We’ve all heard this three thousand times: the old, top-down advertising model is dead and has been replaced by a two-way dialogue and open communication between brands and consumers (also known as people). Where brands used to control and project their images to consumers, consumers are the new custodians of culture – and brands live and die by these bravangalists (not to be confused with Branjelina).
But beyond just having a two-way dialogue between brands and people, how can companies create real value and rigor in the social space? By thinking of Facebook Pages as substantive social platforms (places where people can interact on their own terms, with each other) – not just Pages (promotional sounding boards) – brands can start to foster more passionate communities. I'm calling this deeper understanding and commitment to prioritizing real connections 'communit-ication'.
Some quick credentials - How many people actually follow brands in social spaces?
According to a recent report by Arbitron and Edison Research, 25% of social network users follow companies /brands on social networks. But their reasons for following vary – and that’s where it gets tricky.
People “like” brands for different reasons. Some want interesting / entertaining content and others expect prompt customer service. Some love discounts and promotions, while others hate them. This “Facebook dichotomy” is evident in that 24% of consumers have “unliked” because the company didn’t offer enough deals, while another 24% have “unliked” because posts were too promotional” [ExactTarget 2011].
Are you getting ready to throw a few Angry Birds my way? Don’t freak your freak – all I’m saying is that there is no magical formula to creating a rockin’ social space and it’s important to make like Vanilla Ice and “stop, collaborate and listen” to how people are responding to your page and optimize from there. Striking a balance between acting like a real person (with interesting info) and acting like a company (STILL interesting, but allowing for more brand-focused content) will appeal to different types of fans. At the same time. Like, whoa…
Beyond promotions and sounding clever, brands can really add value in social spaces is by connecting people with similar interests and facilitating a dialogue between them. A Facebook page isn't just a place to post. It's a community platform. Keyword: community. Fans have expressed an interest in your brand, so that’s one thing they have in common. What else?
Asking questions in status posts – and reviewing how fans react – will provide an indication of what your more active fan base is interested in (and what kinds of messaging they respond to). Over time trends will appear, allowing you to create an ongoing and appealing communit-ication platform. What’s not to say that a branded Facebook page can’t begin to foster the same kind of communication + community as a Meetup (minus the localization)?
By focusing on - and energizing- engaged fans over time, brands can reach a larger qualified audience than they would by blasting out general messages. A handful of bravangalists who engage with each other will also bring in their branvangelical friends. And heck, those friends might even have a friend (or 700 friends) of their own.
Wow, you’re so popular.