So your brand has found a social media posting plan that works. You are creating engaging content and your advertising efforts are on track, but now you want to take your social media strategy to the next level. This is where digital communities come in. What are digital communities? They are exactly what they sound like. Digital communities are groups of people on the internet discussing a common interest or topic. These communities can be found on different social media platforms - LinkedIn and Facebook use "Groups", Twitter has "hashtags", Google + has "hangouts", Reddit has "subreddits" and Inbound.org has "discussions". As a user, it seems easy to reap the benefits of these conversations and share your ideas, however from a brand perspective the time that goes into interacting with these groups may not seem worth your while. Hopefully, by the end of this blog post you will see the light and fully understand the value of being involved with these groups. Before diving into the many benefits of participating in these communities, it is important to keep in mind who you are talking to. In these groups you are talking to experts, trendsetters, super users and genuinely interested fans. They are looking to essentially "hangout" with other users and learn about the latest happenings on a common topic. When approaching these groups, you need to think like one of them. Coming at any online group with salesey messaging is like a telemarketer calling in the middle of dinner - just plain rude. You need to do your research. Research in this sense means spending a lot of time monitoring and understanding how these groups operate before engaging. When monitoring, you want to keep track of the language and topics that users are discussing to see where your brand can fit in.
In addition to the style of the content being discussed, be sure to keep an eye on the different topics that these groups are talking about. These topics may also have other digital communities that you can join that may help to expand your network. The land of digital communities is endless because users can create a new group at anytime. With the genuine nature of digital communities in mind, most companies find engaging in these groups to be easier using an individual persona as opposed to their usual branded social media efforts (this would be our recommendation as well). Your brand's persona should be engaging and come off just as genuine as the other users in the group in order to add value to the conversation. Although abiding by all of these best practices can be time consuming, they can reap infinite benefits for your brand like Nissan and Amazon's Reddit stunt. If you're still on the fence about investing time in participating with the communities, here are five things that should sway your opinion:
1) You Will Be Forced to Stay on Top of Industry News
In the fast paced world we live in, it is difficult to stay on top of the "latest breaking news." Digital communities give you the opportunity to hear industry news as it happens and allow you to easily get the opinions of experts. In order to help you better monitor the various communities across platforms, there are tools like Reddit Enhancement Suite, Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Simply Measured. Staying "in the know" with these communities can grant you the opportunity to offer your product as a solution, be on the pulse of what your market may need next, and come up with some great new content marketing ideas that people are discussing interest in.
2) Your Brand Will Receive Quality Market Research
Social platforms, and online forums in general, offer a wealth of information for companies because they provide feedback that comes directly from the consumer. In relevant digital communities, the quality of market research can be even more helpful. The feedback and conversations you are receiving are coming from individuals who are experts or super users in the field. They want to be in the know about the process of bettering their field of interest.
3) The Credibility of Your Team Will Improve Greatly
Time and time again business publications emphasize the importance of hiring quality talent. The people that compromise your team were hired for a reason and possess expert skills in either a specific department or industry that improves the value of your company. This is something that is worth advertising. Encouraging your employees to monitor and participate in digital groups is a valuable competitive edge. Implementing this practice in your company can allow you to reach more audiences on a more personal level and showcase the talents of the people on your team.
4) Your Efforts Will Generate Quality Brand Awareness
This reason goes in hand with my second point. The quality of brand awareness that you receive when you decide to participate in conversations in communities can be much more beneficial than that of a regular mass marketing effort. The participants in digital communities are either actively looking for a solution, or looking to engage with people of the same interest. When interacting on these channels, users have a genuine interest in the topic and can sniff out a marketing effort from a mile away. Again, make sure you don't take the group for granted with sales oriented calls to action and loud brand promotions.
Pilot pens made this mistake when they posted a meme on Reddit and Redditors called them out. This led to bad reviews for the brand on Amazon and a change of course for their social media campaign. Inversely, if you can add to their passion for a specific topic and seed your brand into the conversation it can work in your favor.
5) Eventually…Sales Numbers Will Improve
Like other social media and online efforts, participating in online communities can improve your bottom line, however it is a long sales cycle. Regularly participating in these communities is crucial to have a voice that stands out and to connect with other users within the community. Given the nature of these groups, creating personal connections can help to improve your credibility and keep your brand top of mind when users are looking to make a purchase. Now that you know the basics and the potential end results that can come from engaging in digital communities, try adding it to your social media marketing routine and let me know of any other reasons that should be added to this list.