We all have seen, firsthand, how fast social media moves. With each passing year, it seems new platforms arise, old trends die out, and best practices become outdated. While 2018 will be no different in terms of change, by asking yourself the following question, you'll put your brand in a terrific position to "win" in the game of social media:
Is my brand building community on social media?
The days where consistency and high quality content almost guaranteed a loyal following are long behind us. If you aren't building community on social media, your brand will fall behind faster than ever before in 2018.
The Rise of the Algorithm on Social Media
The catalyst here has been the rise and rule of social media algorithms. Simply put, the algorithm tailors a platform's news feed based mostly on engagement rather than general chronology.
The algorithm is a natural progression and reaction to the increased volume of content across social media. Social media apps need to maximize the amount of time users spend on their platforms in order to maximize advertising dollars, and the algorithm is the most efficient way to do that.
Due to the success of the algorithm, it's likely organic reach on social media will only continue to decrease over time. So, what's the answer then? Well, the easiest way to ensure others remain highly engaged with your content is to build a community of loyal followers.
How to Build Community on Social Media
1. Start a Facebook Group.
Facebook's primary mechanism for building community is Facebook Groups. Facebook has also been explicit in sharing that one of their main objectives going forward is to encourage community building on their network. For this reason alone, starting a Facebook Group centered around your brand's interests wouldn't be a bad idea.
Keep in mind that your Facebook Group doesn't have to be directly linked to your business. For instance, if you own a pizzeria in Jacksonville called Grandma Jo's Pizza, your Facebook Group wouldn't have to be (and shouldn't be) named "Grandma Jo's Pizza". Instead, consider a title like, "Pizza Lovers of Jacksonville" or something along those lines.
2. Give your community members a name.
Giving the members of your audience a label will, whether consciously or subconsciously, reinforce the existence of the community your company is building. Additionally, it'll allow your customers to know they're a part of a movement, a club, as opposed to them just exchanging money for goods.
Musicians like Justin Bieber use this practice by calling his fans, "Beliebers", while brands like Starbucks do it in a more subtle way by catering to their "Gold members" within their rewards program.
3. Show your audience some love and recognition.
The point of having a community is to facilitate relationships between the members. Customers and community members alike want to know you appreciate their time and money, so make sure you show them some love. Here's a few ways to do it:
- Post user-generated content (photos customers took while at your business, etc.) to your social media channels.
- Showcase and commend fans who are doing wonderful things in the community (military service, volunteers, non-profit organizers, and more).
- Have a weekly segment where you publish a top-rated testimonial or comment on your social media to get followers actively engaged in your content.
The list goes on and on here, but the important thing is to make sure your customers know they're being recognized by you as the company.
4. Start a meetup.
Nothing beats face-to-face, human interaction when it comes to building relationships, and a meetup is an ideal medium for you to begin making those connections possible. Much like a Facebook Group, your meetup doesn't have to be directly affiliated with your company. In fact, starting a local meetup in conjunction with your Facebook Group, "Pizza Lovers of Jacksonville" (to continue with the above example) would be a seamless way to build community both virtually and online.
By building a loyal core of fans around the mission your brand has, you'll be in a terrific position to overcome the algorithm on social media. Going into 2018, ask yourself whether or not you're taking the necessary steps to build community on social. When it comes to marketing, it could be very well be one of the most important questions you ask yourself this year.