[Executive Edge] Building communities beyond Facebook, Twitter
When most business people and entrepreneurs think of social media, they think of the usual suspects: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn. The fact that these names always come up should be a clue in itself: If your brand or company has profiles only on these platforms, you’re thinking just like everyone else.
So think beyond Facebook’s company pages and Twitter’s 140 characters. Social media platforms that are still emerging offer opportunities.
Jonha Revesencio, who was included in the Top 500 Community Managers Globally and works for RebelMouse, recommends that businesses carefully consider these options. Revesencio regularly shares her insights in Social Media Today and Huffington Post.
RebelMouse is itself a social media aggregator that makes your own “social front page” based on feeds that you select, ranging in everything from Facebook and Twitter to Tumblr and Pinterest. It is used by celebrities, bloggers, publishers, and brands alike.
But what is most telling is Revesencio’s story. She serves as Rebel Wizard for the New York City-headquartered RebelMouse from her home in the Philippines. In this capacity, she does their community management and outreach to digital influencers.
That she is able to do so successfully attests to the fact that, with the right moves, any company can build a strong social media presence from anywhere in the world. In the following points, she gives advice on how entrepreneurs can redefine how they look at social media.
Think in terms of where your audience is
Don’t let the number of users on the big social media sites fool you. According to Revesencio, the “key to reaching your audience is to actually know where they really spend most of their time. Just because there’s a billion of Facebook users doesn’t mean all of them are active and your brand’s actual target.”
To this end, Revesencio recommends that rather than just defaulting to your standard Facebook and Twitter profiles, entrepreneurs should actually do the market research it takes to figure out “where their audience really is.” Though considerably less flashy than other platforms, even “old school forums and blogs” can “facilitate conversation” if that’s where your potential customers are, Revesencio said.
As for specific tools, Revesencio recommends “Social Mention (free), which allows you to see where the chatter is, such as where your brand gets the most mentions.” Similarly, Google Alerts is another “free tool where you can monitor the mentions of your brand (across blog posts, forums, and so on).”
Think in terms of diversity
For businesses, you can liken social media accounts to stock market investments. If you choose the right ones to invest into, you will get a favorable return in the future. Along these lines, it helps to diversify, especially with traditional heavyweights struggling to achieve the organic reach that they may have once had.
Revesencio encouraged entrepreneurs to look at the fact that “Facebook admits its organic reach is dipping, pushing marketers to buy ads in an effort to reach more of an audience.”
Thus, Revesencio said that businesses should consider other additional platforms that are not yet that popular in the Philippines, such as Vine, Google+, Pinterest, and Slideshare. “It’s an intelligent choice for brands and entrepreneurs to explore opportunities that actually send potential customers to their own sites (owned media) and not just focus all their marketing efforts in just one basket.”
Think in terms of early adopters
Many of the people who comprise the users on emerging social media platforms are early adopters. That is, they joined them when they were still in their infancy, and they regularly hop onto other tech trends before they get popular.
As a group, early adopters are more valuable to businesses and brands in comparison to your average user. Revesencio has studied this subject in depth. She cites Michael Brito’s article “Study Shows That Early Adopters of Social Media Have Captured Real Economic Value,” as proof of how influential early adopters can be.
Through them, businesses can, according to Brito, “build community and affinity through engagement, earning greater loyalty, spending and referrals.” That early adopters are concentrated in newer social media platforms should represent a gold mine of an opportunity for businesses keen on getting a greater return on their efforts.
Think of yourself as an early adopter
Most companies will play it safe and stick to traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter. By bucking the trend and joining emerging social media platforms, you are positioning your own company as an early adopter.
In doing so, you have a niche but active audience, with few other companies competing for their attention. Thus, you can quickly transition your company from being an early adopter to being a thought leader. One example is how Cadbury used the features of Google+ early on to connect with younger users. Their goal was to get 20,000 followers, but they ended up getting well over 1,000,000 followers.
Revesencio said it best: “Brands and influencers who are early adopters have the edge over their competitors to build their thought leadership early on and actually grow their audience as they consistently provide insights and value to them (whom are also their potential customers).”
Think in terms of community, not promotion
We all have that one Facebook friend (or a handful) who goes a little overboard in boasting about themselves and their lives. Brands can also strike fans the wrong way if all they do is continually promote their products and services.
Instead, businesses should focus on community building. To think in the community-building mindset, Revesencio invoked social media strategist, Ted Rubin. “As he once said, ‘Building community boils down to...listening, planning, engaging, and concentrating on relationships.’"
As an example, she mentioned the bloggers who got more clicks on their sites as well as an increase in the time that those visitors spent on their sites with RebelMouse.
They accomplished this due to the fact that they “focused more on building a community and not just publishing or pushing their own stories.” Other examples of community building include musicians, like Burton Cummings, posting fan reactions to his concerts, along with journalists involving the public in “information gathering, fact-checking, and reporting, so that publishing is no longer one-sided.”
Think in terms of how you can help
While it is indeed no secret that you’re on social media to build your business in some way, you should seek to give value before getting value. In other words, you should seek to help your users and followers in any little way that you can.
Revesencio said it this way. “In a connected world of social media where almost everyone focus more on ‘me’, it pays to provide more value even before you ask for one.” As an example, Revesencio mentioned the legendary customer service of e-commerce retailer, Zappos, as well as Coca-Cola’s recent bid to cease advertisements to support the Haiyan survivors.
“Another example in the region is SingTel,” Revesencio said. “With their #alittlehelp campaign, they send ‘Little Helpers’ to help in life’s little troubles during the Christmas season. Now that's a brand that truly cares.” Such displays are important because “companies often forget that people don't really care about their brand, unless they know the brand cares."
Think in terms of content co-creation
Even if they know some of the benefits discussed above, many companies may still hesitate in exploring alternative social media outlets. They may be deterred by the effort they expect it takes to manage yet another social media account. After all, you have to create content for the new platform, which comes with its own set of rules and conventions. Right? Well, not anymore.
Revesencio emphasized the need for brands to “focus on letting their fans and consumers co-create content and highlight their experiences.” As an example, she cites the instance of “SF Gate asking their users to share San Francisco from their eyes using the hashtag #HowSFSeesSF.”
Another is how “The Wall Street Journal created a Fashion Week hub and Los Angeles News Group saw a 10 to 30% increase in their page views because they’ve showcased their social activities in just one hub.”
Content co-creation not only saves company’s time – it also saves you money. As Revesencio puts it, “As we like to say it at RebelMouse, ‘Don’t buy impressions. Make one.’”
Rappler business columnist Ezra Ferraz graduated from UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for 3 years. He now consults full-time for educational companies in the United States. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Follow him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz