4 Essential Questions For Your 2015 Social Strategy

Working with social media managers around the world, I discovered some troubling emerging behaviors. Many practitioners have been confused into thinking that social media is a game of “publish or perish,” when the real model for impact is “community or collapse.”

The year of 2014 brought a wave of important changes to major platforms, along with technology advances to help community managers more effectively interact with customers across the social web.

Technology that enables people to do more isn’t a bad thing; it’s a necessary one. We need it if big-brand social media is to best serve both business and customer needs across the customer experience. Likewise, we need great content strategies to spur conversation and ensure advertising in social media engagement stays high.

And yet, in the focus on software implementation and content savvy, something was lost. Collectively, practitioners became distracted from the very thing that makes social such a draw for customers: Developing community through conversation and shared experiences to create an emotional connection among people and to a brand.

To keep social ascendant, you must shift your focus back to community, relationships and conversation in 2015. Otherwise, your program will revert to being a marketing “nice to have.”

Building meaningful community is required for growth. Forrester has predicted that branded communities are poised to make a comeback, as brands look for ways to go deeper with customers than is possible in the churn of the major social platforms.

Meanwhile, Facebook is limiting organic reach and moving toward total pay-to-play. That means that enthusiastic brand advocates—the top few percent of your social community—will become even more important to amplify your message and provide organic reach.

Don’t ignore technology or content, but make sure that first and foremost, it supports your effort to get to know and serve potential brand enthusiasts—those people who have become not just your lifetime customers, but the ones who actively help you convert others.

Customers don’t become advocates because you’ve installed a social media management system—they become advocates because you have found a way to give them meaningful social experiences. Relationships are created by conversation, and communities are made up of relationships.

There is power in online communities. Giving your customers experiences that reinforce brand values, connecting them to other customers in surprising ways, creates bonds that keep them coming back to your social properties and buying more of your products. Over time, it’s what makes your brand part of their emotional identity. 

As 2015 advances, pull back and ask, “Am I doing everything in my power to create the necessary framework for community?” Ask yourself:

  • Is the majority of your content designed to build relationships, by creating experiences that are extensions of your brand in-store, or is it distracting from that goal?
  • Does your moderation and customer interactions promote friendly exchange between users?
  • Do you maintain a safe and comfortable environment for participants to express themselves? That means conversational prompts and interaction that create a context and queues that let people know what’s appropriate.
  • Do you make an ongoing effort to recognize community members for their contributions, and reward them with status and generosity?

Place yourself in your customer’s shoes. What is it that they need out of a social experience with your brand community—what joys and challenges are linked to your product or service?

Your job is to help people discover and feel the security of those common bonds.

Again, your ultimate goal—and what I believe inspired so many of us to work in social—is to create human connections. Online community once thrived on little more than email, rudimentary forums, and chat rooms. Creating an emotional connection among people that bonds them to your brand. Make sure it’s working for you.
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