Social Media and Community – ‘Rules of Thumb’

Every business, whatever the sector, and whether commercial or not-for-profit, needs to be noticed and needs to attract customers (or in the charity sector, donors).

For the past few years social media marketing has been the way-to-go, enhancing or even replacing traditional channels. The Social Media Examiner, ‘2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report’ shows that of all marketers, 86% see social media as important for their business. Plus, according to LinkedIn research in February 2014, almost every small business, 81 percent, is on social media, and 94 percent of them use these social platforms for marketing purposes.

Yet, is social media just the domain of marketers to get their messages out? Marketers work with data, identify trends, test messages and in so-doing reach the widest audience for the business’s products or services. Yet, are they best placed to build deep relationships with prospects? How interested are they in building deeper relationships with existing customers?

The challenge for any business is to bring back customers and encourage them to make a repeat purchase; after all, a sustainable business needs loyal customers. Social media platforms should be ideal for attracting first-time purchasers but are they the best place for taking the relationship further?

In other words, does ‘just being social’ truly benefit the business? Judging by the Gallup survey in 2013 for the Wall Street Journal the answer is perhaps it doesn’t. 

The findings were corroborated in a study last year – Nielsen Holdings NV found that global consumers trusted ads on television, print, radio, billboards and movie trailers more than social-media ads.

The simple truth is that as humans we are hardwired both to network for personal benefit and join a community for communal benefit. These are different activities, yet in the digital world they often get confused. If we use social networks to connect with friends and family should businesses be surprised that their attempts to gain attention in these networks are seen as intrusive?

Our infographic ‘social media & community’ was created with our partners Shilbrook Associates. It maps out the distinctions between wanting attention (social media) and wanting to engage (owned community). The former needs to be worked into social networks more subtly and entertainingly, the latter requires conversations in context – and the best context is the business’s own website.

This is not an ‘either’ ‘or’, it’s about using the channels appropriately and complementarily. But as a business if you are not considering your owned community space then you are not opting to build relationships with your customers. And if you rely on marketers to have relationship-building conversations you are not recognising the multiple touch-points in your business that engage customers.

Businesses that are set-up to work with their customers as part of their customer service and product development teams are businesses that listen to the customer and acknowledge that the customer is the expert. These are the businesses best placed to lead someone from curiosity to advocacy – something that is far easier in an owned community than on a social media platform.

To make social media platforms effective in influencing purchasing decisions businesses need advocates to connect with friends and family through natural conversations that are not intrusive. In other words the very conversations businesses find hard to do achieve directly. Without owned communities businesses will be hard pressed to support the customer lifecycle and foster those advocates.

‘Just being social’ will never be good enough.

Here is our infographic ‘social media & community.’


Contact us now to find out how 4 Roads can help you build relationships with your customers and develop an innovative online community strategy for your business.

You can also read more about making your business truly social, in our Social Business Cookbook, available in paperback.