time. And nobody's commenting Facebook, not only doesn't show you to people, it categorizes you as uninteresting and there. And Facebook is like, is like a fickle high school where, where it can be bitter and cruel. If it doesn't think you're cool, it like shoves you in a locker and doesn't show you to anybody.

So what you, you don't want that--delete the stuff. That's not engaging. Don't like ask questions. Get people to tell you what they want. And that's a really good way to immediately in the beginnings of a group to get engagement going. And then people start doing that. And then for your posting posts, things that you have questions about my best thing for people who are leaders in a space where you're like, yeah, I don't want to post about my challenges. Like I'm supposed to be the one running the running the group, but what you can do is decision support, right? So you can say, “Hey, I have this choice of these two or three different scriptures that I want to speak to, you know, on Sunday, which of these three, do you like best?” Or “which of these two do you like best? Like, Hey, I've been thinking about a really good song that we could be playing to…

“Hey, I was thinking we could, you know what I'd really like…”

We were working on a new branding colors for the, for the page. And I, you know, for the group, which ones do you like better? Like, Hey, I was thinking about this. What's this tie, which title do you think works best? And you get them to give decision support. And now you start, you start training them that questions are good. You start training them that I need help here. I'm having a challenge here, that kind of thing. And that's, that's where some of that magic happens.

And then what you learned, or the other thing too, is, as in the comments, you see, people are saying things, things will stand out to you. And then I reach out, I see something that someone's saying, and I'm like, oh, Mary, that was a really good point.

Like, you bring up this idea of this challenging thing that you're having with your kids. Do you think, and I'd reach out to them personally. I bet. Do you think you could make that a post? Cause I think it could stand alone. It's don't really interesting conversation. And then you start facilitating the people that are doing really interesting things. And now they feel empowered to have ownership in the group. So now they start to reach out to people and tell those people to post. And it starts to become this perpetual thing where you, you empower people to empower people. Which I mean, is, is the whole point is if you don't, if you run it all by yourself, it's going to be exhausting, right? Like get the help by allowing people to raise each other up the way that communities are supposed to do.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Right. Yeah. And churches, especially, although I think many of us would have to admit that we are especially challenged in empowering people to really minister to each other. Uh, and so Facebook groups offers a great way to do that with a group, your size, you have multiple moderators. How did you go about figuring out moderator other moderators? Was it just other people who were engaged in the group or what?

Dana Malstaff:

Okay, so we we'd done it differently over the years, depending on the size. Um, I love the idea of “ambassadors”, as opposed to “moderators”, because moderators are about, about policing, right? Moderators are about keeping you in line ambassadors are about perpetuating the belief system of, uh, you know, of the brand.

And so I think there's a, there's a difference just from the person being the, either a moderator or an ambassador, it's way more fun to be an ambassador than like the crossing guard. Right. You know? Um, and so, so I think there's the naming, naming things matters, like telling people what, how they do. Now, what we did is in the very early stages, we saw the people that were like, we didn't have them right out of the gate. As the, as the group got to a couple hundred, we saw people that were really engaging, like high engagers. And I reached out personally and asked them.

So, and so now we're big enough where we've done. Uh, we do application right. To be, to be a moderator. And then we select, I actually have a board of advisors for our brand, um, because it's big enough. But in the beginning, the, that personal outreach, right? Like you're in a church and you know, all of a sudden you are, you feel a hand on your shoulder. Right. And it's the pastor. And he's asking you personally to do something of value. Um, that's important, like in, in the church, it feels way better than like, Hey, raise your hand and submit a form and tell us if you want to. And then we'll pick some of you and the rest of you, aren't invited, you know? And so it's just, uh, while it's necessary, sometimes when you get bigger, I think no matter what, you know, the top 2% of the people that are there every day, like, you know, the people that, that live at breathe that wants to be there are excited about it.

