How to build a social media community
Since the phenomenon of social media exploded in the noughties and teens, the way that customers and brands have engaged via this medium has not only increased exponentially but also changed dramatically. Social media wields a huge power in our society and its impact is felt worldwide both positively and the negatively. It is most people's first port of call and place to turn to for news, entertainment, opinion, humour, research and so much more and therefore it is a key tool in any communicators arsenal and must be managed correctly for full effect.
Here we take a look at the shifting dynamic between consumers and brands in recent times and outline several key concepts communicators must adopt to improve relationships with their online audiences and create strong, faithful communities.
It's called a social media network for a reason. The huge uptake of social media as a forms of communication originally came about from people’s desire to build communities of trust and connect with each other in a way that was becoming increasingly difficult in modern times. Communities are key on social media and their power for influence cannot be underestimated. In unprecedented times, like the one we are in now, its never been so important to engage online effectively with your audiences and keep your online communities alive.
The benefits of building a strong community go deeper than single sales and short term financial gain. The real value of building groups and communities online is that it brings together people who have a common interest or goal. Communities are always most effective when they help to build relationships between members who happen to be interested in your brand. This leads to loyal, returning customers who are as valuable to you as you are to them. From them you can learn and gain insight in to customer behaviour that can help to drive your brand to provide and even better service. You will learn how to better communicate and engage with your audience.
In many ways, this idea of community has been lost along the way with brands and influencers taking advantage of social media for personal gain, self-gratification and self-valuation.
In order to regain customers’ trust, brands need to hark back to that ‘purer’ original purpose of building an online community that trusts them and their authentic content to achieve engaged, active followers and therefore valuable worthwhile leads. Here are some of the ways this can be achieved:
Audiences are sick of irrelevant content that gives them little or no value and they are not ashamed to be fickle in their online dealings with brands.
Engagement means more than just providing shareable, likeable content. With the constant evolution of each platform, users want to be engaged with on a more personal level. This can be done in a variety of ways such as sharing engaging news stories, comment interaction, sharing thought leadership pieces that are relevant to your audiences and creating conversation through polls, Q&As and quizzes.
Engaging with your audience and really listening to them is vital to finding out more about your consumers, therefore being able to target accordingly. Don’t just assume or generalise, ask your people what they want to better serve their needs. Letting them drive the content and become part of the brand story can be a powerful tool.
Users now look to brands for meaningful, transparent posts that offer value and not just self-congratulatory platforms to showcase achievements. The most valuable content is that which viewers want to share.
If you are offering value, then it is all about doing less and achieving more, offering tailored, well thought-out content that gives audiences what they want. Content, timing and regularity must be reflective of the audience’s needs. Most importantly, more than ever you need to be positive and share relevant information to your customers and team mates. It's not all about sales.
Brands with a compelling story to tell have a weapon that can be hugely useful. In some ways, social media content is becoming more editorial, giving more room for meaningful brand storytelling. Longer format video is taking back its crown and it's not all about short, sharp bursts of information. If the content is informative and relevant, people will put the time in to consuming it in whatever format it takes.
Planning in advance is crucial. Working out a long-term plan rather than relying solely on reactivity means that you control the brand narrative and are not a slave to the quick changing environment. This also helps maintain message consistency.
Influencers are losing their power as people are losing trust in their messages, they are being deemed ‘fake’ and audiences are moving across to ‘creators’.
Honesty and openness in brand voice is the best way to create an authentic social media presence. This must come from leaders who should adhere to the brand voice and set the tone for the rest of the company in terms of communications.
People no longer accept lies or excuses and brands can actually use apologies, mistakes and learnings to engage with public sentiment on a positive, human level. Accepting fault and offering solutions can humanise a brand and bring a social community closer together.
In an ever increasingly virtual world, building trusted, online communities is the key to staying relevant. People's expectations are changing as quickly as their behaviours and brands must adapt quickly or risk being left behind.
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