How to Leverage the Facebook Algorithm to Grow Your Business with Jono Petrohilos

How I Built It
How I Built It
How to Leverage the Facebook Algorithm to Grow Your Business with Jono Petrohilos

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Sometimes it feels like Facebook gets a bad wrap. Of course, sometimes it feels like Facebook gets exactly what it deserves…so where should we, as small business owners, fall on how to use Facebook? Today’s guests should help. Jono Petrohilos is a personal trainer and online educator who has a $1 Million online course business. He also runs huge Facebook groups, including one specifically for online course creators. Jono is SUPER passionate about FB groups -so much so that he made me excited about them. He offers a ton of tips for how to start and grow a FB group, and how one can build your business. In Build Something More, we talk about the Facebook outage and how it affected him (and how he has a backup plan!)

Top Takeaways:

  • Spend time in similar Facebook groups and communities, participating and adding value. This will help build a network of 100 people you can invite to your group.
  • The goal of the FB group is the community. It’s not about “me” it’s about “them.” In that vein, encourage participation at every opportunity. Introductions, questions emailed to you, and anything else you think the group would benefit from
  • The name is SUPER important. It should be clear and searchable.

Show Notes:


Joe Casabona: Real quick before we get started I want to tell you about the Creator Crew. Now, if you are wondering how you can get these episodes a day early, and ad-free, and even longer, your answer is the Creator Crew.

As a member of the Creator Crew, you’ll get everything I just mentioned plus access to super helpful live streams, and automations library, and lots of other tools to help creators and small business owners create more easily.

If all of that sounds good to you, you can head over to and sign up for just 50 bucks a year, that’s less than five bucks a month, to get access to a wealth of information and helpful tools.

In today’s Build Something More, you’re going to learn from Jono everything he did during the Facebook outage, plus how he had a backup and other ways you can have contingency plans for your Facebook group and Facebook account. I think it’s totally worth the slightly less than five bucks for this month. So again, head over to and for just 50 bucks a year you can become a member.

All right now let’s get on with the show.

Intro: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 244 of How I Built It, the podcast that offers actionable tech tips to small business owners and creators. All of the show notes, everything we talked about will be over at, including how you can learn more about our sponsors, TextExpander and Nexcess. You’ll also hear about them later on in the show.

Now sometimes it feels like Facebook gets a bad rap. Of course, usually, it feels like Facebook gets exactly what it deserves. So what should we as small business owners do when it comes to how to use the platform? Well, today’s guests should help. Jono Petrohilos is a personal trainer and online educator, who has a $1 million online course business. He also runs the biggest Facebook group for personal trainers, and has another one specifically for online course creators.

Jono is super passionate about Facebook groups. So much so that he made me excited about them. He offers a ton of tips on how to start and grow a Facebook group quickly, and how you can use one to grow your own business. Plus in Build Something More, we talk about the Facebook outage and how it affected him and the contingency plans he had in place.

Again, you can find all of the show notes and everything we talked about over and But for now let’s get on with the episode.

Joe Casabona: Hello and welcome to another episode of How I Built It. My name is Joe Casabona, and this is a show that offers actionable tech tips to small business owners and creators. It’s episode 244. Our sponsors for this episode are TextExpander and Nexcess. You’ll hear about them later on in the show. But first I want to bring on my guest.

His name is Jono Petrohilos. He is the founder and director of the Course Creator Community. And today I’m really excited to talk to him because we’re going to talk about how he grew his Facebook group to over 2,500 members in less than five months and having a good community on any platform is super important for both small business owners and community. So let’s bring Jono in. Jono, how are you today?

Jono Petrohilos: I am awesome, Joe. I’m over here in Sydney, Australia, 7.a.m on a Thursday morning. So no better way to start the morning than with Joe Casabona.

Joe Casabona: Fantastic. Well, as we record this, it’s almost 5 p.m. here in the United States on Wednesday, so don’t tell me what happens for the rest of Wednesday. No spoilers.

Jono Petrohilos: You don’t want to know if you won the lotto or who won the goal game last night?

Joe Casabona: No, I want to find out on my own. Actually as we record this, it’s my birthday. So after this, I-

Jono Petrohilos: Ooh, happy birthday.

Joe Casabona: Thank you.

Jono Petrohilos: 21?

Joe Casabona: 21, yes. Yeah, absolutely

Jono Petrohilos: It was me.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, just you hit 21 and you’re there forever, right? That’s what the [inaudible 00:04:25] is all about. My wife has big plans, and I have no idea what they are. She’s going to be O big surprise. We have a babysitter coming and we’re going to go places.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. We’re here to talk about growing your Facebook group. Now, first of all, how did I do with the name pronunciation? I’m always worried about that.

Jono Petrohilos: It was good. I got an interesting one because Jono is a very Australian name. So it’s easy over here in Australia, but in America, you know, it’s like is it Jo-no? Or is it Ja-no? I was on a podcast the other day and the guy was calling me Yono. I think he thought I was Mexican or Spanish or something.

Joe Casabona: Yono.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, he was calling me Yono. And then Petrohilos… my family’s from Greece. So it’s like how many letters can you fit in the alphabet of your surname. That’s what they try and do in Greece. But you nailed both of them. So I’m impressed.

Joe Casabona: Thank you very much. I pride myself on that. I try because, you know, I’ve had people come on the show, and they’re like, “However you pronounce it is fine.” And I’m like, “But I want to pronounce it the right way because I want people to pronounce it the right way if they ever reach out to you and talk to you.

Jono Petrohilos: I’m impressed. 10 points from me, Joe.

Joe Casabona: Excellent! Excellent! And then the last thing I’ll say is I didn’t say hey, everybody at the beginning of this episode like I usually do. So we know I’m off my game in my old age. But, Jono, let’s talk. We connected because you found me somehow and you asked me to be on your podcast, right?