And the more that you, you personally touch those people and tell them, Hey, I've, I'd love it. And still, you don't have to have seven. You don't have to have that. Like, you could have two or three, like don't just, don't do more than you than the people that you know will love it. Because you’ll have ambassadors that aren't going to do anything. Cause they don't care. It doesn't help you. But if you have the two or three people that like making your group valuable and important and impactful is important to them, then it's, they're going to do everything that they can and they're going to come to you with ideas.

So just handpick them in the beginning, um, and make them ambassadors. And what we generally did in the very beginning is we would allow them to almost do a takeover. So one day a week we would allow them to kind of be the leader of the group to come in and post about something, to, to post the prompt if we were doing, you know, uh, during a time we were doing prompts and do those kinds of things so that they could be seen as a leader in the space.

Um, we don't do that anymore because it doesn't have as much value when we have basically, I think we have something like 5,000 posts a month. I think we have a hundred posts a day. So you just, you can get lost fast. But yeah, I think that, that makes a difference. Like even though you're in a digital space, personally, touching people is still the most valuable way to get buy-in and you can do it just one at a time and one at a time. And then those people feel empowered to do the same and you'll naturally get a community and an ecosystem that works on its own.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Well, and that's the, just the base allure of a group over even a Facebook page because it is that personal engagement page is engaging as a brand, which you know, more than likely as you're posting, you're hearing the voice of a logo as opposed to, uh, a person's face that's on there. And a group allows then for that face to, to come across. It's so much more personal in that. I think in my experience, I've found that that then allows for just a little bit more. I don't know if it's right to say nuance to put nicer interaction. A lot of us are a little intimidated by the Facebook space because let's face it. Some of the interaction there, it gets pretty negative pretty quickly, even when we don't intend it to. But it sounds like you've really encouraged a space of growth and support. And you have implemented some rules to do that within boss mom, but they sound like very permission giving rules.

Dana Malstaff:

We have a no mean policy and, and it has gotten, I mean, it's a big enough group. Certain things have happened culturally that have caused people to be angry with each other. There's political divide, religious divide, there's all sorts of stuff. And we have certain rules in our space for, for particular reason. There are things that we all are supposed to connect on and there are things that we will naturally be different in. And we don't want people to judge each other based on those things that were different and politically, religiously, those kinds of things. And, and so we don't allow the moment something gets negative and you can have in Facebook groups, you can have moderated words now, so you can have phrases or words that when they come up, it alerts you, you can also get alerted when there's a certain number of comments.

So usually if something gets an insane amount of comments within the first hour, nine times out of 10, it's not something that's like that much engagement, you know? Yeah. And it's, and it can look like it's okay. So then there's some words. Okay. And, and then we'll just delete a comment and then we'll shut off comments. It will be like this got heated. If you'd like to continue this conversation, you can do it all outside of the group, but you can't, you can't do it here. And so what I think you have to be, as you have to be decisive, because there are tons of groups that are managed I'm air quoting for everybody they're managed. And there is, yeah, there's either anger or disagreement. There's, you know, opinions that are thrown around. And then people told they're bad people for having those opinions. And that can happen.

Even when some people don't intend for it to come out that way. Right. Intention is lost when we lose our vocal tone. Um, a lot of times words are then whatever. I see those words to me. And that's why my used to say, anytime you have the urge to write in all caps or use emojis in an ironic fashion step away, you're about to be a total jerk, but it's a good way. Yeah. And so, so just you, you have to not allow it. And some people that are going to come to you and say, you're not allowing my opinion to happen. Your blank, insert, whatever insult or main comment is there. But as a leader, you just, you have to have that. You have to be okay with saying, I understand, I hear you. And I realize you were upset and I'm still not going to allow that conversation to happen in this group, because it can not happen in a meaningful way without being face-to-face or without vocally being able to discuss it.

