Taking advantage of earned media - the extra exposure that comes when consumers talk about your brand online and off -hinges on actually getting these consumers motivated enough to talk about your brand in the first place. A social media community can be a way to generate this conversion.With it, you can provide your consumer base with a place to talk about your brand as well as help those who might be interested in your brand learn more about it, hopefully affecting their purchase-making decisions.
While your brand might already have sites and user forums dedicated to it and serving as gathering places for consumers to share their brand experiences, establishing your own online community provides your brand enthusiasts with a direct means to interact with and learn about your brand, adding to your credibility among your consumer fan base. It also enables your social site as a valued online destination because your brand will be able to provide the kind of firsthand information that other fan-operated social media sites cannot.
The conversations that take place on a social media community site provide an excellent way for you to share your brand's internal expertise with the user commentators already talking about the brand out in the real world. The discussion among consumers as well as between these consumers and your brand can also help position your brand as a leader in responsive communication with its clientele.
Your brand can feed its community via dedicated staff who are charged with keeping the flow of information and conversation going. It's also possible that senior executives and even retired members of your brand's rank and file can join in the community and further deepen the connection between your brand and its customer base. If you do commit to building a community, it must be a true commitment. The community should not be viewed as if it were a short social media campaign. It needs to be a permanent entity feeding the interest and stirring the conversation of your brand's fans. It can serve as a focal point to help keep these brand-engaged consumers up to date. The site should share information and encourage communication, and it needs to be controlled by its participants.
[Contributed by Emily Van Winkle]