There's no easy button for building social media community
People frequently ask: “How we can quickly and easily build our social media fan base, especially on Facebook?”
A quick Google search will give you all kinds of advice on tactics for doing so, like this one, 21 creative ways to increase your Facebook fan base, some of which is legit (like embedding a Facebook widget on your website) and some of which is garbage (like linking your Facebook account to your Twitter).
Yes, we too can give you tons of tips for how to promote your presence. But for that promotion to get any real traction, you have to have a meaningful, purposeful presence in the first place.
According to one recent study reported in this recent E-marketer article, only 9% of Facebook users even like brand pages, so the bar is high. Other studies have reported higher numbers; however, social media users are not really seeking friendship from brands. And with all of the millions of brands they can potentially choose to give their time to, why should they choose yours? If you don’t have an answer to that question, you’re jumping to tactics without having a strategy. Take a step back, and roll up your sleeves to develop one.
So what’s a brand to do? Well, you can do a promotion to grow your fan base – become our friend for a chance to win X – as so many brands do. Chances are you’ll get a bump in your fan base…among people who don’t really care. So, what’s the point? You want to connect with people who DO care, right?
According to that same E-marketer article, “marketers would do better to focus on being there (on Facebook) to answer questions, provide customer service support and broadcast promotions.” That’s one valid answer. (Research also shows that ongoing deals and discounts are one of the primary reasons that people friend brands.)
Another answer, and the one I generally prefer? Build your community one relationship at a time, by getting truly involved. Get up to your elbows in your community. Last week, Addy wrote about the experience economy and the growing opportunities for brands who want to become part of people’s lives instead of just push messages. I think that is a fantastic way of thinking about it. Steven Wold has referred to this as “roll-up-your-sleeves marketing,” which I also think is brilliant.
Let’s use our recent FoodFightMKE campaign as a quick example of how solidly built relationships can help a chain reaction of participation occur. I know Tim, who I met on Twitter, and helped create a fundraiser for. Tim knows Lori, who writes a food blog and cares about food-related issues like hunger. Lori knows me a little bit because I’ve been involved in community events. Lori writes about the campaign for OnMilwaukee, because she cares, and passes it on to other bloggers with whom she has relationships who may want to get involved. Lori also passes it on to Kris, who is starting a hunger fundraiser event, who asks if FoodFightMKE wants to get involved. This, in a microcosm, is how social works best. It is about people and relationships and caring and participation…and not just promotion. It also illustrates why having an experienced community manager is so important. Sometimes, even brands that ARE highly engaged in their communities seem to have trouble translating that to online interactions, so you may need to take a look at that.
There’s no easy button for building social media community. There just isn’t. Yes, by all means, have your promotional tactics in place, but, in the context of a larger strategy for how you will be valuable enough that people want to connect with you in the first place. In other words, get less hung up on the number of fans that you have; focus on providing value and the rest will come in time.
Often, building community starts with this simple question that I will ask you: How can we help?