It’s the community, silly!

Clients recover fairly quickly after being told that I cannot help them create a Social Media strategy! The discussion then quickly veers around the different ways in which Social Media can help in running their businesses better. We usually warm up by discussing the following.

  1. Listening, monitoring and insights gathering.
  2. Influencer mapping and building relationships with key influencers.
  3. Tactical campaigns, promotions, applications, viral videos etc.
  4. Creating blogs/sites and other forms of information dissemination.

It gets more exciting when I tell them that all of the above are really at the ‘periphery’ of Social Media and that the single most useful opportunity that Social Media offers is the ability for the client to build, nurture and grow a community / audience for the brand or product.

(The term online community can be defined in many ways. For me the following criteria are important.)
1.     The members should have chosen to join the community and should be able to leave if they want to.
2.     The community manager should be able to get in touch with the community at any time.
3.     The community members should be able to engage in conversations with each other.
(If the third criteria is not satisfied I would call it an ‘audience’ rather a ‘community’ (an audience is also extremely useful of course)

heart-of-social-mediaSo why is building a community THE most valuable investment that products and brands can do using Social Media?

Consider the following situation. Imagine that you are a beer brand in Singapore and have built a 100,000 strong community on Facebook. Here are just some of the ways in which you can benefit from this community.

  • Information dissemination: Have a new citywide new promotion? A new pub opening? A new look for your bottle? Or simply want to wish a super weekend to you fans? Instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising (to reach the same target audience through traditional media, you can directly communicate with your target audience – for free!
  • A deeper relationship with fans/customers: This is possible by engaging in conversations with them and allowing them to co-create the brand with you.
  • Market Research: Launching a new beer for women? What is better than being able to receive instant feedback from thousands of fans?
  • Ideas: Receive ideas for free all the time.
  • Increased effectiveness: Once you have a large community, every tactical promotion/ campaign that you run online will be hugely more effective and has the potential to go viral. Just because you have a base to start with.
  • Permanent asset: An online community is a permanent asset and does not deplete resources every time you use it (unlike advertising)

I am just scratching the tip of the iceberg here. How you use your community is simply limited by your imagination.

So how do you go about building a community around your brand or product? Well, that is another post in itself! I will get around to writing that in a couple of weeks.