Social Media Strategy Beyond Social Networks
Right now, many of you are thinking about your broader social strategy. Some of you might be thinking about how customer-to-customer and brand-to-customers interactions in open forums can benefit your business. You’ve got a Facebook page and you’re responding to customer tweets. But what's next? An online customer community can reduce support costs, increase brand loyalty and help you get better insights into the needs of your customers.
Then of course come the questions as you set out: What should be the scope of your community? Should it limited to discussions about your products or will it target a broader community of enthusiasts and all the off-topic discussions that entails? For example should a maker of tools launch a DIY community? After all, there are many independent forum communities on renovations, wood working, etc that have been around for years.
Enthusiast Communities and Your Brand
As a brand owner there are advantages to owning and running an enthusiast community including a receptive audience willing to share feedback, a low cost advertising channel, and a place to foster brand evangelists.
Does it make sense for your brand to create a community that goes beyond product support? Here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide:
1. Am I willing to make a long term commitment? It can take a few months to get a community to reach a critical mass. Also, shutting it down, if priorities change, could upset people who have invested their time in the community.
2. Do I have the budget for a professional community manager? A good community manager will help get things going, moderate discussion and be the sherpa to all the internal stakeholders who are going to want to get in on the community once it gains traction.
3. Are my products used by enthusiasts? People can be enthusiastic about a lot of things including things they do for their jobs. That said, it’s probably easier to launch a community about boating than about accounting.
4.How loved/hated is your brand by your potential users? Let's be honest, if your Net Promoter Score (NPS) is in the toilet, a community might not be a good idea. Imagine if a major North American airline launched a customer community.
5.Am I only aiming to improve my SEO? Of course a community can provide a great way to increase traffic from search engines. A community needs more than a plan to build links or traffic. It should be backed by a passion about your product or service and something people care to talk about.
While social networks provide a useful function, brands that take on the commitment of building a community will not only find it rewarding, but they will unlock huge value for their business. Using a community will give you the ability to control the conversation about your brand within a walled garden, reduce your customer support costs and finally it's a great place for customer insights as you market your brand.