Why would a brand need to consider building and managing their own community forum? Many brands feel like a decent presence on various social media channels would define community. Sure, brands must participate in social media but have the repercussions of doing so only on a third party social platform been considered?
Let's start with Facebook. Off the cuff there are two major issues for brands on Facebook. First, on average each post you make on Facebook appears in less than 10% of your fans newsfeeds. Why? Because Facebook revenue is generated when users pay to promote important messages. So naturally Facebook is going to control the reach of the messages and solicit you to pay and promote them.
Secondly, customer service issues on Facebook are not searchable. For example, a customer may reach out to a brand through a Facebook comment or post. The brand may do the right thing and answer the customer's question or help solve an issue. The question becomes how many other people are experiencing the same issue and do not see the prior resolution posted? This is a major disadvantage to customer service on social platforms. As the brand continues to post all prior messages get pushed further and further down the page until it becomes nearly impossible to reference them.
Facebook is by far the worst for the above scenarios. Twitter is better because of the ability to follow a certain hashtag. Yes you can use hashtags on Facebook but it has not become as natural as it is on Twitter and therefore most lack the habit of including them. Google+ is the best because of the Community feature built into Google+. A brand can set up a community and the experience is that of a traditional forum.
Let us look at a few brands that are doing it right. Brands like Apple, PlayStation, Xbox, Harley Davidson, and BMW are just a sample of major brands that have built very successful online community forums. These forums provide support to customers and also connect brand enthusiast who advocate on behalf of the brand.
Typically you will find these communities very organized each with a section to address customer's needs. From support to new product launches and distinct user groups. These communities are a fantastic way for the brand to maintain control and guide the usefulness of their own platforms.
Here are a few reasons for brand communities:
- Brand controlled platform
- Extension of the brand
- Brand engagement
- Support forums are a way to provide excellent customer service without duplicated effort (increases efficiency)
- Cultivates employee and brand advocates
- The brand owns the content (not Facebook)
Hopefully these thoughts will help guide the decision for why your brand should consider creating a forum or an online community. There is nothing wrong with using social to promote and extend your brand, but at the end of the day nothing beats being the one who controls it.