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The art of community building

The art of community building

Building a social media community is no easy task. It takes time and you can’tshouldn’t cut corners. Unfortunately there are some brands that do, as a recent programme on Channel 4 revealed. Click farms are an easy way for brands to buy fans and followers to make themselves appear more popular on social media than they actually are.

Anyone who didn't see the programme is probably left wondering what a click farm is. They aren't fun holiday activities you can do with your children. They are where groups of low paid workers endlessly log in to Twitter and Facebook, and “Like” Pages and follow accounts – a tiresome and boring task; may be a form of punishment rather than fun?

It was shocking to hear during the programme that some big name brands were guilty of buying fans. But is there any benefit in doing this? No, not really – and at the end of the day the only people these brands will be hurting is themselves. These fake fans kill the social media success of the brands which use them. They give unreliable measurements of success, which can make it difficult to justify social media ROI to senior leaders. Imagine you have 1.1million Likes on your Facebook Page – 1million of these are fake and the other 100,000 are genuine fans. Now, if only 5,000 of these fans engaged with your Page on each month, senior management may question the value of your social media. These 5,000 engaged users represent around 0.45% of the 1.1million Likes on your Page; not a particularly attractive figure, so the plug is pulled on further social media investment. But in reality, because only 100,000 of your Likes are real, you’re actually achieving 5% engagement…a good effort if you ask me!

Buying fake fans is a practice we definitely don’t encourage, which is why I want to share a few tips for building and engaging a community of fans the hard proper way:

  • Know your audience. Probably one of the most important rules in marketing of any kind is to know your audience. Who you want to target, where they hang out (i.e. which social networks they’re active on), what interests them, etc. Without knowing this you will lack direction and certainly won’t be able to build a community let alone engage them. You wouldn't start any marketing campaign without doing the research first; social media is no different. Once you’ve done the research into your target audience, you have the foundations of your community. The next trick is to start engaging them.
  • Post regularly (not about what you had for breakfast). Think carefully about the content you’re going to post, and keep your audience in mind. What will draw the audience to your page initially, and what will keep them interested? Developing a content calendar is a great way to help ensure you have a steady flow of content for your social media profiles. You can also combine this with relevant industry news, to demonstrate that you're in touch with the wider industry and not just set in your little brand bubble. The important thing to remember, is once you start posting you can’t suddenly stop.
  • Commit the time to maintaining your social media presence. You can’t post religiously for a week and then go silent, leaving your community to fend for itself. An hour a day is the minimum amount of time you should invest…obviously; the longer you spend the better.
  • Join the conversation. The beauty of social media is that it facilitates multidimensional communication. Gone are the days when you can say something to your audience and they’ll accept it. People are stubborn beings and like to answer back (or, simply just have a conversation). On social media you’ll be having conversations with your community, and the community members will be having conversations amongst themselves. Monitor these conversations, and don’t be afraid to get involved. Even if someone within the conversation doesn’t follow you, getting involved and sharing thought leadership can be a great way of attracting them towards your brand.
  • It's not a numbers game. Brands often talk about the number of fans and followers they have. Too often have I seen tweets along the lines of “We’ve reached 1,000 followers!”, followed by the embarrassing loss of a handful of followers. When it comes to fans and followers, quality over quantity is definitely a principle which should be applied. It’s better to have a small, highly engaged audience who care about your brand or industry, than a following of thousands of people who have only followed your brand because of a “follow to win” competition they had a one in a million chance of winning.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but following these principles is a good start. Buying clicks might be quicker, but building a community the proper way is much more rewarding, and certainly more fun!