The #1 oversight in social media community building

Simon Mainwaring / Community / 7 years ago

There are certain mainstays of social media community-building – creating content that commands or arrests the viewer’s attention, engaging them around some action or contribution motivated by shared values, and finally, rewarding them in some way that earns the participant social capital or recognition. Yet, in most cases, that’s where it ends and where the trouble begins.

No matter how compelling your content, how widespread your reach, how generous your reward, community attrition will be the undoing of any social media campaign leaving you to constantly rebuild sand castles at the foot of waves.

To avoid this a brand (of any size) must studiously structure their campaign around five stages:

1. CO-CREATE: Engage customers in the co-creation of brand stories based on shared values.

2. SHARE: Motivate customers to share and spread the brand stories using their own social media channels.

3. UPGRADE: Maintain the customer community by upgrading that engagement to the next level.

4. REWARD: Reward the continued engagement in ways tailor-made for the participants and campaign.

5. MANAGE: Measure the content sharing throughout and manage tactics accordingly.

It is Stages 3 and 4 where most community building campaigns fall down. This is because the strategists plan with a mindset informed by finite media plans that have dominated traditional media for decades.

The critical difference about the social business marketplace is that social media never turns off, smartphones rarely leave their owners reach, and the capacity for brands and consumers to create and consume compelling content is tireless.

So planning a social media campaign with a start and finish date is applying the rules of old media to new media. It is trading on customer loyalty that is far more fickle today. It is competing for customer attention in finite bursts leaving the door open for competitors or distractions in the gaps between engagement.

Instead, brands must re-frame the end of any campaign as the beginning of another and constantly infuse the campaign with new blood through the use of different media, channels and engagement ideas that will keep your customers engaged.

Can you name a brand campaign that has effectively upgraded customer engagement over time?



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  1. Avatar Kris Colvin says:

    This is so true. Buying your book just based on this post. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

    1. Thanks so much Kris. I really hope you enjoy the book. There’s lots of case studies and strategies in there that should be helpful. Great to connect, Simon

  2. This is great advice. If you compare the relationship between the business and customers to the relationship between two people, it becomes painfully obvious that you can’t have “finite bursts” building meaningful engagement. Engagement takes work. Make it interesting for the customers by switching it up and always trying to make it new for them. 

    1. So agree, Pavel. It’s just a shift in mindset. We’re in the relationship business not the transaction business. Thanks for the feedback. Simon