Jono Petrohilos: Yes. I listened to your podcast and I was like, “Okay, this guy is cool or at least he sounds cool from his podcast. So I’d like to have him on my podcast.” So that’s how I found you. And then I actually got some mentoring from you as well. I was like, “Okay, this guy knows a thing or two about podcasting. You know, give me some tips.” I should add, for all those listening, I reached out to Joe, he gave me some tips and I was able to land my first podcast sponsor within a couple of weeks after that. So make sure you…

Joe Casabona: Look at that. I have a soundboard. I have claps ready. It’s the first time ever use it. Dude, congratulations. That’s amazing. And this is an excellent proof that first of all, going on podcasts can land you business. And also finding… this sounds like I’m going to toot my own horn here. Finding the right coach can also yield results as long as you do the work, right? Because that’s really what it is.

We talked for a while and then you went and did the things that I recommended. And then you landed your first sponsor, which is amazing, because most podcasters can’t say that.

Jono Petrohilos: Yes. No, thank you.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. Well, and thanks for listening to the show. I’m really happy to have you on. I will link to your podcast in the show notes. They’ll be over at It was a really good conversation. I listened to it. I always listen to the episodes once they’re out. I don’t know if that’s weird. I know some actors refuse to watch the movies they’re in. But I like to listen to see kind of what I talked about how I sound. More like a quarterback, I guess, who watches the tape the next morning. Closest I’ll ever be to a quarterback.

So you run a Facebook group called the Course Creator Community and your businesses is a bit based around this. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Jono Petrohilos: Yes, for sure. So let me think of the best way to explain this. I’ll start sort of broader. I actually run two businesses. So my main business is actually Fitness Education Online. And that’s a business where I sell online courses to fitness trainers to help them grow their fitness business. That’s my main sort of business. They’re all online courses. Really successful—about a million dollar a year business.

Joe Casabona: Oh, wow.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah. I’m really impressed with that. And as part of that business… So I’ve actually got one of the… I think it’s actually the largest Facebook group in the world for fitness professionals. Not ever, but just qualified personal trainer. There’s about 15,000 of us in there.

And that was going really well. But sort of three years in, I was like, “You know what, I feel like I’ve got a different skill set now. I feel like here I am teaching fitness trainers how to grow their business to about six figures a year. Their face-to-face fitness business. But here I am on the other side, making a million dollars selling online courses.

So there’s a bit of conflict in there. I’m like, “Hold on, you know, I’m telling people to do this, but I’m doing this.” I still run Fitness Education Online, still going really, really well. But I’m like, “Let me also use this other skill set for those people that are like, “Hey, Jono, I don’t want to be a fitness trainer, but man, tell me how the hell you’re selling a million dollars worth of courses online? How do you do that?”

So that’s when I started the Course Creator Community. I was like, “Okay, you know, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do in this space but I know that I want to build a community of course creators, and I want to have a program or I want to sell courses to these people, or I want to help these people grow their online course business.”

And that’s where that Facebook group started. I was like, “I have no idea what I’m going to do, what the program is going to look like. But I know that if I’m going to help these people generate a business, I need an audience. And since I already knew the basics with Facebook groups for my Fitness Education Online business, my first stop was “All right, first thing I’m going to do is create a Facebook group for course creators.”

Joe Casabona: That’s wild. First of all, kudos on your fitness education business. That’s incredible. And then I love that you knew you wanted to do something but you weren’t quite sure. Because I think a lot of people, especially… you know, I’m a developer, I come from a development background, I guess I’m more of a content creator now. But my gut instinct, and I think a lot of people who I know their gut instinct is to just build a prototype real quick.

But then you end up in a couple of predicaments. You have something and nobody to sell to. And then you also don’t really know what to say about the product because you don’t know who you’re selling to. So you just talk about the features of the product. And I think both of us now and longtime listeners of this show will know people don’t buy features, they buy solutions.

Jono Petrohilos: Hmm, true. And it’s funny you say that. So now in the course creator space, now I’ve got a membership, for course creators. That’s the business that I run with the Course Creator Community. And that’s the biggest mistake course creators make. It’s like they spend… I should ask you this question, Joe. A course creator, first time course creator, how long do you think it takes them on average to create a course from idea to ready to sell?”

Joe Casabona: Oh, man, I’m in a spot right now where I don’t want to say something too long and undercut your point. But I’ll tell you that my first online course, the one I did outside of academia, was text-based. And from idea to execution, it probably took me four months to write everything, outline, and write everything.

Jono Petrohilos: 12 months, Joe, is the average.

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Jono Petrohilos: From idea, right?

Joe Casabona: Average.

Jono Petrohilos: But it gets worse. Because at the end of the 12 months, that course creator has no one to sell to. And now they scramble and they’re desperate. You know, they’re trying to make a sale off every single person and they invest thousands of dollars here and thousands of dollars in marketing that they probably shouldn’t have, because they’re not committed. It’s kind of like, man, I spent 12 months of my life putting this thing together, I can’t give up now. I’m going to go all it in there, right?

That’s one side of it. But it gets worse, because usually, you don’t know what the market wants. So maybe you’ve done a bit of research, but you create what you think the market wants and then it doesn’t sell. And you’re even more committed because you’re like, “Well, I can’t just go and create a whole new course now that I know the market wants, now that I’ve done my research because that will just put a year of it to waste.” And it’s like a vicious cycle.

That’s why as a course creator the best thing to do is build that community first, and then you do your launch. In our space, we usually do a live webinar as a course creator. It’s like you build your list, you do a live webinar, you sell at the end of that webinar. If the course sells great, you teach it week by week. It’s not a six module course that you give someone straight away and they buy. So like, great, six-week course, every week, you’re going to get a module, whether you teach it live via Zoom or whether you just give it to that person. So that way it’s a guarantee.

