Be the Life of the Party: Brand Community vs. Social Media

By perksconsulting |

Happy Birthday, reader! Oh, it’s not your birthday? That’s okay. Just for fun, let’s pretend that it is. And on this momentous day, you want to spend time basking in the love of your friends and family. You want a party. But it’s no fun throwing your own birthday party, right? Ideally, you want your loved ones to remember your birthday, and care enough about you to confer and collaborate in the planning of your celebration. The process should feel organic, and (in this perfect world) you shouldn’t have to contrive any component of it.

But imagine that your friends didn’t throw you a party. They didn’t even remember your birthday. Frankly, you aren’t that close with any of them. You don’t often get together, you don’t check in to see how they’re doing, and they don’t really know much about your personal life. But regardless of your loner status, you spend a significant amount of time designing some beautiful party invitations printed on expensive stationery, and you send one to everyone you know.

Big shock: nobody responds. Why? Well, you never bothered to build rapport with these so-called friends. You didn’t establish yourself as a person they should want to get to know and trust. You didn’t build a community. You put all your focus on the medium of communication, and forgot what that communication was supposed to represent. Looks like you’re about to have a party of one. At least you won’t have to share the cake.

If you want the buzz around your brand to feel more like a big bash and less like a one-person party, you have to understand the difference between brand community and social media.

So, what IS the difference?

Social media is a medium through which we communicate with everyone at once. It’s a tool we use to shout our message to the masses. At its core, social media is just like any other traditional distribution channel that marketers have had access to for decades. Only with emoji and likes and retweets and followers. Those followers may hear us when we shout our messages at them, and they may even shout back—but simply opening an Instagram account does not automatically earn us a loyal base of fans and colleagues engaged in conversation. And it is that conversation that is key to marketing success in the social sphere. To make it happen, you need to focus on building a…

Brand community—the people-powered ecosystem that creates and maintains the conversation around your brand. Ignite your fans and stakeholders with affirmation, education, exclusive perks, and input for improvements, and they’ll return the favor tenfold. Passionate community members will generate referrals and bring their like-minded friends into the party. And once they’re in, they’ll stay in—customers who are engaged with a brand are more likely to become repeat customers. They can also help give your web traffic a healthy bump, lend a hand with customer service, and myriad other proactive activities that can lead to a reduction in marketing costs. But remember: you won’t be able to leverage that power if you don’t show love and respect to your users. It has to be about them, not just your social accounts.

The medium is NOT the messiah
Here is where many brands go wrong. They allocate all money and manpower to the development of social media channels, but almost none to the nurturing of a
community that would make those channels successful. If you’ve ever said (or heard your colleagues say) something like, “My kids love Snapchat—we should be on it!” or “Why don’t we have more Facebook followers?” or “Where’s my Ice Bucket Challenge?” you might be part of the problem. But what’s the solution? How do we course-correct?

Spread the love around

LEGO possesses one of the world’s most positively engaged communities by asking one simple question: Who loves LEGO? The brand is notoriously inclusive of its fans. It collaborates with “Master Builders” who demonstrate the amazing possibilities of its projects. It looks to unofficial communities like Lugnet for design and usability feedback. Simply put, LEGO finds the people that love LEGO, and LEGO loves them back.

It won’t be easy, but if you can take even some of those resources that are presently focused on social media and invest them in building a community that loves your brand, you will reap the benefits. What kind of benefits? Find out in our next installment in this four-part series on community. Stay tuned!

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