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Strong User Communities Inform Business Decisions

Build a robust community and input feedback into your marketing for sustained growth

As the world of marketing has evolved, it has become increasingly important to build solid, long-term social communities.

Content and SEO: shifting demands

At one time, website owners could fill a webpage with carefully chosen keywords, shoot to the top of Google’s rankings, and watch the traffic pour in. Now, to have staying power, brands must constantly build and interact with their community; it’s not enough to put up a Facebook page and post occasionally.

Community building involves engagement, providing value to visitors, and constantly adjusting efforts in response to feedback.

User engagement

A thriving community encourages users to reach out and interact directly with the brands that have a place in their daily life. Through their direct communication with customers, social media managers and customer service representatives reward that interaction.

Visitors have a limited amount of free time each day. When they choose to spend it reaching out to a brand, rewarding them is an excellent way to foster brand loyalty. For example, this is done by acknowledging interactions, providing a personalised response to comments, and discount codes plus other offers.

In addition to giving individual users recognition, this also encourages other potentially interested parties the opportunity to get involved and convert. Immediate rewards encourage higher user-engagement, and personalised recognition can be readily achieved with individual responses.

User-focused full-time business

Unsurprisingly, companies have invested heavily in this aspect of their business by hiring full-time social media managers and freelancers. They stay on top of comments and other interactions to keep conversations flowing on their Facebook and Instagram pages, for example.

Furthermore, audiences today actually expect acknowledgement when they have questions about a product or service, and social media platforms enable business owners to meet this need.

Many companies now use advanced artificial intelligence chatbots to parse customer questions and answer general queries instantly. This significantly decreases average wait times and reduces customer service representatives’ workload, which in turn frees up employees for more complex client needs.

Communities strengthen brands and businesses

Establishing a community for a brand’s customers is a gradual process; it’s a marketing technique that yields longer-term growth especially when compared to other forms of paid promotion.

A robust community significantly increases a company’s reach within its potential pool of customers. Research from Marketing Sherpa indicates that 95% of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 follow at least one brand on social media. Visitors are open to the idea of finding new services and products to purchase—the key is to present opportunities in an attractive and very appealing way.

A great method to attract interested parties is through exclusive personalised offers. Visitors looking for deals that are limited or aren’t available on alternative platforms are examples of this. Other ways to attract include sharing engaging content, life hacks, and company values to align users with brands.

Cost-effective social media marketing

The time put into figuring out what visitors are looking for and finding out how to deliver it is undoubtedly worth the return.

Research from several sources indicates that social media marketing is a cost-efficient technique for brands. HubSpot reports that 84% of marketers can increase traffic to their website with just six hours of social media marketing each week. Another report from Ambassador indicates that 71% of consumers who have a good social media experience with a brand are more likely to recommend the brand to others compared to users who have not engaged with the brand over social media.

Additionally, certain brands boost their clickthroughs and engagement rates purely through organic content. As more platforms allow users to filter what shows up on their feed and limit exposure to brand posts, companies often have to spend money on ad campaigns to extend their reach. Even then, social media ad campaigns tend to be significantly less expensive than other paid advertising techniques, so there’s room to try different techniques and discover what yields results in a specific niche.

Utilising visitor feedback

The same feature that makes social media marketing so successful is the trait that makes it challenging: instant feedback. Social media helps businesses get the type of feedback they crave. Visitors are free to be honest in their posts and comments: something which is not found in other settings.

In surveys and communication tools that collect feedback, respondents often feel a need to cushion their criticism and play up praise. On social media this is more polarised; scroll through a large company’s Facebook page and you’ll find glowing praise, scathing criticism, and things in between.

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Viral opportunities

With one post or comment, a company has the chance to go viral. Whether that’s good or bad depends entirely on how well a brand knows its audience and context of their comments.

Consider Adidas after the 2017 Boston Marathon. After sending an email with the header “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”—just four years after the marathon was targeted by a terrorist attack—the company was lambasted across every social media platform! They apologised and the incident eventually faded from memory with other marketing mishaps taking its place.

On the flip side, many brands have successfully leveraged social media to extend their reach. Wendy’s is an excellent example. They added nearly half a million new followers over six months and experienced impressive engagement rates, with the average post garnering over 300,000 likes.

Wendy’s achieved this by responding in a witty, off-the-cuff manner to customers and trolling competitors. After McDonald’s accidentally sent out a tweet that said “needs copy and link,” Wendy’s replied with a tweet reading, “When the tweets are as broken as the ice cream machine.” This type of humour led to listicles featuring Wendy’s top burns, putting the brand at the forefront of people’s minds.

Making key marketing decisions

While social media feels like a more laid-back, fun way to reach an audience, it must be carefully considered. During and after a campaign, brands look at several metrics to assess its success. Shared content, new followers, and purchases are all viable ways to measure a social media campaign.

Of note, is that social media marketing—much like content marketing—is often a marathon, not a sprint. New followers might not be in the market for what a company is selling when they start interacting with them, but this doesn’t mean the campaign was unsuccessful. The brand name is now on the user’s radar, and successive visitors may convert to customers weeks or months after initially following a new brand.

Off-the-wall creativity

Statistics and data are crucial components of social media marketing, but intuition and creativity have their place as well. Marketers and business owners bring a human element to their work and their understanding of customers, which shouldn’t be lost in a mire of spreadsheets and statistics.

Consider the 2015 Starbucks red cup controversy. Starbucks executives ignored data supporting their traditional holiday-themed cups and went with a plain red cup for the holiday season. It created substantial controversy that actually worked in Starbucks’ favour; talk shows discussed it for weeks, social media blew up with red cup debates, and Starbucks ultimately saw an 11.9% increase in sales from the previous year.

Ultimately, human beings crave connection. Social media marketing takes that innate need and uses it to build strong bonds between individuals, communities, and brands. As social media continues to change and become even more intuitive with enhanced algorithms and engagement techniques, businesses must be ready to adapt and evolve with it.

Published 14 August 2019

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