A community is much different than an audience would be, especially to a business person who is attempting to reach out to a number of individuals without immediately pitching a product or service to them. There are a number of ways that businesses can benefit from having a dedicated community online, as long as you try to establish that community on the right platform or in the right online setting, so that it can be as useful to everyone as possible, including your business.
The real value of building groups and communities online is that it brings together people who have a common interest or goal. When people share similar views on a specific topic, they can also discuss related topics such as content, products and services, and a great many other corollary issues. Establishing a community will allow you to process subscription payments and sell memberships very easily, as well as payments for special events or online classes.
While you’re doing all this, you will be establishing your business as the mentor or the guide for all these people, and you’ll be providing a focal point for them to gather around. This can build something which has value to every member of the community, and every time a new person joins, there can be additional sharing which goes on, and a new perspective on the topic of interest to everyone. Even though your community might be focused on a very narrow subject, the potential for exchange among all the members of your community can literally be endless, and that all bodes well for you as the creator of the community.
Communities and marketing
Any marketer will tell you that the number one objective of marketing is to attract the attention of more people to some kind of product or service, generally at the lowest possible cost. This makes community-building an ideal way to introduce a number of people to a product or service, at a much lower cost than any kind of traditional marketing. However, it’s very important that you establish your community on the right platform, so that every time a new user joins, everyone gets more value from the new member.
Communities are always most effective when they help to build relationships between members who happen to be interested in your brand. Sometimes the best place to create your community is separate from social media, where you will normally have to compete with the noise and clutter of everything else going on with these platforms. Instead of trying to compete for the attention of users within the framework of social media, your business can focus on building relationships between community members.
Many very successful communities started out as a group on social media, but then moved away, and maintained their community online but outside social media. Some of those groups discovered that, for example, they would come into a group session all fired up about a news item they had just read from their Facebook feed, and were ready to spew vitriol about it.
This of course, is counter-productive to the group activity, and it becomes a strong indicator that you really need to relocate your group away from such distractions. In almost all cases, such communities find that their conversations are much more meaningful and go into greater depth than they ever achieved on social media.
Communities and social media in the future
Of course, no one is going to abandon Facebook anytime soon, although it’s entirely likely that many community users will spend less time on the platform. Marketers who make use of social media in the future will figure out that they need to make use of these platforms for what they’re really good at, and to avoid them for other business purposes.
Really good marketers will also understand that it will be important to build something associated with their brand, and which provides a vehicle for all their followers and prospective customers to come together around a subject of interest. This will put those marketers in the terrific position of overseeing all those relationships between people, and having access to all the related data. The secret to all this is to build community among followers of your brand, so that they can share experiences and come together, while you reap the benefits.
Facebook’s role in community-building
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently declared that his platform’s focus is on privacy and on groups, but it should be remembered that Facebook is committed to growing its revenues by more than 10% every single year. Stock prices have tremendous significance to the platform, and the company is obliged to make decisions which will increase those stock prices as much as possible.
For the last decade or so, Facebook has been promising businesses that by creating a Facebook Page, it would be the next best thing to having another online website. The Facebook Page would be the place where people would interact with your brand, and it would be the best way to increase your online presence. That of course, changed when Facebook reduced much of the functionality available on Facebook Pages, transferring it to the news feed.
Now, businesses are obliged to compete for the attention of users by paying to reach them with each news feed ad generated. Most businesses have found that they’re paying more for their Facebook Ads, but receiving far less in terms of a return. Many businesses have figured out that ads they used which included the phrase “Find us on Facebook” were really helping to popularize Facebook, rather than their own businesses.
So when you’re considering the advisability of starting a group or community on Facebook or any other platform, you should be aware of the fact that you’re probably doing that platform more of a service than you are your own business. Starting a community on social media can definitely be advantageous, since that’s where you’ll find many of your eventual members.
But once your community has grown to the point where you have a number of committed members, it’s probably time to start thinking about establishing your group away from social media. Using this approach, you can be sure that the focus remains on your brand rather than on the platform, and you can also count on users coming back, because the engagement rate among them will be so high that it has its own built-in appeal.