In the world of social media marketing, there are a number of independent elements that can make your campaign successful. But when most marketers think about the social media world, they tend to think about it in one of two relationship dimensions.
The first is a “top-down” engagement style in how your brand engages with its customers directly, such as how you syndicate blog posts or make announcements to the crowd. The second is a “bottom-up” engagement style in how your users engage with you, such as you how field comments, responses, complaints, or questions.
On the surface, these two elements may seem to constitute everything, but there’s a third one, and it has even more connective potential than the first two. It’s the communal factor, or how your users engage with one another. Your brand takes a backseat, allowing for these connections to form (and occasionally getting involved), but the potential here is striking and underrated. Getting your users to engage with each other more, forming a community, can have a powerful effect on your brand.
First, understand that communities naturally encourage more engagement. If you have a group of users who feel like they can get along, and a mechanism for engagement, such as a forum or publicly posed question, you’ll have more followers making an effort to engage with one another. Every act of engagement brings your users closer to your brand, and serves as another brand-related post submitted to the social media world, which increases your visibility and attracts more users to your profiles. It may also encourage more inbound traffic, which is great news for your conversion rates.
Building a community also helps people feel a sense of belonging, connected to your brand directly or indirectly. Take a look at how PlayStation has developed dozens of sub-communities for its gamers to engage with one another. No matter what type of gamer you are, you can find like-minded people to have a discussion with, which strengthens each user’s perception of how close they are to the PlayStation brand:
(Image Source: Momentology)
You don’t have to go over-the-top with this, but you should have some kind of mechanism for encouraging more belonging. Help your followers see that they’re all a part of a group connected to your brand.
People need a reason to trust your brand. In today’s world of heavy advertising and corporate distrust, it’s not enough to claim you’re worth engaging with—you need users to prove to other users that you’re the real deal. The story of Reddit is a good example, as in the early stages of the community forum, its creators took to creating fake accounts and making fake posts to simulate an active environment and attract new people. Today, it’s so wildly popular that it attracts new users simply by virtue that it has so many users:
(Image Source: Reddit)
If you can get your followers to function as a community, it will be a sign that your brand is trustworthy, and you’ll attract more followers and earn higher retention rates as a result.
Finally, understand that an active, engaged community will work to sustain itself, reducing the burden on your brand. Your users will want to submit their own forms of content, engage with each other, and find new ways to bring themselves closer to your brand. In a forum or board setting, this is easy to manage, but it can also be fostered on conventional social media channels. The more your users actively participate without supervision or prompt, the better.
Now that you know all the advantages of having a social media community, let’s learn how you can foster a better one from the get-go:
Start by giving your users the opportunity to engage in a community when they make a purchase with you, or enlist your services. This could include sharing an announcement that they’ve made a purchase, or encouraging more comments on your latest blog posts.
Get your followers to talk to one another by starting and engaging in more discussions. Do this on a personal level, and try to find topics that your users will really care about. This can also start offsite, if you find discussions already in progress.
A little controversy will get your users fired up and prompt them to start debating one another. On the surface, this might seem to cause ripples in a community, but when people get excited about anything, they tend to grow more committed to that environment.
Gear your content and ordinary posts toward “shareable” human emotions like surprise, fear, anger, or humor. This will encourage your users to engage with one another and share more of your items, both of which will help your community self-sustain and grow.
Social media can do a lot for your brand, but it’s also helpful to have another means of user engagement on your site. This could include a forum, a Q&A center, or any other place where users can connect.
Community building is one of the most effective ways to build and nurture your brand’s social media presence. You’ll attract more followers, retain them more closely, generate more visibility, and earn a better reputation all at once. Best of all, if nurtured properly in the early stages, eventually your community could begin self-sustaining, reducing the content and engagement burden on your brand entirely.