Does your brand have a social media community? Before you acknowledge that it does in fact have one, it might be best if I first provide some parameters as to what I believe qualifies and what disqualifies a brand as having a social media community. Let’s start with just the term “community.” How is a community defined? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a community is defined as “a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society.” That sounds like a great foundation for any type of community, whether we’re referring to a community centered on an interest for a particular industry or a community formed around a passion about a brand and what they represent.
We’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t familiar with the concept of being a part of a community. We’ve all attended local community events from farmer’s markets to arts and music festivals. At these types of community events, there is no shortage of people sharing their passions, sharing information and sharing their ideas. Hence the proper community label.
Are your brand’s social streams full of the same type of community activity? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate your social media strategy and focus more on building a community and less on using social as a form of one-way broadcasting. Let’s investigate some of the positive and some negative types of social media communities that I’ve seen arise in the last few years. Can you recognize which type of social media community your brand has built?
The Thought-Leading Social Media Community
I don’t think any company sets out to avoid being a thought leader in their industry. Many companies aspire for thought leadership but haven’t or are unwilling to dedicate the resources needed to execute on the challenge of becoming one. Does your company actually have the expertise to share with and influence a community? Does the key leadership possess the motivation to remain consistent in their efforts? Establishing thought leadership as a brand is a process that takes years to develop credibility and build a sustainable following of support. There is no such thing as a company becoming an overnight thought leader. Thought leadership requires the acquisition of trust and respect that must be earned over a period of time. Simply because you have a successful and well-known brand and line of products, doesn’t automatically entitle your brand to be a thought leader on social media.
Business Blogging – Are People Still Reading?
Is your brand producing meaningful content to help build a sustainable social media community? Your company might be one of those few that has the vision and genuine desire to engage a community on social media. What does that look like? Most associate thought-leading brands as those which produce a consistent blog that’s shared on their social channels each week. Yes, blogs should be an essential component of your thought leadership efforts. That is, only if these blogs have high-quality substance. Far too many business blogs churn out generic and thoughtless blogs that offer nothing new and very little value to its community.
A thoughtful business blog should compel social shares from its social media community. Sometimes the business blog should challenge the status quo, challenge its community to share their thoughts, and ultimately, generate meaningful online conversations about the brand’s industry, products, leadership and its consumers.
The Power of Brand Storytelling Using Video
We’ve all heard the saying that “Content is King.” I agree content is king. However, in my opinion, video content on social media is the actual king. Blogs and other forms of content marketing are vital to any companies’ marketing mix, but rarely are those forms of content as convincing or compelling as brand stories told through professionally-produced video. People don’t have the patience like they used to when it comes to fully-reading anything on their computer. I’m the first to admit that I’m an article scanner reading headlines and bold print to gain my cursory understanding of whatever blog content or news article that finds its way onto my computer screen. I might only allow 10 seconds or less of my time to a blog article, but will play videos for several minutes as long as it’s providing some value, whether it be educational, informational or just entertaining. Sound at all familiar? Think about the last time you were on Facebook and found yourself lost for 10 minutes watching video after video.
Here is an example of a satirical video we scripted and shot for our own social media streams, entitled “No Ordinary Day at the Office.” In a fun and entertaining way, we wanted brands to question whether or not they were respecting their social media audience with quality content.
How many blog posts did you read in their entirety the last time you scanned your Facebook stream? Probably nowhere close to the number of videos you watched or the minutes spent watching these videos. Were any of those videos from a brand you recently made a purchase from, recently visited their website or Facebook page? Have you seen video content from this brand multiple times? The brands doing it the right way are investing in a blend of high-quality social media videos, anywhere from scripted branded entertainment to educational tutorials and product videos. Community building on social media is not about making one video and reposting it once a month. It’s a continual story that a social media community follows day to day. Much like the weekly blog post, the weekly video post can become a game-changer for brands if they make the commitment to involve their consumers on a story journey.
The Social Media Community By-Committee
Does your company have dedicated teams for creating content and managing its social media community? If not, you’re not alone. All too often, social media marketing is placed under the umbrella of a marketing or an admin staff whose main responsibilities are not managing the social media streams of the company. At these companies, social media is more of a footnote, dealt with whenever a member of the staff is between projects and has some extra time to post something about their company or make a new product announcement.
