One of the most common questions I hear from organizations is how would a branded community be more beneficial than our existing social media community? This question is especially common when these organizations also have a substantial amount of followers on their social media platform, which has been the result of years of hard work; to some, the thought of trading this in for a new solution seems almost counterintuitive.
To address this dilemma, however, I’d like to provide you with the top 5 reasons why brands, at the end of the day, decide to procure their own branded community. But before we dive into these reasons, I’d first like to advise the following.
A branded community isn’t a social media replacement. Many brands maintain a strong social media presence as well as a branded community. This is because, upon closer examination, social media doesn’t deliver the key offerings of a branded online community. To illustrate these differences, I think you’ll find that the following 5 reasons insightful.
1. A Branded Community is About Your Brand
Ultimately, the purpose of social media platforms isn’t to provide your organization with a dedicated space around your brand mission, vision and needs. This is becoming increasingly apparent to more and more organizations due to the large amount of ads that are always present on social media. In fact, this phenomenon is explained by community expert Sophie Bujold, Founder of Cliqueworthy as:
“It’s become clear to everyone that the agenda for social media platforms, Facebook in particular, isn’t to facilitate community, but rather to serve ads and distract your users. As a result, it’s starting to make organizations question whether or not this is the medium that they want to use to cultivate and grow their community.”
Facebook however isn’t the only social media platform that doesn’t provide a focus on your brand; Linkedin is also guilty of this. While Linkedin is a great networking platform, neither Linked in, nor Facebook make your content easily discoverable or organized. In effect this leads to a lack of conversation surrounding your brand, which is usually indicative of a low level of customer engagement. In fact, many organizations who chose to procure a branded community have a strong social following, which is a good indication that there’s an interest in generating discussion. These in-depth discussions, however don’t take place on social media, which is a big reason why they choose to make the investment!
A branded community has all the tools to encourage and amplify discussions, engagement and interest around your brand, and the shared experiences of your audience. One of these tools is community gamification; I’d recommend checking out our eBook, A Strategic Guide to Community Gamification, to fully understand why tools such as this can have such a huge impact.
2. You Have All The Control
One of the major reasons why I see organizations procure a branded community is because they want to ensure that they have full control over their community culture, design, privacy and authenticity. In fact, statistics show that 67% of social media communities who plan to switch to a branded community in the next year are doing so in order to have more control.
Communities built on social media platforms, such as Facebook or Linkedin, are subject to the whims of that platform; they could simply change their algorithm overnight and suddenly you wouldn’t be able to access the same people as you could before. Further, as a social media community grows and matures, a common issue that brands experience is that they lack the control necessary to build or expand the community in the way that they want. With a branded community, you can easily turn functionality on or off, so you can evolve your community as your audience grows and matures.
Further, branded communities give you control when it comes to privacy & security. As I’m sure you are aware, social media platforms have been under harsh scrutiny over the past few years due to a number of high profile security breaches. While it doesn’t mean that branded communities aren’t vulnerable to the whims of hackers, it does provide you with some peace of mind knowing that you have full control over your security protocols.
And speaking of high profile security breaches and social media controversies, it’s not uncommon for brands to find that their members simply don’t want to participate in social media any longer. The solution? A branded community, also referred to as “gated gardens,” by community expert Todd Nilson.
3. Social Media Platforms Have High Content Turnover
This is perhaps one of the biggest issues with social media platforms; there is no way to search for existing content. Essentially, when a question is answered, or when a piece of content is released, it doesn’t take long for the post to be buried, and once that happens, it’s unlikely to be seen again. The impacts of having a high content turnover rate are twofold.
Firstly, it has heavy resource implications on your Community Manager and your support team. They’ll often have to spend their time answering the same questions over and over again. This is especially challenging if your community/ support team is smaller, and taking valuable time away that could be spent working on higher priority items . Having a branded community where content can be easily searched and found eliminates this redundancy.
Secondly, high content turnover rate has an impact on your overall customer experience; it’s frustrating not being able to quickly find answers when they are needed ! Since branded communities encourage and enable peer-to-peer support, questions are often answered by members of the community itself. This not only saves you resources, but it also encourages habitual visits to your community, as members receive comments, reactions and rewards for their posts and comments.
4. Branded Communities Have Strong Analytics
Social media platforms do not provide your brand with robust analytics to help you improve the quality and reach of your messaging.Vanilla provides analytics built to allow you to make informed, data-driven decisions that amplify successful business outcome. Without these valuable analytical capabilities, you can’t access to the information you need to curate your content, understand what resonates with your members, and identify who they are.
Further, having community analytics can help you to identify Super Fans and brand advocates. These types of members are invaluable to your brand and difficult to develop via social media platforms. Vanilla’s online community allow you to easily find members who are most knowledgeable, helpful, active, and members who take the actions you have identified as most desirable. The benefits of identifying and leveraging these types of people in your branded community are numerous. For example, Community expert, Jake McKee, CEO and Lead Strategist at Community5 argues that creating a Super Fan program in your branded community is one of the best ways to create a tiered engagement system:
“Most companies run their communities with small teams. A single community manager can’t possible hope to engage 15,000+ people individually each day, or even each month. But they certainly can engage 15 Super Fans directly, for example. Those Super Fans, in turn, engage 150 key community members. And before you know it, those 150 people have spread the word about key issues to the entire community.”
Designed to be member driven - only branded communities possess the tools and insights necessary to leverage your most passionate members, with the moderation controls to direct and ‘steer’ the conversation in the background. This is particularly beneficial as people are more inclined to trust the experience of their peers over the messaging from marketing teams.
5. Branded Communities Increase Brand Visibility
r Unlike social media platforms, branded communities have strong SEO benefits that drive traffic back to you. This means that your community, integrated with your webpage domain will often appear as a top google result if you host a public community.
Branded communities give you the power to control key SEO on-page factors, such as:
Keywords in Content
Keywords in URL
Adding alt text
By ensuring that your community is hosted on a platform that’s SEO friendly, you substantially increase your brand visibility and can work towards ensuring that your content appears on the first page of Google.
Now that you know the most common reasons why brands choose to procure a branded community, you should check out Chapter 10 of our most recent eBook, 2020 Community Predictions, to hear what community experts have to say about it.