Social Advertising VS Successful Online Communities

Do you really want a social advertising programme? Or would you rather have a successful community online? Ultimately, does it make sense that some brands and marketers still focus on the number of fans you have on Facebook?

If you are a truly mass market brand then it can make sense to simply just try to maximise the number of people you are trying to get a direct relationship with in social media. We call this a Social Advertising approach – with single pieces of content broadcast to a large number of people – a bit like a traditional TV ad.

On the other hand if your brand is less mass market, or indeed even if different types of customer are worth very different amounts to you, then it makes more sense to take a Social CRM approach.

Why is community management so valuable?

Our work on social CRM has shown the value of community management for many brands. In the context of OgilvyOne’s model of total customer value, community management delivers across all four values of:

  • transaction
  • lifetime value
  • advocacy
  • collaboration

We consistently see that while numbers of interactions that occur in owned brand communities are generally low (thousands, not millions), the value per interaction is often high. This is because these interactions can have a high impact on customer loyalty and willingness to advocate for a brand.

The content created also increasingly drives search traffic as Google incorporates these social signals into search results. This is why our clients are increasingly seeing community management as an important part of marketing programmes.

So what do you need to do to create a successful online community?

1> Recognise that managing communities take commitment

This means a community approach isn’t suitable for short campaign cycles. A successful community includes a substantial number of people who have invested time and emotion into it. It takes time to create and nurture these relationships.

2> You need a clear value exchange for people who are joining the community

Why should they bother to spend their time talking to each other on your community rather than elsewhere on the internet? As the brand has experts and knowledge that are unavailable elsewhere online, this is a great reason behind a community. For instance if you were Transport for London, and you wanted to create a community for Londoners interested in public transport, then offering tours of the underground tunnels, or technical information on your building projects gives you something unique to say.

3> Your technology choice will have a big impact on your effectiveness

If you use an existing social network then you are tied to their analytics, functions and you are vulnerable to changes that are out of your control. For instance changes to Facebook’s changes to the Edgerank algorithm have in practice significantly reduced the reach of online communities built there. An increasingly affordable alternative is to build an online community on top of your CRM system, so that you can have individualised relationships with every member of your community.