Building vs. Fostering Community In Social

Social media is all about community. Without community, there is no social – unless you're having schizophrenic conversations with yourself. But, there's a big difference between BUILDING a community and FOSTERING a community.

Building a community is simply about numbers. It can be done with paid media, contests, promotions, etc. Basically, you can buy the building of community. And, these numbers can be useful. Sometimes a large amount of followers gives you credibility. Sometimes it creates a base for future fostering.

But big numbers on social is kind of like bench presses: If all you can do is put up the big numbers, but not actually do anything useful with that strength, you're just spending a lot of energy to look good.

(Keep reading to the bottom for four tips on how to foster community)

And, hey, maybe that's worth it to you. I've definitely met enough CMOs and CEOs that said to me: "I just want to have more followers for my company than my buddy's company." I kid you not. MULTIPLE times I've encountered C-level executives expending company resources to one-up their buddies.

I submit a better idea: Foster a community; don't just build it. Fostering a community means you encourage interaction. You get people talking. Maybe not talking with your brand, but sometimes simply talking with each other.

Fostering a community means you are providing utility, usefulness and support for your community. It means you HAVE a presence and aren’t simply A presence.

Best of all, determining IF you can foster community is an indicator on whether you should even be spending time in a social community. Can you get people talking? Can you get people interacting? Can you get people to take action?

If not, spend your money on advertising, not social media. Use email to distribute coupons. Use social advertising to announce programs. Use traditional display to push branding.

Use social to dialogue. Use social to ask. Use social to understand.

So, how about a few tips instead of just a rant… Here’s four ways you can try to up the ante on fostering community:

• Question: Ask a really meaty question. Not a lame, shallow or useless question. Ask your community a question where the answer sincerely impacts your business decisions.

• Help: Reach out and provide an exceptionally unexpected and high level of help to someone needing it in your community. Go above and beyond. Make someone who is suffering feel better.

• Exalt: Put a community member on a pedestal. Reward him for his support. Glorify her for her creativity. Create a thank you video or throw a party in someone’s honor.

• Connect: Get followers talking to each other. Host meet-ups. Tell them about events of interest (whether you are sponsoring them or not). Host Q&As with people of interest.

Foster the people. Don’t just build them.
1 comment about "Building vs. Fostering Community In Social".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, September 20, 2013 at 4:39 a.m.

    Good advice for $billion companies. For smaller companies, I don't see this working as you need a lot of followers before a community starts working. It's no fun being the only one dancing at a party. Another post on how to bootstrap a community for smaller companies would be useful, because experience suggests this is really hard.

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