The digital space only allows a certain degree of discussion, right? Which is why, if people want to dive deeper into discussion, then we recommend they take it offline and connect over the phone, over zoom in person. And so you just, you have to be strong. This is the biggest place where people just same with kids, right? Like it's so much easier to just let everybody do their thing and like, not deal with it and not discipline your children, but you have to in the group, you have to say no. And I, I totally know it's going to somebody off, but this conversation is not fruitful or loving and people when they start seeing angry conversation in your group, and it's such a turnoff that they will leave and maybe never come back. So you have to be like the mama or Papa bear immediately.

And then the other thing I will say is that usually this is what people do is they over-correct. So something will happen in the group. Someone will have a heated conversation. I've had a colleague who has a very large group on potty training. And someone came in and had a topic about circumcision and it got into a, I didn't even realize, but there is a very big divide on people that believe, or don't believe in circumcision from a medical standpoint. And it got really heated. And then she D she didn't know what to do. And she deleted the post. And then they said she was an advocate of this one, LA just, uh, it was it's baffling. How people's minds go down this particular rabbit hole when they, when their, their belief system is being questioned. And when someone has an alternate opinion, it quite, you know, butts up against your belief system.

And now you feel like you have to defend it. So what you get is you get a lot of people that think the other person is being mean, but the other person is psychologically just defending their belief system because they have to. And so when you shut it down immediately, what often happens is you go, well, I better do a live or something to like, tell everybody it's going to be okay. And then you're just adding fire to the flame. Like, what you have to do is you delete it. You tell everybody what you know, that like, whoever it is that was doing it, we're shutting off the comments. We're deleting it. This isn't a good space here. If you want to continue conversation, do it offline. And then you silence so hard, but silence, because you just got to let it die out. The more you talk about it, the more it becomes, the topic, what you do is then say, okay, what's the, I'm going to give it a day.

I'm just gonna let things die down. And I'm going to bring up, uh, go along with my business because most people forget about it, right? It's like, we don't need to pour lemon on the paper cut of, of how we don't all agree on things. And, and when you do that, people will message me and they'll be like, oh my gosh, you're right. Everybody just went on and did something else. And we're all happy. Again. It's like spousal arguments or with your kids. It's like, just, don't keep fighting. Just let it go. Give yourself some space and time and come back. And you'll remember you liked each other.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, it, it just because you've been, you built this community for a specific purpose with a specific vision. And so you can just retreat back into that vision. And folks will, I guess, in a way that acts as the boundary, the vision, I think when you, when we lead from vision, we're able to kind of mitigate quite a bit of that conflict and empowering your community. Are there ways that then you kind of keep the vision in front of people?

Dana Malstaff:

So we have a flow of the way we release content. And now that the group is bigger, you know, this changes a little bit, but this is what I always recommend to people. And we call it permission sandwiches. Right? We do this in our email marketing. Um, we do this in our videos and you know, all the, all this different things. Cause I help women with businesses when you are connecting with somebody or a community. Right? So number the number one most important thing is to create a sense of belonging, right? So, um, Seth Godin said, people like us do things like this. And so permission isn't that you're giving them permission to buy from you or to do something, but you're actually giving them permission in this instance is to be who they already are that they often feel guilty about. Right.

So for us, my women feel guilty about, do I, am I a terrible mom? Because I want also want a business. Right? Like my kid, having kids is really hard and frustrating. And sometimes I feel like a hot mess because they're completely unpredictable and I'm supposed to run this business. And so I feel like maybe I'm not a good entrepreneur. So, you know, anybody who has these feelings of I'm like this, right? Like, so for instance, we'll just use a completely off the wall thing, right. Somebody who loves cosplay, they like dressing up for, you know, like, uh, you know, Lord of the rings or, you know, something, something fun. And you'd like to go and you like to dress up in a certain way. There are a ton of people that would look at you and they would go, that's ridiculous. What are you crazy?