Because the other thing is even if it doesn’t sell, who cares? You didn’t spend any time putting the course together anyway, just make and tweak it. Actually thank God it didn’t sell. You know, imagine if you had to put all that work together and it didn’t sell. So just wanted to piggyback off that a bit.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. And that resonates so much. Because again, my first course, text-based, how to build a blog with WordPress, I spent again four… which apparently four months was-

Jono Petrohilos: It’s good.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, right. But three people maybe bought it. So that’s still four months’ worth of work for 100 bucks, right? Because nobody needed that course because it was all out there for free. And what did I talk about? I talked about the stuff that you would learn. I talked about the work I was giving you. I wasn’t talking about how you could launch a blog and make money as soon as possible. I was talking about how to launch a blog with WordPress.

And further, that wasn’t my audience. My audience, which was pretty good, was developers who didn’t need that course. I just figured it would be an easy course to make. Let’s recap that first of all. For anybody listening who has aspirations of launching a course, build your audience first.

Justin Ferriman talked about this way back in like Episode 33 in this show. He built his audience before he had anything to sell. Then you launched the course with a webinar. And in the webinar you talk about the high-level overview. Maybe you talk about all the “what,” maybe some of the “how,” give them a little bit of-

Jono Petrohilos: Can I jump in here a sec, Joe?

Joe Casabona: Yeah.

Jono Petrohilos: Because I had a sales DM yesterday that was just perfect and it’s fresh in my mind. It was essentially a woman that wanted to create a course around Tarot Reading. I don’t even know what that is really but something around that sort of space.

She’s like, “Okay, you know, I’m a bit confused. What do I do?” And I basically said that. I’m like, “All right, first thing you got to do is build your audience.” Does that make sense?” She’s like, “Yeah, got it. I know, I can do that.” I’m like, “All right, cool. Then what you got to do is set a date for you live webinar, present something with the webinar, make a sale at the end of it. If you make sales, great. Put it together week by week by week. If you don’t, don’t.”

She’s like, “Man, that’s awesome. Such good advice. But where do I start with all this?” And I’m like, “Well, I’ve got a membership. You know, it’s 50 bucks a month and all of that’s in there. Do you want it?” She’s like, “Yes, sign me up.”

That’s the way I look at it. Where it’s like, “At the end of that webinar or any sales process, really, you want the person to be like, “That’s awesome. This is exactly what I want to do. I’ve got a clear path on what I need to go to.” But where the hell do I start? Well, I’ve got this course that can get you started there.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s amazing. That’s amazing. Yeah, because you are. You’re giving them a little bit for free and you’re showing them how much… it’s not like a skeevy sales tactic? You’re showing them the value you can deliver, right?

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Joe Casabona: That’s amazing. And then teach the course week by week if it sells. And I think some people are probably like, “Well, I don’t have the time to teach a course week by week.” But the time that you’re saving by not investing in a year to develop a course that you’re not selling is worth it. You’ve gotten money upfront to do this thing. Maybe you deliver it over six weeks or 12 weeks, or however long you think the program is. And it doesn’t have to be in real-time either. You don’t have to have live office hours.

Jono Petrohilos: Exactly. You got either option. Depending on what you prefer, I like the live just because I like to talk and interact with people. I find I can get a bit of good live feedback as well, where it’s like, all right, I’ll press stop and then I’ll ask, “How do you guys find that?”

And if there’s any questions or I missed anything, I’ll quickly go back and edit it. And then when I upload the replay for everyone else, it’s a better version of that there. So I personally like the live side of things. But some people aren’t live people. And also there’s certain things. Maybe if you’re a guitar teacher and you got to show an angle from up there, it might be tricky. So it doesn’t have to be a live Zoom thing. I personally prefer and even if people can’t make it live, you just upload it to your platform anyway. There’s the replay.

But even if there’s no live, it’s just a recording, that’s totally cool. And I think it’s a good balance because it’s kind of like all you need is one module a week. That’s it. Don’t worry about it at all. You’ve got the outline obviously in your head. You’re an expert at what you do. But it’s all you need is you’ve got a whole week just to create one module. It gives you the accountability. You need to get a bit of a hurry on. But it’s not like you’re going to create a whole course in a week. It’s one module. Teachers do that every day. You know, “What am I going to teach tomorrow?” All you got to do is one for that week.

Joe Casabona: I feel totally seen right now. I’ve thought about things I would teach that day because I didn’t feel like teaching the prepared lecture or I’m just like, “I’m not feeling this today. Take something else.”

Jono Petrohilos: Exactly.

Joe Casabona: Which you can do if you’re an expert in your field. Some courses do take… I’ll say this. Because I was just listening to another podcast and it was about an author. And they were saying you might not be an expert on the topic when you start but you will be when you finish because you are going to do a ton of research when writing a book.

I think the flip side of that is when you teach a course, you probably should already be an expert. Because in this format, you are doing it live, you’re getting feedback from your students, you want to make sure you teach the right thing. I’ve written books. I’m not saying that’s not the case with books, but about a dozen people will read my book before any novice does. That might not be the case with my course. The first person who sees my course might be someone who’s ready to learn for the first time.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, exactly.

Joe Casabona: At least fifth person, right, if I’m not showing it to my friend.

Jono Petrohilos: I’ll just add something on that. I think 100% with the course what I find you learn more as the course creator is more the questions from other people. So let’s say for example… let’s use a podcast course for as an example. Like I know how to create a podcast, right? I could put a course together on that. But I don’t know like all the questions other people… like if other people would see it like me, does everybody know that you don’t just upload it to iTunes or do I need to mention that in the course? Does everybody know that… You know all these questions. But you get what I’m saying right? Like you’ll be an expert in-

Joe: Learning the website was your host. Stuff like that.

Jono Petrohilos: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that’s what I find you learn is the teaching the course sort of stuff.

