The Need For Branded Communities

As social media and other online interaction platforms continue to mature, the amount of “white noise” becomes harder to tune out.  As such, the question of where to go in order to find quality content that truly advances knowledge vs. simply trying to market and/or sell also becomes a challenge.

The reality is, social media isn’t changing at the pace it once did. Sure, social data breaches and increased government regulation will change the landscape next year — but don’t expect 2015 to be a year of social transfiguration. Instead, as the industry matures, you’ll have a chance to catch your breath and focus on a few really important social initiatives. As a result, predictions are that as social media matures, branded online communities will make a comeback.

Many brands try to garner word of mouth by posting content on Facebook and hoping it goes viral. But this “post and pray” method rarely works.  Rather, interaction and content have been proven time and again to be the only sure fire way to truly interact, i.e. have a digital conversation.  Online communities also help to solidify existing relationships.  A recent Forrester report “Predictions 2015: Social Media Grows Up” found that US online adults who want to stay in touch are three times more likely to visit a specific site that was geared to information in which they were interested rather than to engage on Facebook. Both B2B and B2C marketers have found branded communities create more loyalty and lifetime value than Facebook and Twitter marketing.

One of the myths that we all must work hard to dispel is the belief that an online community has been built for some self-serving reason when in fact the truth is actually that the online community has been built to serve the people that are in it.

Often, people are more interested in the social links that come from online affiliations than they are in the brands that are being written about. They join communities to build new relationships. Facebook provides a straightforward example, but country clubs and churches reveal similar dynamics. “Third place” brands such as Gold’s Gym and Starbucks tap into this by providing bricks-and-mortar venues that foster interaction. In such instances, loyalty is the reward for meeting people’s needs for community, not the impetus for the community to form.

This leads me to one conclusion.  We engineer the community first in order to provide education, networking and access and we will build a gathering for like-minded individuals to engage and grow.  Building a “field of dreams” is never easy and takes time and commitment but in the end, if you build it well, they will come. 

Respectfully,    Lisa deSouza