Right. And then there's a ton of people that are like, that's awesome. Where are we going to go to act out that scene from a Lord of the rings? Like I'm down. Like I've got my sword in the other room I'm on, I do own a sword actually. So, you know, I'm, I'm in that second group. And, and the thing is, is that, what is it better to surround yourself with the people that think what you're doing is, or is it better to surround the people with the people that what you're doing is cool or brave? Right. Well, the obvious answer is the second one. How do people know that they're in a safe place where what they're doing is seen as cool and brave versus what they're seeing is crazy, right? So for me, not my getting pregnant and then not going and getting a job before somebody knew I was pregnant.

People thought I was crazy. Danna, go get secure. You need the job security. How's that kind of, I don't ever want to go back to somebody being my boss. I was told like, there's something wrong with you. You're crazy. Right. I came, moved to San Diego. I'm originally from, and, um, after I had my son and all of a sudden, there's a ton of, of women who are parents and entrepreneurs. And they're like, are you kidding? This is like the wave of the future. We're all super cool. And I was like, well, I want to hang out with these people who don't make me feel like there's something wrong with me. So in your group, you have to once a week, whether it's through a live or a post or a something, I do a lot of ours where we'll do a weekly live to, to do permission-based lives, which is reiterate why you guys are all similar, me iterate, why, who they are is okay.

And in this space, some of that may be being proud of the prayer that triggered, like being proud of, you know, following God in a certain way of living your life in a certain way. So there's, there's multiple different kinds of permissions, but they're based around your opinions about the industry that you're in about the way life should be led or about strategies or tactics, right? So it may be permission on a way to pray or a way to lead your day or your week or a way to lead your family. So you've got to decide for your particular space, what is it that you want to give people permission for and what you, you don't have to give them a different kind of permission all the time. So, so it may be that your permission is through scripture. You may have scripture where you're giving, but you have to make them feel like you're not just there because you're all there because you go to the same church, right?

Facebook allows us to, to be so much broader than that because they can go to any other group. You don't have to be in the same town. It's not like, well, you're the closest church to me, you know, you're the only one in town. So he said, it's what I stuck with anywhere, which means you have to create a sense of belonging. So then that's the first one. The second one is actual, um, uh, training, right? And the training would be, we say, you give a hack or, uh, fill a gap, right? So from the pastoring standpoint, um, giving a hack would be some way for them to do something in their life, right? A way to get your kids excited about prayer, a way to create habits, uh, that are, that are aligned with how you want people in the church to be living, uh, tactics on how to save money so that you can tie like different things like that, giving a hat or filling a gap would be changing the way they think about something.

Right? So like I have, um, somebody that, uh, is a close friend and colleague of mine, and she runs a brand called refresh moms. And she actually helps women in business incorporate prayer into how they run their business. And she has a thing called arrests sabbatical to help reinvigorate prayer in your life for business owners. Right? And so she has these very specific gaps. She has to fill on infusing prayer into your business because that's not really a norm, you know, concede is normal in the entrepreneur space. So she's got to fill that out when she has to change the way they see the world. So what are the things where people feel nervous or aren't sure about the way the world works and how they live in it. And you're going to fill the gap with your training and that's once a week. So once a week, you're either giving a hack or filling a gap.

And then once a week you are doing some kind of recommendations. So you're either recommending a tool. They use go get the prey app though, you know, try this new cool thing. There's maybe there's a, and this is something we can ask everybody to share as well. You can make a recommendation on something you love, um, and then tell people to share. And it doesn't have to be aligned with what you could say. Like on Sundays, we love to have a really big family meal because family is really important to us. What's your favorite meal to share on Sundays with your family and you do a recipe share, right? So, and you, you can change once a week, you're doing some kind of recommend where you're having you and everybody else make a recommendation on a particular topic and it could change every week. Then the next one is clout, right?

