For the past three years, we have been promoting social media communities as an important component of a proper social media strategy and plan. Hubspot just stated “Ultimately, the goal of social media is to generate revenue. If your followers don’t engage with your posts, they won’t engage with your business. Communities are critical because they promote engagement. They’re incubators for brand awareness, loyalty, and trust.” We are still beating this drum as we start 2022 as social media communities are the new money maker for you.
A social media community is less a physical space and more a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and experiences. The community typically resides within a social media platform like Facebook Groups. Successful communities foster open conversations generated and supported by the members of the community itself. There are formal communities like the one hosted by Instant Pot which requires an intentional membership to a closed platform. There are also open communities like that of outdoor clothing and equipment retailer REI where membership happens simply through participation.
What’s In It For Me?
In a word, engagement. It is not enough to have a large following; you need an engaged community. Here are a few reasons why (more from Hubspot):
One – They are vehicles for personal recommendations.
In a sense, every member of a social media community is a micro-influencer, sharing real experiences and opinions that can influence other members. This is worth mentioning since nearly nine out of ten consumers read reviews before buying a product.
Customers who love your brand want to talk about it. They want to share reviews and pass on advice, and communities give them a place to do that.
But what about bad reviews? As an active participant in your community, you have a great opportunity to resolve any issues or complaints. And since members are already invested in your brand, they’re more apt to find solutions with you.
Two – They can cut costs.
Active, self-sustaining communities can become hubs for customers to ask and answer questions, which alleviates pressure on customer support teams. They can also reduce support costs — one study found it was 72% cheaper to answer a question via a community than to submit a ticket to a support team.
Communities can also reduce your ad spending. Here’s a crazy stat — in 2022, ad spending in the US will likely cross the $200 billion mark. Brands with active communities can spend less on social media advertising because they can reach customers in an owned space for free.
Three – They create active participation with your brand.
We’ve all heard the statistic — it’s cheaper (and arguably easier) to retain customers than to convert new ones. This is why brand advocacy and retention are critical to any marketing strategy.
Brands can strengthen relationships with members in their communities by encouraging active participation — with polls, surveys, contests, and user-generated content, to name a few. In essence, what was once a transactional relationship is now an active conversation. And every active engagement brings customers closer to your brand.
Four – They offer insight into your consumers.
The most productive communities are strategically designed to spark conversations. You can take full advantage of these conversations by tracking common complaints, ideas for improvement, and unique ways they’re using your products to solve problems.
When you make a change based on member feedback, remember to let your community know. People love to know you’re listening and taking their suggestions seriously.
The members of a community need to receive meaningful benefits. Some of these benefits fulfill a need for connection, while others meet a desire for insights and information. To be a real community, there must be trust and communication.
Social media communities provide the members with connection in a vast landscape that is often overwhelming. The people at Global Web Index asked community members why they participate. Here is what they shared:
How Do You Get Started?
We recommend a two-step process for entering the social media community world.
Step one, join and participate in an existing community with your customers and prospects. Better yet, join several to get a sense of the conversations going on. We suggest listening more than talking, talking only when you have something valuable to offer, and being authentic to who you are and why you are joining the community. Tell the members you are a part of the marketing or sales team for your business. Share your desire to listen, learn, and share. As in any community, online or in your town, building trust is the foundation of a good relationship.
Here are a few examples of communities of architects and designers:
Once you have a sense of how a community works best, the type of conversations that are most welcome, and what you may be able to offer as a host to a dedicated community, it is time to start building your community.
Step two, create and facilitate a community that focuses on the audience first, brand second. Just as in being a good community member, it is even more important as a community host that you listen first and talk second. When conversations wane, you will need to start the next conversation. Spark conversations with questions, respond to comments, and post stimulating content. While you don’t need to be the center of attention, the members should know you are there.
Effective communities provide value. They educate, entertain, and solve problems for the members. If you want to create a real sense of community, you need to provide value with the content you create and share.
Your community is likely to create user generated content – customer stories, videos, showcase projects – that you will want to share across your social media channels. As we mentioned earlier, members like to feel heard and valued. Sharing their content is a great way to boost engagement in your community.
The greatest asset you can provide your new community is an experienced community manager. Someone that will consistently create and share content the members love, engage with, and share. A person that knows how to create and manage community rules and guidelines, so the community stays fun, informative, and valued. The community manager must be able to create awareness of your community. Finally, a community manager must establish and manage reasonable expectations for all involved, so the community to measured fairly.
Building a social media community is no easy task but the rewards are big and meaningful. You will provide your customers and prospects with a place to talk, learn, teach, have fun, and interact with one another and you. A social media community will be a new money maker for you.
Draper DNA team members have created and hosted social media communities for leading brands with Proctor + Gamble, Behr, Lenovo, IKEA, Staples, and others.