As social media, in general, becomes more self-aware, and shifts towards more private sharing - as opposed to posting everything out in the open - the importance of online groups is rising, which is an equally relevant shift for marketers to note.
Facebook has been making a big push on groups and community building, and this week, on the Facebook IQ research blog, the company has shared some new tips to help brands better utilize online communities in order to establish stronger connection with their target audience.
As explained by Facebook:
"People have never been more digitally empowered to build communities around the things that matter to them - from gatherings of dads married to doctors, to female entrepreneurs seeking to shape the future of Africa. A recent global survey revealed that 72% of people see community existing online as much as offline, and fully 74% now expect brands to actively contribute to society. And forward-thinking brands are finding that connecting with the communities that matter most to people can be a powerful way to not just give back but stand out."
To do this, Facebook advises that brands need to redefine how they think about community, offering these key tips on how to boost brand/community connection.
Tatiana Peck from Facebook's Creative Shop team advises that:
"The key is in how you think about community. Many marketers tend to view it as a target audience. But I always encourage brands to think bigger, to equate community with curiosity. Marketers should ask questions like: Are there relevant communities which I haven’t considered? What inspiration can I find when I look at communities that share my brand's passions or values? What can I offer the community? It's the curious brands that tend to be rewarded with creative inspiration - whether that comes in the form of a campaign that brings people together or a product feature you didn't know people were clamoring for."
Indeed, Peck advises that brands should not be looking to market within communities, necessarily, but to connect and help related groups - which, in turn, will deliver improved brand results:
"It's really important to commit to the community-inspired approach. You can't go halfway through the process and ask: “But how is this going to sell my product?” That's not the point, even though it can absolutely become the outcome. Brands that want to embark on developing community-inspired ideas have to be open to the reality that these ideas might not start big, but they have the potential to have a big impact down the road."
This goes along with much of the common social media marketing advice - the key word here being 'social', its where people go for connection with other like-minded people, not to be sold to. The brands that understand, and can work with this, are the ones which generally end up seeing more success.
And as Peck notes:
"You’d be amazed at the level of creativity that emerges when a brand puts the needs and interests of a community at the forefront and asks how it can help solve problems."
If a brand knows its purpose and values before embarking on community-focused initiatives, it will be better able to connect with relevant groups, and establish a real sense of community - which, in turn, will result in more dedicated, passionate advocates, and loyal customers.
It's the longer play, and it won't boost your bottom line quickly. But it may be the way to go in enhancing your online marketing efforts.
You can read Facebook's full interview with Tatiana Peck, Global Strategy and Insights Lead at Facebook's 'Creative Shop', here.