Social Brands: Communities vs Platforms
Social Brands Part 2
In last week’s first post in our series on Social Brands & The Future Of Marketing, we noted that, “the most successful brands don’t just predict the future; they define the future on their own terms.“
We’re continuing that theme in today’s second post in the Social Brands series, exploring the importance of building social marketing activities around the people you care about, and not around specific technological features or platforms.
The Motivations Driving Social Networking
Most people visit social networking sites in order to connect with other people: to stay in touch with friends and family; to share things with colleagues and professional peers; and even to meet strangers with similar interests and needs.
Because of this, most people see social media as a means to an end, with that ‘end’ being social interaction.
Of course, there are many times when technology plays an important part in facilitating these connections; things like the filters on Instagram, or the sharing features common to most social networks, are all important aspects of our social networking experience.
However, people connect around the personal, social benefits these elements provide, and not around the functionality itself.
Critically, if those social benefits don’t exist – if the people we want to connect with are not present, or if our networks move on – then the platform quickly loses its value.
We’ve seen this happen many times before; the declines of Second Life, MySpace, and Friendster were all driven by the migration of their audiences, not by technical failures.
Sadly, when audiences move on from an incumbent Big Platform – and they invariably do – marketers quickly lose out.
The investments they’ve made in building large audiences specific to that platform stop delivering meaningful returns, because those audiences are invariably ‘non-transferrable’ (how many brands succeeded in migrating their Second Life audiences wholesale into Facebook without paying for the privilege?).
As a result, marketers need to stop relying on buying attention within specific platforms, and find a more resilient way of managing their social media activities.
From Platforms To Communities
The trick is to stop seeing social media as media, and to focus on the motivations and behaviours that drive people’s social activities instead.
Instead of buying attention in the hottest platforms of the day, tomorrow’s top brands will spend time understanding how to deliver value to the same people across different settings and contexts.
They will focus on nurturing active communities that choose to engage with and around the brand and its activities wherever and whenever they can.
Critically, they will use new platforms to offer incremental value – not simply as another means to interrupt people.
From Eyeballs To Heartstrings
The secret to building these ‘migratory’ communities is to understand people’s wants, needs, and desires, and to build engaging connections around them at every opportunity.
We need to understand what brings communities together, and build our strategies around their shared interests and passions, and not around technical functionality or platforms.
Above all, we need to add value to their lives at every opportunity – a topic we’ll explore in more detail in the next post in this Social Brands series.
Want to join the conversation? We’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions, so why not share them in the comments.