How This Viral Facebook Group Shines the Spotlight on Local Businesses

Under the leadership of the group’s Mayora, Home Buddies flourished in the middle of the pandemic as it united millions of home enthusiasts and helped businesses grow.

You cannot talk about things that went viral during the COVID-19 pandemic and not mention Home Buddies. Now at 3.1 million members strong, this Facebook group became a safe haven for Filipinos who have a shared interest and passion in home improvement during a very uncertain period in our country’s history. 

Three years since its creation, Home Buddies has become more than just a group where people can fawn over and even critique each other’s home decor decisions. It has since then become a venue for businesses to get their fair share of the spotlight—all thanks to community marketing. 

To understand how Home Buddies came to be and how it eventually grew into the dynamic community that it is today, we talked to the founder, Frances Lim Cabatuando, who you might know best as the group’s Mayora. 

How Home Buddies Came to Be

Home Buddies started from something simple but very personal for Frances, which is her passion for anything and everything home-related. 

“It started when I got my own room after 21 years of sharing a room with my entire family,” she shares. “I discovered the joy of having my own space, like a sanctuary of some sort where I can find my peace.” 

Their interest and passion grew even more when she moved out of the family home, and it led her to start an Instagram home diary called Nobi Home. This, in turn, led to the creation of Home Buddies in 2020. 

When asked why she created the Facebook group, she explains that “there were a lot of amazing communities on Facebook specific to my interests.” However, she really couldn’t find a group that focuses on home interiors that are achievable. 

“Most featured pages were built or designed by professionals,” she points out. “I was just a casual home enthusiast with a limited budget.” 

The Ups and Downs of Managing Home Buddies

With millions of people forced to stay home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people soon discovered Home Buddies on Facebook. The group eventually became a platform where members could flex their home interiors, ask for and share home improvement tips, and even entertain themselves with witty captions and comments. 

Frances says that what she enjoys most about running Home Buddies is “being able to inspire others to improve their homes and their lives” as she believes that there is a direct correlation between the two. 

“If you live in an organized, comfortable, and safe environment, it will make you a kinder person when you go out,” Frances explains. “It will make you less stressed, and eventually, make you more productive and creative at work! Even relationships are affected when home issues are fixed.” 

But as the group grew from just a handful of home enthusiasts to hundreds, thousands, and even millions of members, Frances acknowledges that there have been downsides to managing a group so large, especially when it comes to managing everyone’s expectations. 

“When it started, rules were so much easier to implement,” she admits. “But now, it’s almost impossible to read through every post and comment. We get thousands of content every day from thousands of people coming from different backgrounds. Sometimes they fight just because of misunderstandings.”

Helping Businesses Out During the Pandemic

Despite the downsides, Home Buddies has continued to thrive three years into the pandemic. Aside from the growing number of members, posts, and comments, Home Buddies itself has grown into a platform that has helped out local businesses related to the group’s niche. In fact, many brands have taken the opportunity to do some community marketing in Home Buddies. 

Frances says that businesses get honest reviews from everyday people in Home Buddies. “Home Buddies members are not influencers or creatives. They’re just regular people passionate about home,” she points out. “So good products will really stand out, even if they don’t have the budget for great photography and huge celebrity endorsers.” 

The Home Buddies founder also notes that her Facebook group is already a targeted market. “Unlike Facebook ads where targeting can be broad, in Home Buddies, you already know that if they are there, they are most likely looking for something to improve their home,” she explains. 

“It’s a captured market that is just waiting to spend on the next nice thing,” Frances adds. “If you’re a business with a limited budget, there’s less risk advertising on this platform than relying on Facebook ad targeting.” 

What Home Buddies Does for Local Businesses

Frances has always been a huge supporter of local businesses, which is why creating programs in Home Buddies that can help businesses out is a no-brainer for her. One of these programs is known as Monday Market, which is the designated day where people can sell directly to the group. 

“Unlike in e-comm shops that charge 7% commission or so, in Home Buddies, it’s free,” she reveals. “All you need to focus on is the content – which basically means, just showcase your work and, if it’s great, it will sell.”

Another Home Buddies program meant to support local businesses is Laborangay, which gives laborers the opportunity to “flex themselves,” says Frances. 

“Unlike for retail businesses, service marketplaces in the Philippines are not yet that known or used,” Home Buddies’ Mayora notes. “And Home Buddies has been a great platform for individuals and builders to showcase their work– again for free.” 

Dealing with Scams and Those Who Take Advantage of the Group

Unfortunately, many have tried to take advantage of Home Buddies as a platform for businesses. Frances says they have dealt with numerous scams and bogus businesses that have tried to prey on members of the group. 

“There’s also the problem of people taking advantage of the group for selfish reasons: people posting ads disguised as personal reviews, affiliate marketers spamming links regardless if they bought the items or not, and incompetent/unprofessional contractors luring desperate home builders,” she adds. “It’s hard because these things… you won’t know at first glance. But sometimes you discover them and it’s too late, people have already been scammed or wronged or offended.”

Frances admits that she gets sad when people take advantage of a group that she works so hard to protect. “Personally, I can’t run after them because that’s already beyond my control,” she concedes. “I just always remind people to be careful when dealing with strangers, especially online.” 

The group’s Mayora also makes it a point to remind her members to ask for business documents, professional licenses, and to just generally be more vigilant when it comes to spotting red flags. 

Tips for Those Who Plan to Explore Online Communities

While there are clear disadvantages to running a community, there are advantages to it as well that can encourage people to create their own online communities. Frances advises those interested to “clear what your community is about.”

“Try to be as niche as possible,” she expounds. “Because as it grows, the topics will also grow.”

She also reminds anyone interested to start an online community to “humanize your community.” 

“Don’t see it just as a Facebook group,” Frances warns. “But try to imagine it as a group of real people who will meet up in person one day: who are they, how do they talk, what do you call them. This way, people will have a stronger association to your community.” 

Lastly, she emphasizes the importance of incentivizing people with relevant content, monetary benefits, and of course, meaningful relationships. “There has to be a value that they will get out of being part of your community,” Home Buddies’ Mayora explains. “Make sure this value you create is something meaningful to them that they will not get anywhere else.”