Sunday, February 01, 2009
Why Your Community-Building and Social Media Efforts Aren't Working...
Paul Chaney was nice enough to interview me recently for his upcoming book on social media marketing. One of the things we talked about was how companies that use social media need to align their goals with how their customers are using social media. Many companies want to use social media as a channel to push marketing messages at customers, while those customers are using social media as tools to connect with and communicate with others. They have almost zero interest in receiving marketing messages via social media, so predictably, companies that try to do just that, see their efforts falter.
Along these same lines, Aaron recently had a post asking if you would join a toothpaste community. This is another area where many companies fail. They want to 'create' a community because they want to use that community as a way to generate revenue for their business.
Problem: Communities do not come together around the idea of being monetized.
People do not come together and form a community around a particular product, at least not in most cases. They come together because of a 'bigger' idea. They have a common association or feeling that's related to that product.
So if your company is wanting to use social media, or if it is wanting to participate in or 'create' a community online, you have to align your goals with those of the people you want to reach. People aren't going to interact with you via social media so you can beam marketing messages at them. And they aren't going to come together and form communities so they can promote your product and grow your business.
Remember that social media is a great way of making things happen indirectly? What this means to companies is that they should take their direct goal (making money) for social media, and make it their INdirect goal.
Think about how your customers are using social media, and more importantly, think about WHY they are using social media. They view social media as communication channels, so you need to as well. They are creating and sharing content that they find valuable, so you need to as well.
You need to use social media in the same way that your customers are, and for the same reasons. That needs to be your DIRECT goal for using social media. If you do this effectively, then you'll also meet your INdirect goal, of growing your business and making more money. But if that's your DIRECT goal, then you are screwed.
The same thing with online communities. You have to give people a reason to come together and form a community. Don't try to form the community around your product, form it instead around a shared association and something that people find value in. Why does The Fiskateers community work, because it's a place where Fiskars customers can come together and talk about orange-handled scissors? No, it's a place where scrapbookers can come together and talk about and share their passion. Someone once asked me if you could create a community around paperclips. No, you probably can't. You instead try to create a community around how people use paperclips, and try to create something of value for these people.
If you want to use social media, consider why and how your customers use social media, and align your goals for your efforts accordingly.
If you want to create an online community, don't view it as a money-making venture, instead consider how you can attract customers by creating something of value for them.
Remember that at the end of the day, you are wanting to reach people. Respect them and their time, and you'll be rewarded for your efforts.
Pic via Flickr user cameronparkins