Joe Casabona: Which is great because you’re getting that live feedback, which makes your course is better because then you don’t have those assumptions. Again, something that I got teaching in the classroom, I described the difference in WordPress between a page and a post, which I will not go over here.

Jono Petrohilos: I only learned that one a couple of weeks ago, by the way.

Joe Casabona: Right. Because it’s confusing. But as somebody who had been using for WordPress for like 10 years at that point, the way I described it to my class, I looked at them and they all looked dumbstruck. And thank God one of my students raised her hand and said, “I have no idea what you just said.” And I said, “Okay. Let me backtrack.”

And that’s the benefit of teaching live, first of all, you get that feedback. But it’s also the benefit of teaching something week by week. You release a module on Monday, your students have a week to take it, you get that feedback by let’s say Wednesday. Then you could iterate on the fly. Again, that’s something that you don’t get if you’re in a silo for a year building a course without feedback and then you fall into what you mentioned before, right? The fallacy of sunk cost. Amazing.

Jono Petrohilos: Exactly. I’ll go back a step here as well because I want to go back to the Facebook side of things, right?

Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah.

Jono Petrohilos: Even with the Facebook group, because now thinking I almost explained that a little bit wrong. It wasn’t even like, “Okay, I know, I want to help course creators, so the first thing I’m going to do is create a Facebook group.” I even spent a bit of time before that just interacting in other groups, just checking out some blogs, listening to some podcasts, seeing what’s out there.

And I even tried a few different things or have tried a few different things. So there’s certain Facebook groups where you’re led to promote in different days and that sort of thing. And I was like, “You know what? Maybe it’s copywriting that I want.” Because I didn’t know what I wanted to help course creators with. So I was like, “Maybe it’s copywriting.”

And I did a few posts for a couple of weeks in the different Facebook groups. I was like, “Hey, I’m trying something out, I’ll write your copy for free. Give me 30, 45 minutes, I’ll write your copy for free. All I want in return is a testimonial if you like it.” And I got like 100 people saying that “You know what…” I did it for 20 of them or whatever.

And at the end of the 20th, I was like, “You know what? I don’t want to be a copywriter for people.” I dabbled a little bit with Facebook ads as well. “Hey, can I have some volunteers? I’ll do it for free, yada, yada.” And then I’m like, “Nah, I don’t really like this.” And then I was like, “Oh, is it the creating course side of things that I like?”

And then I tried a few different things. And I was like, “What I really like is the selling side of things. I want someone that’s got a really good idea.” And it’s “Oh, Jono, can you teach me the best way to create this course?” It’s like, “Hey, what’s the best way I can sell this course or I can create this course to sell it? Once I had that, then I was off to the races. Then I was like, “All right, I know the type of people, I know what I’m going to help them with. Now I’m ready to create the Facebook group.”

And the other key benefit of that as well… I’ll share what I did, but I’ll also try and give it as a tip for everyone else that’s creating Facebook groups as well. So when I started my Facebook group, I already had about 100 ideal people that I could invite in day one. Because I’d spent that, whatever it was, three to six months, I don’t even know, months beforehand just connecting with people, helping different people.

And it was almost a better way to do it because there was no ulterior motive. It wasn’t like, “Hey, I’ll write your copy, and then I’ll try and sell you my course.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Or “Hey, I’ll make this post just to get people in my Facebook group.” It wasn’t that. It was just I’m genuinely just helping and networking out of the goodness of my heart.

So that way when I started my Facebook group, I had 100 people I could invite, maybe even more. Maybe about 100 people I could invite. Not only any 100 people, though. 100 people that were pretty much friends. Like even if I hadn’t met them personally, I might have done a complimentary call with them, we’re probably friends for a couple of months on Facebook, we’ve shared a few jokes, I’ve wished them happy birthday, they might have seen some of my lives on my personal feed, I might have commented on some of them, I might have tagged them in a post.

So then when I started this Facebook group, a hundred people off the bat. And there was some buzz around it. Because if you start a Facebook group and there’s five people in there, it’s just so hard to grow, because who’s going to join a group with five people? It doesn’t look good. But also there’s no really value because the biggest value… And we might speak about this later, but the biggest value of the Facebook group is in the community. My whole goal with my Facebook group is for me to do as little work as possible.

I don’t want it to be about me going on there and say, me, me, me, me, me. If I wanted that I’ll get an Instagram account. What I want it to be about is for the community. I want my members to be like, “You know what, if I don’t want an answer to anything to do with creating or selling courses, I’m not going to go to Google, I’m not going to go to YouTube, I’m going to go to Jono’s Facebook group. And I’m going to post the question here because I know that everyone in there is going to be super supportive in the comments. And I know that I’m going to get some good answers. And I can actually interact with those people.”

There might be a good YouTube video on how to sell courses, but it’s hard to sort of, you know, you leave a comment, is the person going to reply or other people going to reply? Facebook is all about the community. I’ve got a bit off-topic, but I wanted to paint that picture there.

But the advantage of that is when I started the group, 100 people in there that already sort of knew me, and like me, and trust me, so when I would go in there, and I would do a live or I would make a post, everyone would support me because they were sort of friends. So they’d like, they’d comment, which would then help the engagement of the group.

Because even the people that sort of didn’t know me that well, so like, oh, there’s all these people liking and commenting. They don’t know that I already knew the people that were in the group. They’re going to be “Oh, this guy must be somebody. This guy must know what he’s talking about. I might actually like it or commented or whatever.” And then that sort of warms the algorithm up as well.

Because Facebook’s going, “Oh, hold on, every day there’s another 2030 people joining this group. And there’s all these people commenting.” And I set some little things as well up. So whenever anyone joined the group, I was like, “Oh, Joe, welcome to the group, make sure to make a post and introduce yourself.” So that way not only were there 20 people joining the group a day, there were 20 people joining the group a day and making a post and introducing themselves.

