There are a few things that I truly focus on when considering modifications or upgrades to my corporate social media strategy. Although our process has significantly evolved since we first started our various profiles in 2008, the lessons I learnt from our group office centered around ensuring our online community was built using progressive, organic means.
For some who often ask the cost or process of acquiring a large fan base, often miss the point of developing an online community. The beauty of how social media grew to become what it is today is based on a single fact – you build it, they will come. Everyone’s heard “It’s a small world”, but have you ever considered how the 80’s predicted the 21st century for us? Steve Jobs is a great product of the 80s, although he got started much earlier. It was in the 80s that Apple (Macintosh) became an entity to watch for.
30 years later, apple has an app store, reported to have generated US $25 billion in revenue – driven by the evident need for a commercial platform that enables remote developer markets around the world. Their greatest weapon was patience and a constant desire to innovate far ahead of their time. It took us a while, but eventually we began to look past the overly futuristic appeal of the devices and instead turn it into the basis of our attraction. Either we were brainwashed by a giant apple-shaped satellite, or it is a true example of what it means to organically grow something from ground up.
Facebook is a super example of how a small idea of personal purpose can suddenly be the single most effective tool to penetrate the privacy of hundreds of millions by allowing them to volunteer details at no cost. All it really does is exploit our carnal desire to interact. Even in our individual being, we find it hard to live without self-perpetuated egos - and what’s the point if there’s no one to share it with? It’s simple really, the basic foundation of social networking is community development; a bi-product of our need to interact. It speaks to us in a way that we want to be spoken to. A platform built for us, by us. Or maybe just by a reflection of who many of us really are – show-offs, looking for a way to make lasting impressions.
But when you have the dilemma of the race to be ahead, leading the pack – that competitive spirit that feeds our ambition to get noticed – could it be that we ignore the fundamentals by herding people together, presuming to know what they want? Apple and Google did it right. Fortunately for the latter, the former had already begun to pave the way for innovation. It helps to have someone’s experience to learn from – should you choose to. These are organic communities that have really grown in the last decade and it’s great to see that a solid foundation can be built, if it’s nurtured well.
Coming back, social media development is not a race and certainly not at the cost of creating bigger communities with little or no rational engagement. Like any solid, well knit community any of us would live in, online communities also require some finesse that only comes from genuine communication. If you ever question buying fans and whether it’s ethically right or wrong, consider buying someone’s vote for an election – not very democratic is it? Same rule applies and the exception is, there isn’t one, unless we make it.
I’ve always believed that slow and steady wins the race. Sure, day to day living can be fast and sometimes impulsive, but if your eyes have sight on the distant goal, the small steps we take to get there can be quite educational and informative. We learn so much about our communities by always trying to find that thing that ticks with them. We dedicate increasing resources to focus on people you can’t see, feel or hear. Only interaction through an inanimate object, deciphering their thoughts and feedback, can cause us to sometimes wonder about how this came to be. This is the constant desire for innovation in our interaction. Yes, interaction has evolved.
The inevitable journey for online communication is one that will only reach saturation once an alternative is born. Just as social media became an alternative to offline engagement. Sure, it wasn’t meant to be so intrusive in our personalities, but it is and many of us embrace it, with relentless growth continuing. Oddly, we can’t grow to a point where resources to live on become scarce because we’ve literally turned into a global village, we’ll just balance it out with the new thing.
But like the great doers of our past did it, focus on the organic, engagement-oriented approach. It’s truly more customer-centric and adds far greater substance to your relationship with your fans. Make them fall in love with you, your brand and your product so the unity is binding and inseparable. Like the bond between father and son; it’s there, just takes years to reach it. When you do, it’s worth it. We have an expression in Pakistan – “Sabar ka phal meetha hotha hain” – meaning “The fruit of patience is always sweeter.” I wish we all still reminded ourselves of its value so that the race wouldn’t be to keep fan growth high; instead it would be to keep engagement high. Take coke for example, everyone else does.
So, like a plant, take the organic community growth approach and see a healthy community grow. Remember, it’s like any community you or I would live in ‘offline’. Only thing that’s really happened all this time is that we’ve just remixed “It’s a small world” for the umpteenth time since man landed (or whatever it is you believe) on earth. We create bigger communities to be the popular kid in school, find commonalities and thrive. If forced, the results would be a community with insuficient time to settle down, possibly causing it to become unsustainably overpopulated. Engagement leads to growth too, so let it.
Since the cavemen did it, so shall we engage to evolve.