How you're losing control over your brand communities (and what you can do about it)
Having a Facebook group or Slack community for your brand seems a no-brainer. The customers or fans are already there, they know how to use the platform and check in almost daily if you’re lucky. What’s not to like? Well, it’s not your platform! And that means the platforms use this access to monetize from you. How that works is what we’re going to explore today.
Why create a brand community: 5 blogs about why you need to pursue this right now
First, let’s take a few steps back and explore brand communities. Creating a brand community allows you to gather zero-party data and increase engagement with your ideal customers. A welcoming trend for those worrying about the ramifications of stricter privacy laws and the sunsetting of the 3rd-party cookie. Today we start with blog 2/5.
Why do brands need to create communities in the first place?
Getting market research right is a very competitive advantage nowadays. But there’s a lot more going on than just that. Brands have been building communities on social media platforms that are now pushing them to pay up (for example, by buying ads) if they want to keep their engagement and visibility high enough.
All the while, privacy laws are getting stricter and fewer data can be shared by the likes of Google, Meta or your average 3rd-party data broker.
And to be honest, that 3rd-party or even 2nd- and 1st-party data may not be as reliable as you think anymore.
Meaning, everything is converging towards a scenario where you need to know more to be able to compete but must do with less available data. On top of that, the communities you’ve built on social media platforms are not yours. And you’re finding out right now by literally paying a hefty price.
That’s why creating a community on your terms around your brand or product is a no-brainer. These people aren’t just your customers. They’re your ideal customers – your fans! The ones that spread the word about it in their inner circle and love to share their opinions on how to make it even better.
In this series, we’ll dive into the reasoning behind creating such a community. Because the chances are that you’re reading this because you see some of these trends too.
And we’re going to arm you with all knowledge you need to get cracking with setting up that brand community of fans you need so badly.
Reason 4: You’re losing control over your communities
While social media have a lot of benefits, they certainly have their drawbacks – control over your community being one of them. For instance, you may do the hard work of gathering users into a Facebook community, but Facebook ultimately owns the group and the platform. And it’s their algorithm and business decisions that decide who gets to see which posts – if they get to see them at all.
Organic reach has reportedly been down for a few years now; pay-to-play (buying ads) are seemingly taking over for a lot of Facebook group owners – unless you pay close attention to whatever new feature Facebook leadership wants to promote. And rightly so, again – it’s Facebook’s platform, not yours.
Now, the answer isn’t switching to another social media platform owned by yet another company that owns your community. That only leads to the same inevitable outcome.
You need have to have a platform where you’re in control
One where you decide how and when you can engage with your customers instead of an algorithm that serves another master.
You could do this by setting up a forum or dedicated website from scratch with all the features and tools you need – either by custom-coding it or modifying templates from forum software and website builders like phpBB, Wix, WordPress or Squarespace.
But then you also have to think about keeping the community alive and building all kinds of research tools. There are so many distractions even mega-fans won’t be there all the time. And once forums become ghost towns, they reflect poorly on the owners of the community.
Ideally, you want to be able to do polls, live chats and video calls with your community members or even collaborate with them on mood boards. That involves finding about 3 or 4 separate tools that somehow work with your chosen platform. Are you going to ask your community members to sign up for all of those tools on top of the forum login? That’s a lost cause and you know it.
That’s why it’s a no-brainer to use dedicated community software with all these built-in communications and research tools. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.
So what can you do right now?
Remember that old adage that states that if the product is free, you are the product? Well, that goes for you as a business too. To Facebook and Google, your business is just a different product category. So using their properties or platforms is great for ease of use and reach, but not so much for control or access to the customers you managed to get on these platforms.
You need to find a platform where you’re completely controlling your customers so a platform owner can’t hold you hostage over access or reach.
Ideally, you look at a paid platform with all the market research tools you need and has the experts to guide you if you need any help.