Andy Griffith is gone. The days of local bakeries, corner stores and community are over. People don’t have time for pleasantries. They want convenience, a quick transaction, an attractive offer waved under their noses. They don’t want to be bothered with connections to a brand or its followers — or do they?
According to a Harvard Business Review article by business executive, Bill Lee, consumers do want to feel connected, and community marketing wildly trumps the effectiveness of traditional marketing. People are tired of being “talked at”–they want to feel like their opinions and ideas matter, that brands are listening. Social media has been a fantastic vehicle for community marketing. Entrepreneur and social media wizard, Gary Vaynerchuk, has given talks on the importance of real community marketing, of departing from a strict numbers game, to genuinely reaching out to people online to share information and expertise, to build a committed following.
“Most social media gurus are clowns,” Vaynerchuk has said. While his sentiments may be controversial, it can be stated that most social media “gurus” still follow the traditional marketing principles they learned in college. Personally, I’ve attended social media talk after social media talk, where “gurus” focus solely on weekly page insights and on how to post engaging content on company pages. I believe that community marketing is a two-way street, that companies must focus less on the “hard sell” and more on building the brand.
Contrary to research and numbers on the downward-falling effectiveness of traditional marketing, many companies are still hard-focused on hiring analysts over community managers and brand development specialists. The narrow, short-term focus of creating engagement number spikes, over the broader, long-term, brand-affinity picture, may work for some companies, such as small start-ups looking for a fast sale, but, in most cases, this thin-sighted view can actually thin out numbers over the long-term.
Focusing only on short term successes and all but ignoring brand and community development is a mistake that I see made even with long-standing global brands. Their social media pages spike with large contests, and ebb when those contests disappear. Companies are prompting, pulling and grappling for consumer engagement, when they really aren’t sure how to get it. Meanwhile, a 13-year-old girl with Leukemia has acquired hundreds of thousands of comments on each of her posts via YouTube. How does that happen? Companies have got to stop thinking like companies. No, don’t throw numbers and the analyst out of the window, but be human. Reach out to followers and potential followers. Show them that someone is listening. Post content that is helpful to them, whether or not it is directly related to the product or service.
For more questions about how to build an online community, please contact me directly: Solly.chan AT gmail.com.