Brands are omnipresent: they’re on TV, in magazines, on billboards, on websites, on social media feeds and, sometimes, in shops. But, aside from real-world stores, there are very few places you can actually interact with brands – places where you can freely ask questions, learn more about the products, the company and its values, and generally spend time with the brand. For consumers, the fact that content is branded matters a whole lot less if it matches your values, demonstrates shared interests and reflects your lifestyle. While some argue that forums on brand websites are more genuine and immersive experiences – Sephora’s Beauty Talk is a great example – there are numerous benefits to focusing your efforts on building a brand community across your digital channels. Here’s why.
Instead of having to labour – and, mostly likely, invest in paid media – to drive visitors to your owned site, it makes more sense to go where your audience is. They’ve already got multiple social media accounts, they spend time there and, most importantly, they’re talking about what matters to them. It’s the perfect place to listen to and join in those conversations or, better still, offer them helpful advice or a solution.
We’re all permanently logged into our social media platforms of choice. We spend life’s interstices scrolling through news feeds, seeing content from the brands we follow and, increasingly, from those we don’t. We snack on content that is always fresh and often personalised to us through who we’ve chosen to follow and through targeting. Users aren’t accustomed to having to visit a separate site and log in to it, nor can they be bothered – they have everything at their fingertips now, and won’t take kindly to any sort of digital interruption.
Like never before, we expect an immediate brand response to our queries and questions. This is not a world in which we’re put on hold or fire an email into the digisphere, hoping that a reply might wing its way back to us over the next few days. Social media opens up a real-time conversation with a brand. Yes, these are often complaints, and fast-acting brands are rewarded for their efficiency with brand loyalty and online reputation. But what about reactive content? Sharing a user’s photo and starting a dialogue with them about it? Running a UGC competition and forming part of the comment conversation? It is this type of interaction that makes a brand experience memorable and favourable – and there’s nowhere it’s easier to achieve than on social channels.
The beauty of posting content on social is that you get immediate feedback. If something’s performing terribly, you can either get rid of it or know never to do it again. These aren’t huge multi-million pound print campaigns that can’t be changed – the beauty of social campaigns is their flexibility. It’s all part of engaging that community you’re building up, and giving them more of what they want.
A Think With Google study last year found that those who regularly engage with your brand online do buy more. Of Generation C, dubbed ‘hyper-engagers’, 90.8 percent interact with brands online once per week or more. Of ‘engagers’, 62.8 percent interact with brands less than once per week. What the study revealed was that ‘hyper-engagers’ are ‘more than four times more likely to make an online product purchase every day or multiple times per week than engagers’. So the more you can highly engage your audience, the more likely they are to buy. As the study says, ‘consumers engage with brands that share their passions and interests, and when the engagement is really strong they become fans. We consider fans to be a brand’s most powerful customers who are also likely to purchase with regularity.’ This is where community building comes into its own – the point at which your fans feel so connected to your brand or product through its relevance to them that they become unprompted advocates.
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