It’s unfortunate that we have to revisit this once again. However, this topic needs to be addressed properly. Facebook is indisputably a powerful platform for building your community.
In a world where it’s increasingly difficult to get — much less hold — the attention of customers, Facebook stands out as one of the few place that can be counted on to keep people coming back. It's no wonder that the vast majority of community managers have come to rely on the platform’s interactive space as an indispensable tool.
That’s all great, except for one thing — Facebook isn't the best place to start a community.
I know this may sound blasphemous, but it's the truth. Despite all the hype and legitimate positive aspects of having a community on Facebook, the reality is that it has serious flaws as a corporate community building tool. Community managers who place it at the center of their strategy set themselves up for failure.
Below, we look at some of the reasons why.
Guilt by Association - Platform vs. Brand
The truth is, this has always been the case. We've always known it at Vanilla, but It's only in recent months that it’s become especially obvious.
We all know the story behind the #DeleteFacebook trend (a few months ago), so I'm not going to spend time going into it here. But suffice it to say that despite its beloved status by around the globe, Facebook is far from perfect. That’s right – even Facebook makes mistakes. And when they do, they draw serious ire from the public.
For community managers, the backlash highlighted a very serious flaw in focusing on Facebook at the community development tool — you have no control over how the ecosystem at large is perceived.
When users leave the platform, by extension, they leave your community. It's also possible to see a slow-down in the number of new members joining Facebook communities.
Even if the popularity of Facebook assures that relatively few users will abandon the platform entirely, it doesn’t change the fact that the image of the platform is so damaged that it’s having an impact on how people feel while using it. Now that we’ve all “seen behind the curtain” about the value of Facebook data to organizations, it has raised alarm bells on how businesses use the platform to communicate with the public, as well.
Simply put, community managers cannot be sure that the emotions surrounding #DeleteFacebook won’t make their brands guilty by association.
In brutally honest terms, it just became much more difficult for your community to trust your Facebook page. This significantly undermines the ability of community managers to make meaningful connections with customers through the platform.
It’s your Community — Own It
But besides being unable to control the perception of your brand, there’s an even simpler reason why community managers should not make Facebook the center of their community: content and attention.
A community is all about cultivating attention through layers of nuanced, purposeful and deliberate content interactions. With that understanding, let's take the example of the community manager who builds a solid, core following around message boards on her own company website. She can now control the content of those message boards, and by extension, control the messaging and perception of the brand. She never has to worry about a scandal that she had nothing to do with infecting the image she's worked so hard to cultivate.
In addition, she knows that customers interacting with her brand understand that her forums are the centralized, go-to place when they need help or information. Therefore, no matter what these customers do outside of interaction with the brand, there will never be a miscommunication or misunderstanding.
Customers will have zero confusion about where to go to communicate with or feel an intimate connection to the brand, and will always be willing to go there.
Contrast this with the community manager that places her trust in Facebook. Sure, she might be able to build a larger following more quickly, but she won't really own that community. Facebook will. When there’s a scandal, the fallout will bleed onto her community Facebook page, diverting attention and potentially poisoning the atmosphere.
If community members decide to abandon or restrict their use of the platform, they probably won't know where to interact with her brand. In the best case scenario, these customers will be severely inconvenienced as they go searching for the brand’s other internet assets. In the worst-case scenario, the brand will simply be forgotten.
When the User Abandons a Platform
Bottom line, community managers should not build their communities around Facebook. Although the ease and popularity of the platform makes it very tempting, there are critical, fatal flaws in doing so.
Instead of picking the easy route, it's important to build a community around your own brand - one where you not only own the audience, but also their customer experience. This might require some upfront work, but it's a much more effective and stable way to ensure you give customers the attention and interactive environment they deserve.