So this is often where I'd say me getting featured here with you is a way to show people that I'm somebody worth listening to. So go out and preach and talk in other people's spaces and then share that inward so that you are also seen as a leader, not just in the group, but a leader in the general space. And then the other one is feedback loop, which is once a week, you ask people and I do this more than once a week, but, but we just say, at least once a week, you have to ask a question of everybody, ask them that decision, support question. I'm thinking of doing this. What do you think? Like, what would, what should we do next week? Like, what do you like about this? Hey, I'm, you know, when it comes to, you know, podcasts that you guys listened to that are faith-based what podcasts are you listening to?

So just ask them a question so you can make sure you're facilitating the idea of questions. And then the final one is an ask, which is once a week, ask them to take action, ask them to invite a friend to the group, ask them to get on the email list, ask them to donate to something, ask them to give to charity, to donate time, to do something, ask them to do something so that you, because the leaders of the group are also the main ones that get to do the asking. And then generally the way to create those engaged is to allow people. So for instance, if you were to say, look, there's this amazing thing I want you guys to, you know, for everybody who's, who's able to, to donate time or money, or just share this particular organization or funding or what it fundraiser or whatever we're doing.

And then you would say in the comments, anybody who has something else that they believe is important, that they would love people to be aware of from a, you know, organization or fundraiser or something like that posted below. So what you're doing is you're allowing your voice to be the, the biggest voice, because you're the leader, but you're also giving for other people to do that because oftentimes in groups, you've got, gotta be careful that you, one of the rules is that you don't allow everybody to ask, right? Everybody can't post about the fundraiser or their sister who lost her job or their, whatever it is, because that starts to just overtake everything. But you do want to facilitate space for people to ask for things that they need, that aren't necessarily right for the rest of the feet. Does that make sense?

Ryan Dunn:

Absolutely. Yeah. Dana, this has been so much great information. I feel like we can keep going, but I want to respect your time, but the good news is you teach on this all the time. So where can people get in touch with you to connect with more?

Dana Malstaff:

Yeah. So is our general site. So you can learn about the podcast. So if you're a mom, actually we feature a lot of boss dads as well. Um, but we've got the podcast. We started a YouTube channel. We've got our boss moms group, um, and a lot of great free resources and all that stuff, including ways to, you know, grow and start a Facebook group and all that kind of stuff. So, um, that's a good place to find us in. If there's anything you need, you can, anybody can actually email me. I have a good email management process in my team. It's just [email protected]

So if there's anything that we can do or be helpful, like our goal is to be a launchpad for moms and mom entrepreneurs that we can do the things that we love and are passionate about so that we can raise children who changed the world by doing things they love and they're passionate about, um, and showing them that we can do things we love and have it be financially viable at the same time. So any way we can help with that, um, we are, we're always

Ryan Dunn:


Easy enough to find

f you want to touch base with me, Ryan Dunn send an email to digital perish at [inaudible] dot org. You can also find more points of [email protected] slash digital parish.

Big thanks to United Methodist communications for sponsoring this podcast. If you'd like to offer some thanks you can do so by hitting subscribe to this podcast, then dropping a positive rating or review on your podcast, listening platform. Thanks in advance.

Several episodes of the Pastoring in the Digital Parish podcast are out now. And we'll be posting a new episode each week until the end of season one in August of 2021, but here's a pro tip. You don't need to consume these sessions in order. So just click on whatever topic interests you and start listening. Thanks again. My name is Ryan Dunn and I'll talk with you soon.

On this episode

Dana Malstaff is the founder of Boss Mom. She helps other mothers raise babies and businesses offering resources and a support system. A big part of boss mom's support system is digital engagement in a Facebook group. Dana wrote the book boss mom, back in 2015, she is a master content strategists podcast, or speaker coach, as well as being mom and CEO. Image courtesy of Dana Malstaff.

Dana Malstaff is the founder of Boss Mom. She helps other mothers raise babies and businesses offering resources and a support system. A big part of boss mom's support system is digital engagement in a Facebook group. Dana wrote the book Boss Mom, back in 2015, and is host of her own podcast, a popular speaker and coach, as well as being a mom and CEO. Find out more about Dana at

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.