Does your brand have an abandoned community lingering somewhere in the socialsphere? You’re not alone. Many marketers are guilty of it at one time or another. Sometimes unknowingly. An “abandoned community” is a Facebook, Twitter, or other online community created by a brand, or someone authorized or not representing it, that is eventually neglected. There are several explanations as to why brands have abandoned online communities. Here are some common mistakes. Do any sound familiar?
Mistake #1 Not passing the social strategy litmus test.
Going in without a strategy is one of the biggest mistakes companies tend to make. Catching the wave of the latest craze is tempting. Especially when you have your boss breathing down your neck to try out that new Vine thing she read about. There are so many unknowns when it comes to new technologies that testing it out seems to make sense at the time. What marketers must understand is when ever your intended audience finds the brand on a social network to find that no one is home, it is a huge let down. It’s better not to be there at all. There is an easy litmus test for determining whether or not you should start an online community, anywhere:
1. Is your customer there?
2. Does it fit into your big picture marketing strategy?
3. Do you have the time, people and resources to support it, and be awesome at it?
If the answer is no to any of these questions it’s not worth doing.
Mistake #2 Treating community building as a campaign.
Communities are concepted around big campaigns. Your big idea turns into a Facebook page called “Share your happy travel story” and the rest is history… Until the promotion is over, your budget runs out and your ad agency moves onto their next big idea. After all that effort put into building an audience and engaging them on a high-octane level, the brand moves on leaving them behind. I’ve never understood why brands would take this approach except they didn’t think it through clearly. After all it:
- Segments your audience each time another Facebook page is created
- Creates a cycle of building, engaging, abandoning … and building all over again
- Is no way to have a relationship with your customer
- Becomes costly over time
A smarter approach is to centralize your efforts in an official brand page and run campaigns, promotions, and giveaways through it to engage your audience over the long-term.
Mistake #3 Finding out you’re in the wrong place.
Finally, you might have discovered that your brand is simply in the wrong place altogether. This goes back to the litmus test, “Are your customers there?” You can find out ahead of time by doing some search and discovery on the social networks in mind. I suggest using a personal account. Create a profile that does not represent the brand you can use to learn with.
Guide to Re-energizing a Dead Community
If any of the situations I just described sound familiar, don’t worry there is a solution for you if you continue reading. Here are six simple steps.
Step 1: Run an audit to uncover everything
A properly executed social media audit will report how many brand profiles are out there on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. Just about every one of these I work on seem to hold a hidden surprise. Whether it’s the sales team or a location gone rogue. Without training, structure and support from the marketing team they all seem to be gung-ho for the first few months before becoming abandoned. Having all of these profiles out there also confuses people when they search Facebook or Twitter because they want to follow the official brand. The first thing you need to do is clean up your social act.
Step 2: Clean up and set priorities
Consolidate and remove old or unofficial profiles. Invite the followers over to your official page. Keep a list of the profiles or communities that are active and make sure they are all accounted for. Set goals for using a certain social network and go from there.
Step 3: Scale down
Determine if you are where your audience is and what your potential impact could be on “share of conversation” by applying your resources toward that channel. If the answer is ROI negative, delete the profile. Your presence doesn’t matter if you aren’t there to interact with your customers.
Step 4: Strategize
Without a strategy, your social marketing is bound to fail. You need a smart plan in place to be successful and to keep your community wanting more. Going back to the strategy litmus test be sure to cover your bases. Then, engage your audience! Here are a few ideas to kick things off:
- Throw a re-launch party to apologize for being gone so long. Reward followers for re-engaging with your brand.
- Run a contest or giveaway and make it about them not, not the product.
- Use images to engage people and make it fun. Think outside the iStock photo box. Create images that are unique, pull at heartstrings, creative or funny.
- Throw a Twitter party to host a conversation on an energizing topic that people would want to share personal opinions about.
- Run Facebook advertising to reach those who liked your page but no longer see it in their new stream because it was disengaged long ago.
- Run themed topics that are fun and give people something to do – such as Instagram’s “This Weekend’s Hashtag Project”. Instagram encourages its community to upload images using a topic based hashtag chosen by the Instagram Team for a chance to be featured on their blog.
- Share personal stories about your brand and ask fans to participate. Check out Project Imagin8tion where in partnership with film director Ron Howard, Cannon created a short movie based on photos submitted by the community. Another inspiring example can be found from The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, where they share their success by sharing amazing personal stories of heart attack survivors.
Step 5: Build consistency
Consistency is key to keeping your community engaged. Start by creating a social media communications plan for the next month with what topics you need to hit and how often for each social media profile. Find a community management tool which you can use to monitor and manage your. ALL content should not be scheduled to post automatically because automation is generally not effective without taking time every day to nurture and grow your community in PERSON. Set aside at least an hour per day, per network, to well… network! Remember to talk about things that are important to your audience. Monitor the engagement, and make sure customers are being responded to whether they are complaining about something or giving your praise.
Step 6: Commit
The last step is simple. Commit to your community and put the right resources behind it! None of the above steps can be maintained if there is not a human behind your brand to carry it out. When you commit to your community you will build a loyal fan base. If you can’t personally commit to the task, consider hiring a professional community manager.
Now, go face your ghost town and turn it into a Mardi Gras. Have fun and your fans will too.