In really simple terms, an online community is a destination on the world wide web where people like us tend to hang out and spend a lot of time doing things of interest.
Does that make a Facebook brand page, an online community? Well, no! A Facebook brand page, or for that matter a Twitter brand account, is more like a "pit stop" as opposed to a "destination". People spend endless hours on Facebook, and brand pages get only a tiny fraction of that time. “Fans”, as Facebook would call it, come and go. A vast majority of people come on Facebook to be recognised (read: notifications!), stalk their friends’ wall, admire their own timelines, announce & sell things, compete on games and let’s not forget… spam like hell!
Does that make Facebook.com an online community? Yes, it does. And a very large online community at that. Didn’t someone place it at being the 3rd “most populous country” (if it were one in-fact)? That someone was right. But, for brands, Facebook comes with heavy constraints. For instance, could a brand (if they wanted) create an activity feed of their fans? Could they create document storage for fans? Could they create mood messages of fans for other fans to see?
Believe it or not, Facebook brand pages were created with only 2 objectives in mind:
- As a brand, how do we speak to our fans and how could we get them to speak to us?
- As a brand, how do we create widespread awareness and get more people to become fans and join our page?
Some marketers take the route of "intellectual ignorance" in saying that the number of fans on a page does not matter to them. That may be true, but it defeats the fundamental premise of creating a brand page to begin with. I would invite those marketers to embrace an "online community" instead, where the big idea is to create passionate users, grow loyalty and increase advocacy — perhaps even hint at cultivating a sense of brand fanaticism.
Think about it — every action that a fan takes on a brand’s Facebook status update or app is visible to only those people in his/her network (maybe everyone or maybe no one). What about those fans who are already on the page? What do they get to see, or are even motivated enough to see? Chances are — nothing. As a Facebook user, when you’re approaching a “popular” status update to comment on it, you proceed knowing the content of the status update and not knowing much (if anything at all) about what others have commented about. Unless you’re a patient person, you are not going to “unroll” those 800+ comments to see what others have said about this topic of common interest.
Facebook makes it easy for you & me to interact with our friends & family, but makes it very hard for page fans to interact with other fans.
An online community is all about bonding between members of that community, which manifests into a whole lot of good things, more importantly into a win-win relationship between brands and community members. Here, members win because of the honest recommendation from other members about the brand, and brands win because they get a customer for life. Let’s talk about what I mean by “good things” for a second — sales enablement, talent acquisition, product marketing, customer support, workforce collaboration and much, much more.
By now, you should be wondering what an online community looks like and how would it impact your brand. I’ll demonstrate that in my next post. As a progressive brand marketer, if this doesn’t get you salivating, you are best sticking to Facebook brand pages and loosing the "progressive" tag. Cheers!