And then there’s many different things going on there as well. Because it’s kind of like, if you join a group, that’s great, but you’re probably not going to see the posts in there, right? But if you join a group and you make a post in there, Facebook’s probably thought, “Joe’s actually an engaged member of this group. He actually wants to see posts and [00:27:04 showing posts.” And then it’s just like a cycle that goes on and on and on.

If we go back, that’s something that I think… or for anyone listening, if you’re looking to start a Facebook group, don’t just be like, “Right, I’m going to start it today.” Be like, “I’m going to start in about a month or two months or three months. Let me get busy in these next couple months and just interact with people out of the goodness of my heart.”

A podcast is another good one as well. It may even just be like, “You know what? I’m just going to start up a podcast. I’m going to start a podcast, interview some heavy hitters, maybe they share the podcast. I’ll do that for a few months. So now you have three months’ time when I’m ready to start my Facebook group, I’ve already got a podcast. It might be LinkedIn, it might be Instagram or whatever it is. But either way just spent… Might be face to face.

You might go to different networking events and just meet different people. Go armed with your phone, add them on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever it is. And then when you start your group, you got a whole heap of people ready to go. Out of everything, that’s probably the best tip I can give. Even though that’s 100 people out of the 2,000 or 5,000. We got in there now. That’s the most important because it sets the tone for the rest of it.

And also every new person that comes in sees an engaged group. That’s the sign of a good group. If you go in a group, and it’s just the admin posting all the time, you know, it’s just the admin trying to sell me stuff, then if you go in there, and there’s a heap of people, “Oh, there’s actually a community. Right? That’s a whole nother… you can tell I’m passionate about Facebook groups, right.?

Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah.

Jono Petrohilos: But it’s a whole nother thing there. We’ve always had community. You’re Italian, Joe. You understand community, right?

Joe: Absolutely.

Jono Petrohilos: We’ve always had it and it’s getting less and less than the world because the world is online. So we’re looking for communities online. And another way we can look at the value of community… this is when I really realized how valuable community is. In prison Joe, if you got to prison, what’s like the biggest punishment you can give someone in prison?

Jono Petrohilos: Solitary confinement.

Joe Casabona: I used to think, “Man, if I was in jail, get me away from the killers and the rapist.” But that sort of shows. Most people would prefer to be around killers and rapists than be on their own in solitary. That shows the power of community there which goes back to the Facebook groups.

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Joe Casabona: I think the big takeaway here is you got to put the time in, right?

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: There’s no secret sauce to automatically getting 100 people in your group. You got to be present in other communities and provide value and see what people are asking for and then invite those people. Again, I never wanted to invite people to my Facebook groups, because I’m like, “If they want to come they’ll come.”

But also in my experience, my friends are just inviting me to whatever Facebook group they’re a part of or starting and like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t care about Cheryl’s Candy Shop in Illinois. I’m not in Illinois, I can’t eat candy anymore, and I haven’t talked to Cheryl in 20 years.” But if you invite 100 People who you’ve engaged with over the last three or six months, who are also doing what you’re doing, well, now we’re talking.

And then you mentioned the Facebook algorithm. So this is something that we’re going to talk about in Build Something More, because as we record this, it’s been a few weeks since the great Facebook outage of 2021. And when that happened, everybody in my personal sphere talked about how you need to own your own platform. And I wrote a blog post about how maybe you don’t need to own your own platform.

So in Build Something More, Jono and I are going to talk about that. And so if you want to become a member and hear those ad-free extended episodes a day early, you probably won’t hear this one a day early, since you’re hearing the pitch. But if you want to hear those ad-free extended episodes a day early, head over to again There’ll be a signup button at the bottom of the show notes. So we’ll talk about that in Build Something More.

But the Facebook algorithm is a big plus over rolling your own. I have a Circle community. It’s a private community for my members only. That’s where I post all the bonus content, basically. But you’re right about like the admin. It’s not super active yet. I’m growing the membership. But there’s no algorithm to juice interaction over there.

Whereas with Facebook, I commented on one of your posts because I’m part of the Course Creator Community on Facebook. I commented on one and the next time I logged into Facebook I saw a few other questions. I can choose to interact with them or not, but I’m seeing more. And when there are questions that come up that I think I’d be a good fit to answer, ones that I can provide value to, I do try to comment on those. So I think that’s a really important part for anybody who saying, “Well, I hate Facebook. I’m not going to use Facebook.”

Jono Petrohilos: It’s a good one. Because I even do get a lot of those people in my Facebook group. They’re like, “I want to create a course but I hate Facebook. I don’t want to be on Facebook. And look there’s pluses and minuses each way. I get it. If you’re like, “I don’t want to use Facebook, I want to private side of things” that’s fine.

I just go on a different side of things. And it’s what resonates with you. Because me personally, there’s no way I’m downloading Circle or anything like that. Just me personally. So I’m sort of like, “Well, I would never do that. I’m already on Facebook. So I’ll just use Facebook here. “That’s why I go down that avenue there. But I get the flip side. I get the flip side if someone’s like, “Oh, I don’t like Facebook, I want to get off Facebook.”

So it depends which way you go. I’ve just chosen to go down that Facebook group route, because it’s kind of everything for me. Like that group serves as my lead generation machine. Now I get probably 50 or 100 people a week join that without me really doing anything. So I got new leads coming in there.

It also serves as my sales machine. Even if it’s not a direct sales post saying, “Hey, buy this course or join this webinar,” just by me doing little things in there, it’s essentially selling. For me giving little tips, there’s always some act. “Hey, I created this free thing, who wants it?” “Great. You get the free thing there. It might be a sell at the end of it or whatever. So it’s how I get my leads. It’s how I sell.

It’s also how I support as well. If anyone does any of my courses, if you’ve got any questions, you post them in the Facebook group, which then helps the algorithm again, because it’s more people posting yada, yada, yada. But it’s just so much easier for me.

