The Value of Building a Social Community: Benefits & Strategies

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Communities have been around for a long time in many formats, but lately we’re hearing more and more about how consumers are moving away from broad social channels and finding more comfort and engagement in community. And for that reason, brands are also starting to think about how they can invest in community-led growth. This is happening because the social media industry has changed a lot in recent years, making it more complex than ever to cut through the noise. There are a number of factors that are creating this challenge for marketers and it’s helpful to understand what those forces are so you can determine if creating your own community makes sense for your brand.

Evolving Landscape of Social Media and Data Privacy

First, social media technologies and platforms are rapidly changing, and as they change, so does the way people consume content on the Internet. One example is the rise of TikTok and the surge of short-form video across all the social networks. It’s forced marketers to think di erently about content, and it’s made it even harder to hold the attention of prospects and customers. The average human has an attention span of just 8.25 seconds according to recent studies — 4.25 seconds less than in the year 2000.

We’ve also seen the challenges that can arise if a company, like Twitter, is bought and the platform shifts its strategy and direction. When this happens, brands and users are forced to change how they interact with content, if they choose to do so at all.

Second, there are stricter rules on privacy and data protection. Companies need to be compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU as well as a number of laws in the U.S. Because of this, Apple and Google have made, or are planning on, making sweeping changes to how cookies are managed on the web. As a result, marketers are no longer able to track individuals across the web with ease. For more information about this change, you can check out the Cookieless Advertising lesson in this certification.

Trends Impacting Social Media Marketing

Next is the rise of socially and politically conscious audiences which has had a significant impact on brands, politics, and society as a whole. Companies may no longer have the uxury of remaining neutral on topics, like mental health, inclusivity, climate change, and social justice. These are complex topics that need a distinctly human touch that’s backed by a strong crisis prevention plan. To learn more about developing a crisis plan, check out the lesson Putting a Crisis Communication Plan in Place from the Social Media Certification I.

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value building

Then there is the emergence of technologies related to Web3 and decentralized social networks like Mastodon. Web3 is a vision of a more decentralized web that places the power in the hands of users instead of large tech companies, like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. It’s built on blockchains using existing infrastructure with the goal to make the internet more accessible, private, and secure for users. While Web3 doesn’t quite exist yet, there are a number of companies who have developed decentralized social media networks . These di er from centralized platforms, like Facebook or TikTok, who have control over your data and can choose to sell it to a third-party.

Web3 is all about redistributing power to the average consumer. The idea is that consumers will decide and promote the ideas they’re most interested in, instead of being in the passenger seat. With this shift, marketers will have to lean more on building a strong community.

Here’s Christina Garnett, principal marketing manager o ine community and advocacy at HubSpot to share more.

Community has definitely been a buzzword since 2020. It’s been around for a while, but with the pandemic and the separation that that caused us, and that disconnect between how we live, our daily lives, how we work, how we communicate, community became a buzzword because it was so heavily needed. Just as in the past, they talk about how like it takes a village to raise a child. It’s taken community to help us really survive the past few years, because we’ve had to completely adapt how we communicate, how we talk to each other, and how we live our daily lives.

And so, community has really come to the forefront because it’s been needed. Another reason for that is, we are seeing the digital age become so mature that every single generation has some kind of understanding of how it works. You have the Boomers and Gen X, and millennials and Gen. Z. But they all react di erently to things, whether they’re going to be on Facebook or Tiktok. But there’s this consensus that we don’t like ads. We don’t trust brands the way that we used to, because we’ve had the time to understand that that trust is usually not earned. And so what you’re seeing with community is, I’m going to trust strangers over brands. I’m going to trust customer reviews over a commercial. And so, community provides a way for you to foster those relationships with people and for brands to create those relationships with people. So you’re really able to take word-of-mouth to the next level.

Ultimately, the goal of marketers using social media is to generate revenue. But because of all the factors we just reviewed, bringing in that revenue is no longer a guarantee with advertising or regular social media content. Instead, you need to focus on engagement.

That’s where communities come in. Communities are critical because they promote engagement. They’re incubators for brand awareness, loyalty, and trust. But they’re also a dime a dozen, so marketers need to refine their approach to building and leveraging them correctly.

Are brands investing in community? The answer is yes. In 2022, the Nexorank Blog surveyed 1,067 global marketing professionals working in B2B and B2C companies to determine which trends they leverage and the channels they use. Here’s what we found:

  • 64% of marketers plan to invest in social media communities.
  • More than half of respondents (51%) plan to build more social media communities.
  • The biggest challenge marketers face with social media communities is actively managing members.

More and more organizations are realizing the power of community and are rallying around something called community-led growth. But what does that mean?

Evan Hamilton, HubSpot’s director of community, and the former director of community at Reddit, explains:

So community-led growth is using the power of peer connection to amplify the go-to-market e orts of a company. The flywheel is a powerful way to look at driving acquisition and retaining customers. And all of the flywheel can be improved and enhanced by finding ways to connect peers with each other, to infuse that whole experience with the idea of community and talking to other people and gaining value out of that connection. And so it’s incredibly important because many companies are starting to see the ceiling on traditional marketing and traditional growth tactics, but there’s immense room to grow if you’re thinking about the benefit that can come from connecting your customers.

Having a community will help you in a variety of ways. For example, they’re vehicles for personal recommendations. Every member of a social media community is a micro-influencer, sharing real experiences and opinions that can influence other members. This is worth mentioning since nearly nine out of ten consumers read reviews before buying a product.

Communities can also help you cut costs. Active, self-sustaining communities can become hubs for customers to ask and answer questions, which alleviates pressure on customer support teams. They can also reduce support costs — one study found that it was 72% cheaper to answer a question via a community than to submit a ticket to a support team. You can also spend less on advertising because you already have a captive audience.

On top of that, communities o er insight into your consumers. Monitoring conversations and tracking common complaints, ideas for improvement, and unique ways they’re using your products to solve problems can be invaluable for your business when it comes to configuring your product roadmap and improving the customer experience.

Evan Hamilton explains how companies can determine the value of a community for their business:

When thinking about the value that community can provide to a business, Ireally encourage companies to get really specific, because the fact of the matter is communities are amazing and they can do a lot of things for your business, and it can be very easy to just see them as these generic happy, wonderful value places. But again, any initiative that you’re taking on at your company should have a core outcome for the company. And so I use the SPACES model, which I helped develop when I was at CMX. And these are basically the core ways that community can help a business. The first is support — so scaling your support e orts, making those more cost-e cient. The second is product — aiding your knowledge of what your customers actually want and giving them a place to talk about that. The third is acquisition — bringing new customers in and finding new ways to acquire people outside of your traditional measures. The fourth is contribution — getting people to contribute code, content, actions, etcetera. The E is for engagement — improving loyalty, increasing retention (one of the most powerful things, by the way, that community can do). And then the last is success. Community can be an amazing tool for helping your customers be more successful and stick around longer. And so I highly recommend choosing one of those as your initial focus for your community and really making sure you’re actually driving that benefit. Now, it may take many months for your community to get to that point where it is actually delivering that value at a high level. But if you stay laser-focused, then you can prove that value. And then, after that point, feel free to layer on additional parts of the SPACES model.

Social media communities can help you turn transactional relationships into meaningful ones, and o er a place for customers to share, collaborate, learn and provide feedback, in turn building both brand loyalty and boosting the bottom line.

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