Why business should build a strong owned branded community and what’s the platform to do it with?
When Vine shut down in 2017, a lot of brands had to reevaluate their social strategy. The six-second video platform they had once relied on disintegrated right in front of their eyes, taking the communities they had built there with it.
While the end of Vine wasn’t a shock for most, it also became apparent that the social landscape was shifting.
It’s still important for brands to have a presence on big social media channels (after all, it’s still one of the most popular ways for consumers to interact with businesses they buy from), but the goals for them are shifting).
Today, organic reach on social channels is pretty low for brands and it’s harder to build a community of loyal fans due to new algorithms that favour certain posts. And, while there are some basic analytics on the major platforms, there aren’t really any tools to control consumer experience or to dig into the most valuable data.
Why Social Platforms Don’t Favour Brands
Social media marketing is one of the most prominent forms of marketing today, and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.
But the channels we diligently post on every single day are increasingly failing to help brands scale their reach, boost engagement, and create value.
This is largely due to:
- Social media platform experience: brands are realizing that Social Media Platforms are not optimized for gathering, engaging, and growing an owned community;
- A heavy increase in the “noise” on these platforms: for users, engaging with content is becoming increasingly difficult, as there are more users, more content, and more brands populating them every day;
- The platforms have their own business models to optimize. For example, they might focus on user platform usage or advertising.
One reason for this is the tendency for social platforms to favor the everyday consumer. This is no surprise, really, considering we’re heading towards a more consumer-centric future in general.
In 2018, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major shake up in the way the platform’s News Feed would work:
“The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family, and groups. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
It’s a similar story with Instagram’s new algorithm. The main goal now is to show users more content from their friends and family, not from brands.
What it boils down to is this:
- Social media experiences are not optimized for brands to grow a community or a favourable engaging environment;
- Brands are guests and not owners on these social channels, so they are at the whim of the platforms;
- Brands have no control over the flow and content on these platforms;
- Brands are affected by the changes social media platforms make with no warning and no control over them, which can be hugely detrimental for business:
- Available data is extremely limited and dependent on the metrics each specific platform tracks.
All of this means that the ability to reach and engage with audiences is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive.
So what’s the answer? Brands Should Create Their Own Social Networks.
Brands are no longer islands; instead, they are bolstered by their customers, fans, and loyal communities.
These are the people that shout about a brand from the rooftops, recommend it to their friends and family, and join together to create a solid group of like-minded people.
As a result, brands gain a competitive edge and generate free marketing for themselves through user generated content, reviews, and word-of-mouth tactics. These are all incredibly powerful tools in the buying cycle: 84% of people are more likely to trust a referral from a friend, while 97% of online shoppers read reviews before they make a purchase.
Consumers today lean towards brands that they can relate to and that share the same values as them. This not only builds trust, but it turns one-off customers into lifelong fans. According to a study by Accenture, two-thirds of customers will spend more on brands to which they are loyal.
This is why there’s no better time for brands to build their own social networks.
Doing so allows them to nurture a community of customers in a private space that isn’t at the mercy of ever-changing algorithms.
Of course, this wouldn’t mean competing with the likes of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in a bid to reach everyone.
Instead, a personal social network will allow brands to foster a dialogue with their target audience and improve customer relationships without worrying about whether posts are showing up or whether they’re going to lose their list of followers overnight.
There are a number of big benefits that brands will reap by creating their own social network:
- it can enhance successful social communities;
- it can create a buzz around their brand and encourage consumers to get involved in the discussion;
- it can build profitable interactions with customers, employees, and fans;
- it can generate better and more aligned analytics;
- it means brands will have access to their people all the time;
- it can be customized in a way that’s most beneficial for each individual brand’s audience;
- it gives brands a deeper understanding of customer needs and desires.
Sports brand Nike is a stand out example of a brand that has created and nurtured an active community of fitness enthusiasts with their “Take a Run With Nike+” community.
Participants in the community regularly share their sports-based experiences and compete with each other. They also tend to share their activity on their other social media accounts, which creates a snowball effect that attracts new members to the private Nike community.
This community gives Nike immediate access to a hyper-targeted group of people. And, because the members of the community already know and love Nike, the brand has an ideal space for selling their new products.
Your own social network can take many forms – there are plenty of ways to create a community, after all.
Your community might centre around user forums, where participants can ask and answer relevant questions. Or it might revolve around a membership area where you provide highly-focused and premium content.
Whichever method you choose, the main idea is to build a space geared specifically towards people that have more than a fleeting interest in your brand, your products, and your services.
Imagining the Future…
Imagine what it would be like to have your own social media environment where you can create a space for your customers and fans.
- share content with them and know that it will definitely show up in their feed. As a result, you get tons of feedback in the form of likes, comments, and shares. This brings in a glut of new community members who are also fully engaged in what you’re posting;
- let customers and fans talk amongst themselves, create and share new stories and ideas, bring up queries and questions they have about your products and services, and share their experiences with your brand;
- gather customer conversations and gain an insight into their wants and needs. Common questions will help you tackle sales objections, and you can share customer experiences on your website and other social channels to boost brand awareness.
But, more importantly, you can nurture a community of people that love your brand. These people will happily shout about it without being asked, and they will regularly recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues.
And imagine having access to dedicated social analytics and marketing tools that enable you to make the most of all this content, interaction, and data.
- study and analyze your social community through dedicated Social Analytics and reporting tools;
- use this know-how to create dedicated social and marketing strategies that enable your brand to reach relevant business goals, such as awareness, loyalty, and new product adoption, for example.
Your own social network is a safe space for your customers to revel in what they love about your brand and make connections with you and their peers.
It’s a tool that will perfectly fit into your overall marketing strategy and MarTech Stack.
Wouldn’t that be nice?