My life is just, “Right, let me jump on this Facebook group. Let me check it for half an hour or an hour, make sure everything’s covered. Okay, great, job done. There’s my sales, my marketing and my nurturing, all done in the one.” That’s why I like it.

Joe Casabona: Gotcha, gotcha. I think you raise a good point there, though, is you said, “Facebook works for me, because I’m already on Facebook.” And I think that’s a really big takeaway. I’ll link to my post in the show notes. But you’ve got to be where your audience is.

It’s great if you want to live in a cabin on a lake away from everybody else. But if you set up a convenience store away from everybody else in a cabin on a lake, no one’s going to drive the 50 miles to go to your convenience store. They’re going to go to the ShopRite or the Walmart or the whatever local grocery stores you guys have. Because that’s where they go, that’s where they shop.

And the same thing goes for your community. You can ask your people, your members, your fans to download Circle, or I’m using Geneva for one. But most people probably won’t. But if they’re on Facebook, adding a group is just part of their daily habit.

Jono Petrohilos: Love it. Are you okay if I keep going on this, Joe.?

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Let’s see. Gosh, I can’t believe we’re coming towards the end of this conversation. I think I want to talk about the growth a little bit more. So I want to get some concrete advice here. One is interact with… like start a podcast or be in other Facebook groups.

Jono Petrohilos: Facebook groups are the best because it’s kind of like they’re already built in communities there. If you start a podcast, hey, you might get some listeners, but there’s a Facebook group that’s already got thousands of your ideal people in there. You can sort of leverage off that a little bit. And most groups allow some sort of promotion, whether it’s a certain day, or it’s under a thread, or whatever it is, that’s the easiest way just to get started.

And giving away something for free. And that’s even a catch on its own, right? Because it’s kind of like, if you give something away for free that involves your time, well, there’s only so much that you can do. But it builds that really good relationship. If you give something away that doesn’t have any of your time, great, it’s unlimited, but the relationship might not be as strong. But either way I find Facebook group… And especially if you’re growing a Facebook group.

Because if you start a podcast, maybe they’re not Facebook people. If you start a YouTube channel, maybe they’re not Facebook page. If they’re in another Facebook group, ideally they’re going to be the same people. Yeah, exactly. So there’s that there. And so that would be my first tip is essentially do whatever possible to get 100 ideal people so when you start your group you can start with a bang. Tip number one.

Along with that as well is the name of your Facebook group. So one of my friends is in the finance space. He’s got a company called – what is it? Python Wealth. Like the snake. Python Wealth. So he created a Facebook group to grow his business and he called it The Snake Pit. Pretty cool. Pretty clever. Pretty cute. But no finance people are joining a group called The Snake Pit. You’re getting snake enthusiasts. And I’m in Australia, they’re not the sort of people you want in your Facebook group is snake enthusiast, right?

Let’s use my group the Course Creator Community. The only people joining that group of people that are creating a course. And not only that, they’re going to be typing it in. Most of my members because one of my questions is “how did you hear about us?” “I just typed ‘course creator’ in the Facebook bar.” That’s how most of my members come from—just naming it correctly.

Or even if it pops up in your feed, if it pops up in your feed and called The Snake Pet… let’s see I’m scrolling through, pops up in your feed, if you join another group… there’s another one out there I think it’s called The Online Course Creators Community. As soon as you join that group, mine pops up as well.

I know because it’s like when someone joins your group, it shows you what other groups they’re in. I see the mutual groups. It’s always that same. So I know there’s something in the algorithm whenever someone joins that group, Facebook just shows me this one straight away. So there’s the name.

And there’s two specific formulas. I want to share the one formula because it’s the easiest one. And that’s essentially just call it your niche with a word like community at the end. So say, my niche is course creators. So it’s the course creator community. If you don’t want to use community, the course creator tribe, the course creator movement, course creators united. All right. Substitute anything. Podcasters. The podcaster community, the podcaster movement. Podcaster united.

Maybe it’s a specific area. Australian podcasters united, the Australian podcaster community. If you can do that, you’re not going to go wrong. Just your niche and then some sort of community word there. Now you sort of got both angles working, right?

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And now let’s get back to it.

Joe Casabona: So let me ask you something here. I’m going to get some free advice on the show.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, for sure.

Joe Casabona: I have kind of two different things kicking around in my brain. My brand for podcasting is Podcast Liftoff. So would Podcast Liftoff Community work. Just because by virtue of the word podcast being in there? Because I suspect a lot of people aren’t… Maybe Podcast launch community would be better. Or maybe by the time this episode comes out, the trailer will be out but I’m working on a new show called Make Money Podcasting. So Make Money Podcasting Community/Tribe? I guess I should see what people are searching for and take advantage of that.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, you can do that there. I would even just go more general. I would personally, especially with those two, I would… And you’re targeting anyone all over the world, right? Not just-

Joe Casabona: Yeah.

Jono Petrohilos: So I would just call it something like Podcasters United or the Podcasters Community or something like that. Because a name like that sounds like a big group. And the other thing is you ideally want to feel left out. If you’re a member of that and you’re not in there, you want to feel left out. It’s kind of like if I’m a course creator, and I’m running the course creator community, I feel left out. I know because I’m also a personal trainer and there’s a Facebook group called Australian Personal Trainer United, man, if I’m not in that group, I don’t feel part of the community.

Jono Petrohilos: You’re not an Australian personal trainer.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of what you want. So I would just do it like that. And even say my group, the Course Creator Community, I don’t really say, “Hey, I help you sell more of your….” Okay, I’ll get anyone in there because at some stage I’m probably going to be helping them anyway. But both of those, you’re just sort of covering both angles, right? It’s kind of someone can join as a newbie…

I’ve done that. When I launched my podcast, I was like, “Oh, let me join some of these different Facebook groups. I just typed them in, joined the ones that I like the most. So I will just call it that. If you want, you can add the thing at the end. So say, for example, The Podcast Host Community by Podcast Liftoff.

