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The Future of Community in Social Media Channels and Where It’s Headed

Earlier this year, Guy Kawasaki, author, keynote speaker and co-founder of AllTop; Mari Smith, notable Facebook thought leader and author; and Bahram Nour-Omid, the CEO of Passenger and advisor to Nestivity sat down to talk to me about the future of community on social media. The three social media luminaries had differences of opinion about which network promotes community-building best, but they all agreed that everyone should have their own community – as long as they have something to say.

Guy Kawasaki is probably best known for building his community on Google Plus, as he feels this is the most “peer to peer” network out there. He has a community of approximately 1,200 people in the publishing industry, including authors, editors and entrepreneurs, who interact with each other as much as they interact with him.

“I love that as a moderator, I am responsible for very little of generating the inertia of the community. It just runs itself now, which is a beautiful thing.”

Guy explained that his community-building philosophy balked at Facebook’s EdgeRank when it began downgrading certain posts and prevented people from seeing the content they volunteered to see, so he turned to Google Plus instead. He also prefers the larger images, better albums and arguably more intelligent comments on Google Plus – but he concedes that as the network grows in popularity, the comments are becoming just as “clueless” as on other networks.

While Google Plus might be Guy’s network of choice, Mari Smith is wholeheartedly a Facebook fan. She, too, has issues with EdgeRank and predicts that small business owners are going to get tired of having to pay for their posts to reach more than 16% of fans – but she won’t make the switch to Google Plus as long as Facebook is number one.

Mari’s Facebook strategy is to diversify as much as possible, using her profile, page and groups in different ways to reach out to different audiences. Mari does use both Google Plus and Twitter in addition to her very active Facebook presence, as she believes that each network serves a different purpose and audience.

“I've been a raving evangelist for Facebook [for about six years now], I love it, I think it's an amazing platform. It does happen to be the number one but I'm not foolish enough that that's the only place where there's action.”

Nestivity sdvisor Bahram Nour-Omid differd from Guy and Mari in that his network of choice is Twitter. However, he believes that Twitter is not exactly a community as it exists today, since it doesn’t have the peer-to-peer element that Guy sees in Google Plus. Instead, it’s a bit lopsided, with people following others who don’t have to follow them back. And he believes Twitter’s focus right now is on generating revenue, as the company tries to gain control over how the network evolves and expands while leaving room for third-party developers to add value.

Bahram said Nestivity is working to evolve Twitter into a true community-building network through Nestivity, which turns tweets into discussion threads so that deep relationships can be developed with a brand’s followers. Nestivity’s public beta recently launched in April.

The three also talked about how companies can scale their community-building efforts without losing that one-on-one appeal of smaller communities. Guy believes that if you have something to say, you should build a community – but it can’t be just about the product, it has to be about the craft. In this way, community members will stick around as you grow. Mari agrees that if you have something to say, you should build a community. Her growth strategy has been to create venues – such as her Facebook Page Team Mari – where individuals representing her brand can interact with her community on her behalf, but conducts all engagement with her personal accounts herself. And Bahram believes that not all companies necessarily need a public, social media-based community, depending on the stage of development they are in. Smaller, newer companies might want to focus on developing private communities involving the people closest to the project first, before taking their community-building public.

So where is community headed on social media? Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus… all of the big networks seem to offer some, but not all, of the feature of “the best” community-building platform. Only time will tell which one, if any, comes out on top.


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