As outlined earlier, executing social media at a high level takes a real budget dedicated to social media. Today’s online communities don’t care about the occasional post about a trivial conference your company is planning to exhibit at next week. They’re seeking a reason to care about your brand. Have you been respecting this community throughout the year with content that has a consistent brand voice using content that resonates with your specific audience? Or have you been taking your online audience for granted and assuming your brand is always on top-of-mind with them regardless of your social media efforts? Even if you’ve been the latter for one reason or another, it’s never too late to start fresh with a new strategy.
The Automated Social Media Community
Social media is just a tool to reach current and new consumers with your brand and its message. Marketing your brand on social media can be a huge time-suck. Out came the slew of time-management tools to help with scheduling the release of content on social media. Unfortunately, nothing worth doing right is ever quick and easy. These time-management tools have led to many bad social media habits by companies all over the world. Post after post, tweet after tweet, and a brand’s social streams become as meaningless and ineffective due to the recycled volume of blog posts being released. New blog posts get lost by the reposting automation that a once-vibrant community becomes apathetic and disengaged with the brand.
In my opinion, this is when a brand needs to spend some quality time assessing their reasons for being on social at all. Their automation efforts can appear lazy and uncaring. How often have you seen brands such as these tweeting their recycled blog dozens of times each day without any engagement, with users tweeting out to the brand but are left without the courtesy of a response? Even worse is a brand’s Facebook page cluttered with these automated blog posts that receive little to no post engagement because no one is actually reading their posts anymore. If the brand doesn’t care, why should their community?
The Perception-Based Social Media Community
The final type of community is one that we as a social media agency has been aware of for since our inception, but are disappointed by their prevalence in the last few years. Being an advocate for building authentic and sustainable social media communities over a period of time, we have become increasingly disappointed by the trend of buying a fake social media community. If this is a foreign concept to you and your company, then hopefully your social streams are safe and clear of fraudulent activity. What exactly is a fake social media community? You’ve seen them. For years a brand has only a couple hundred Facebook page likes, Twitter or Instagram followers. Then out of the blue, they have 50,000 or 100,000 or one-million or more followers on their social streams. On the surface, these brands that have “bought” their following have the initial appearance of popularity. In reality, the social profiles of these brands are just loaded with thousands of bots that have liked and followed them.
Not only is this behavior of purchasing their community a major liability to a brand’s credibility, it renders their social media streams as useless as a car without any gasoline – neither will take their brand anywhere. These brands have either given up on doing social the right way with a business and story strategy or they’re innocent victims of an unscrupulous marketing agency or consultant. Sadly, these brands are basically waving the white flag. They’ve given up and no longer care if they’re reaching an audience on social. If they bought bots, very few if any real people are actually seeing their daily posts. Take a closer look at some of the brands you follow. Do they have more than a hundred thousand fans on Facebook but have little to no social shares or comments to their posts?
Even more disturbing is that there are even solutions for brands that have purchased their fans and followers but feel exposed and vulnerable to criticism by their disproportionate lack of individual post engagement to their total number of purchased fans. Believe it or not, these brands now purchase bots to like their individual posts, retweet, leave fake comments and even provide fake social shares of their content. As absurd as all this sounds. This is the reality of the world we now live in.
It’s a competitive world out there. There is real pressure on brands of all sizes to have the largest possible online following, regardless of whether it’s based in reality or is complete fiction. What do I recommend to brands that approach our agency wanting to go from their fake social media communities to build authentic ones? Scrap everything they have and simply start over. They never like to hear that, but it’s simply the best way. If you build it right, they will come.
Where Should Your Brand Go From Here?
Regardless of the reasons why your company desires a presence on social media, just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither should your social media community. The strength of any community begins with strategic planning and a qualified team to help execute on a vision. Maybe all your leadership needs is some direction for your existing marketing and sales teams. It’s possible your company could use a strategic social media audit to help navigate its competitive landscape. In many cases, your company might need additional creative resources to help create branded content and manage that content effectively on its social channels. Whatever the reason, we would be more than happy to help your organization build its social media community and capture the many benefits that social media provides.
Every brand has a story. Let’s work on your brand story for social together.
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