Joe Casabona: Got you. Got you.

Jono Petrohilos: Or by Joe Casabona. So it’s like you can still get a bit of branding in there as well. And yeah, I think host is the key there with yours. You know, the Podcast Hosts Community by Joe Casabona or By Podcast Liftoff.

Joe Casabona: Gotcha. That makes a lot of sense. Because if I call this something like Make Money podcasting, people are like, “Well, my podcast is just a hobby right now.” But if they’re a podcast host, maybe they are not ready to make money yet, but they want to be. Or maybe in the group, they can be convinced that they can be.

Jono Petrohilos: You know what? I join a group of podcasters, “You can get sponsorship via podcasting.” I didn’t know that. Let me follow this guy, let me buy his course, whatever it is. So it’s just like, let’s get the whole community in there, and then let’s just get our little piece in there of the pie in there.

And the other good thing about that is it opens you up to collaborations. So I’ve got certain people in my group, even yourself, if anyone asks a podcast question, I’ll tag Joe, because it’s kind of like, you know, I don’t want to say, “Hey, if you want to… Let’s say you want to sell your online course using a podcast. I don’t want to say, “No, go away. You’re not for me.” Still coming this group, you contribute something.

And if you want to use the podcast, okay, I’ll tag Joe. I’ve got a Facebook ad expert in there. If anyone asked a Facebook ad expert, yeah, go and speak to Natalie, go and speak to… and it builds that community. And then that comes back. I’m sure you’ll hit me back, right, Joe?

Joe Casabona: Yeah.

Jono Petrohilos: Someone’s like, “Oh, I want to create a course.” “Go and see Jono.”

Joe Casabona: Absolutely.

Jono Petrohilos: That’s why I want to dominate the niche. I’m the go-to person in that niche there. Almost like the leader of the mafia, right? So like, “Oh, you want podcasting?” “Oh, go and see Joe.”

Joe Casabona: I got a podcast, yeah.

Jono Petrohilos: Exactly. That’s what I want.

Joe Casabona: I’ll prepare you. I’m going to ask you a favor later. Reinforcing every Italian stereotype. “The Many Saints of Newark” came out recently as we record this.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, yeah. I don’t it’s in Australia yet?

Joe Casabona: No?

Jono Petrohilos: I haven’t checked. My grandfather who came off the boat from Italy in 1949 hated the Sopranos. He passed away in 2009. He hated the Sopranos because it made Italians look bad. I’m like, I could see that pop. I could see that. So I haven’t had much desire to see it because I never really watched the show. But I hear it’s alright.

Anyway, okay, gosh, we are coming up on time. This has been such a great conversation. We talked about, do whatever you can to get that 100 people. I think that’s an excellent starting point. The name is super important. That one was I hope is helpful for everybody. Definitely helpful for me.

Jono Petrohilos: Let me give I’m going to give two more quick ones?

Joe Casabona: Yes. I was just going to say, are there maybe two or three more tips that you have for getting started?

Jono Petrohilos: Easy. Cool. So get the 100 people in there, name it correctly. Because our end goal is really to get the algorithm working for us. That’s what we want. We want to wake up every day, and be like, “Oh, sweet, there’s 10, 20 people that joined this group that are my ideal person that Facebook suggested.” Those two things will help that we’ve started about, the first 100 and naming it correctly.

The biggest other tip is engagement. The more engagement you can get in your group, the more that’s going to juice up the algorithm. Now, that’s one thing that doesn’t just happen. It’s not like you start up a Facebook group, and then people just magically start engaging in there. It doesn’t happen. It’s got to be systems in place.

I use about 10 specific ones. I’ll just drop two or three really quick ones now that anyone can use the can do that. The easiest one is the new member. Once someone joins your group, send them a message, you know, “Hey, Joe, awesome to have you in the group. What do you do?” “Oh, you’re a podcasting guy. Hey, feel free to make a post and introduce yourself.” You may even get a customer or two from it.

If you just do that, every member is now not just a new member, it’s a new member and a Facebook posts. And juices up the algorithm. They’re going to be more likely to see and engage. Also, some people that maybe you don’t send them a message because they don’t accept your friend request or they’re on private or whatever, they may just do it organically. They joined the group, oh, the last two, three posts, I’m seeing about two or three people introducing themselves, maybe that’s what I’m going to do.

From a course creator side of things, I always have action tasks in my courses that always revolved around doing something in the Facebook group. So let’s just say for example, one of the most common things you can do as a course creator is create a free mini-course or a lean lead mag, right?

So that’s one thing I cover in my membership. I’m like, “Hey, you need to have a lead magnet. Here are some ideas that had some general ideas. But you know what the best thing to do is, go and make a post in the course create a community Facebook group, ask everyone else what their lead magnet is, and you’re going to get not three ideas that I’ve given you, but 15, 20, 30, 40 different ideas there, right?

And then that person will go and post in the Facebook group, “Hey, guys, curious what’s your lead magnet?” Helps the algorithm on that person, they’ve now made a post, they’re going to be more likely in there, everyone in that Facebook group wants to share their lead magnets. So that’s going to get a heap attraction in there. It’s just a cycle once again, where it’s good for the person.

Even though it’s a little bit fake getting the person to post it’s not because they’re getting value. It’s like by that person posting, they’re getting 20, 30 different ideas, which gives them a better experience than just doing the cause. And as a byproduct that helps my algorithm and that sort of thing as well.

So if you’re a cause creator, whatever it is, find little action tasks that involve people posting in the Facebook group. And then it’s the same thing. It’s like that person post once and they get 20, 30 comments. This is a good group. Next time I have a question. I’m going straight in here and posting this. Same thing, maybe people have never done my course, but they go in there and they’re like, “Hold on, you can just ask a question in this group and then people answer it.” And go from there.

One more just quick engagement tip I’ll give as well is the redirect. So I only met you, Joe but I sort of get people asked me questions on Facebook and email and text message and Instagram, and can get a bit overwhelming for me. So I use the redirect. Whenever anyone asked me any question, whether it’s a client, a prospect, a lead, whatever it is, I’m like, “Joe, it’s the awesome question. I got the perfect answer. Hey, can you do me a favor, can you just post that in the Facebook group? That way everyone else can see the answer as well.”

So a few things going on there, too. It’s getting more engagement in the Facebook group, it’s better for my time. I’m almost training my followers to be like, “Oh, if I ever got a question for Jono, I’m just going to go and post it in the Facebook group. Helps with the algorithm, people are going to comment, they’re going to be more likely to see it. People are going in there. And they’re like, oh, you know, people have just posted questions so I can post in as well.

I got about 10 of those little different strategies that I use. But the message that I want to get across here as well, before you start that Facebook group too also have a… you might not have 10 like me, I’m obsessed with Facebook groups. But just be like, All right, can I have, you know, two or three different strategies that I know is going to encourage people to post that actually work? Because some of the common ones out there that don’t work is like, “You know, hey, it’s Motivation Monday today and terrific Tuesday?

Joe Casabona: Wow. I feel seen.

Jono Petrohilos: I mean, it’s kind of like, hey, if it works, it works.

Joe: It did not work.

Jono Petrohilos: I’ll tell you why, Joe. I’ll tell you why it didn’t work or why it usually doesn’t work. Because it’s almost a little bit selfish from the Facebook group admin. If we do that, we’re basically saying, hey, we want people to engage so we have an engaged group, so this is Motivation Monday. Whereas the strategies I like to use are more a bit like a win. Like that action task, you know, you’re getting a win by posting there.

You ask me a question, I ask you to post in the Facebook group, you’re getting a win, because I’m going to give you the answer there. I asked you to introduce yourself in the group, because maybe you’ll get a few customers from it. There’s always a win in there. So it’s kind of like, how can we make it a win? The overarching strategy is how can we make people want to want to post as opposed to sort of forcing, you know.

Joe Casabona: Again, you’re giving people a solution, which is an answer to their question, and not a feature, which is what looks like an active community. That’s a feature. I love that. That’s great. The redirect is a good one, too, because then you could always backreference posts and things like that, too. So I think that’s a really good one.

Jono Petrohilos: Can I give one more tip, Joe?

Joe Casabona: One more. Absolutely.

Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, last one. Because with all of that, this sort of one thing missing as well. Everything I’ve covered so far almost assumes that you’ve got a stream of people coming in. It’s kind of like, well, you need the first 100 people in there, you know, well, you need to have the name named or you need to get this engagement thing. And then if you do all those things, you’ll get some people in there.

The biggest key I can give as well is also just have one slave account. So one other social media platform. And it can be Facebook as well actually. If you’re using Facebook, it’s the Facebook group strategy which is joining the other groups that allow promos. And then you know, have your little schedule up there. “Monday, I’ll post in this group. Tuesday in this one,” whatever it is.

But the whole goal is like… because the way the Facebook algorithm works, or the way… I don’t know, but the way I think and the way I’ve experienced it is let’s just say if you can have a manual way to get 10 people in their, Facebook, I’ll show you another 10 as well organically. But if you have zero people coming in, they’re going to show you zero. So it’s like, what can we do.

And any single platform can work. I know the tricks for all of them. But even if we just rattle off a few, if you’re like, “Right, I want to use Facebook, the strategy you’re going to use is join five different Facebook groups that have promos on different days. And then you put your lead magnet in there leads to the group, right?

If your strategy is a podcast, okay, start up a podcast, put your link in the show notes also get on other guests podcasts, and then give you a shout out to your group on their podcast. And maybe there’s a collaboration as well. Maybe it’s like after this and we’re like, “Hey, Joe, can you send an email to your people and give them this? And then I’ll send an email and give him this.” If it’s LinkedIn, okay, great. Go and type in the people’s job title that you want, connect with them, get them to the Facebook group, whatever it is.

But the, I guess, the key there is was just one. Don’t be like, “All right, cool. I’m going to grow my Facebook groups. I’m going to have a podcast and a YouTube channel and an Instagram and a Pinterest and a blog. They’re all going to be crap. Just pick one, be like, I’m going to put all my eggs in the Facebook group, I’m going to get these 100 people, I’m going to give it a good name. I’m going to get all these interaction things going on. But I also need one concrete thing that I’m going to use to consistently get new people in. And whichever one that is, just go all-in on that.

I’d love to get specific on that but we’d be here all day if it was like, “Here’s what you do on podcast and here’s what you do on LinkedIn.” So the best I can give there is just pick one, master that one. Do a course in that one. That’s it.

Joe Casabona: Oh, man. I love that. I think that will be our trade secret. I didn’t get to ask you “do you have any trade secrets for us?” but I think that was a really good one.

Jono Petrohilos: Awesome.

Joe Casabona: Jono, this was amazing. We’re going to continue the conversation in Build Something More. So again, if you’re not a member of that, you can hear all about what John I thought of the Facebook outage and my thoughts too. But I’m pretty open with those anyway. Again, you can sign up over at Jono, if people want to learn more about you, where can they find you?

Jono Petrohilos: There’s one place to go. It’s funny. I’ll be all over social but the only one I actually checked myself is the Course Creator Community Facebook group.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. Awesome. Thanks so much for your time, Jono. I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing so much of your knowledge about Facebook groups.

Jono Petrohilos: No, thank you.

Joe Casabona: Thanks to everybody listening, thanks to our sponsors, TextExpander and Nexcess. And until next time, get out there and build something.

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