Grow your community with social network software that doesn’t leave you wanting more
Is social media software really all it’s cracked up to be?
The truth is; it depends. If you think getting on the social media bandwagon is all about opening a Facebook business page and posting happily away, you’ll probably end up disappointed. But you probably also know you can’t run a successful modern brand without a community.
With all the competition, you’ve got to do everything you can to get noticed. And then you’ve got to keep your audience engaged when attention spans are at an all-time low. That’s why having the right social network software is so important.
What is social network software?
Things used to be easier, back when social media was still a novelty. Businesses would flock to the big networks, set up their pages, and build their communities.
For a while, it worked, at least up to a point.
But then things like algorithm changes started getting in the way. Social media teams would have to learn new skills so they could adapt to these changes. Many found their audiences dwindling as their posts went unnoticed. And let’s not forget about the big scandals like the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica one, which has left people fuming over the way social media is violating their privacy.
Why you should be using your own social network software
Even if the major social channels are still popular, you can’t be active on all of them all the time. It’s not long before it becomes a massive time sink.
With your own social network software, you don’t have to keep up with lots of others vying for attention. You get to keep your own branding, and you don’t have to worry about algorithm changes ruining your day. You’re the one in control.
So, which social network software is right for you? We hope today’s article will help you figure out the answer to this not-so-simple question!
#1. Who are you doing this for… and why?
If you answered with my customers, because social media is where they’re all hanging out, you’d be correct. After all, half of the world’s population now uses social media. But given the amount of strategy and creativity social media demands, you’re going to need a bit more to go on!
Businesses used to make decisions without much input from their customers. Now, with everyone being spoiled for choice and distractions everywhere they turn, even loyal customers can sway from the path. That’s why you have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Then, the question becomes what do my customers want, and how can I help them?
Sure, brands invest in social media to promote their products and services, grow awareness, and increase website traffic. Now look at these factors from a potential customer’s point of view, and the priorities change:
I want an easier way to access the products and services I love
I want to connect with other customers to share insights and experiences
I want to find what I’m looking for quickly and easily
They’re the main reasons people follow brand pages, but social network software can be so much more. Here’s a few more:
I want to leave feedback where it will actually get seen
I want to connect with people I have something in common with
I want to get support without having to wait in line on a phone call
I want a safe community space away from the spammers and trolls
I want to enjoy social media, but I don’t want the ad networks tracking me
When you create a social network of your own, you can do all these things without having to play by someone else’s rules. Start by exploring the needs and desires of your ideal customer. Put yourself in their shoes, draw up some audience personas, and learn how they engage with your competitors on social media. Better yet, carry out a survey, publish a poll on your website, or just ask straight up next time you have the opportunity. Most of the time, people will be grateful you asked. Once you understand your customer, you’ll be on your way towards building a community which will become one of your most valuable assets.
#2. Find your people, and rally them together
The most effective social media strategies are all about reaching the right people at the right time. Ask yourself which social channels your target audience is already using. Then, figure out what these existing networks are lacking. Finally, using social network software, build your own community to fill the void.
Here’s a deeper look:
If you have customers, then you already have a community of sorts. They’ll be talking about your brand on social media, consumer review websites, and online forums. If you already have a following on social media, then that’s a good place to start. The more engaged they are, the easier it will be to get them to join your own social network.
Look at how people are engaging with your business on other social platforms. And when we say engagement, we don’t mean pointless metrics such as likes and follows. We’re referring to things like comments and shares. Are they actually talking to you? And, more importantly, are you listening? Learn what are people saying about you, and how they’re using social media to get in touch.
Here are the main reasons people follow brand pages:
Find special offers
Research new things to buy
Join events and contests
Look for customer support
Pick the reasons that matter to you and your customers, and look at how they’re using social media to achieve their goals. Chances are, there’ll be lots of opportunities for improvement!
The problem with social media
Social media is undeniably huge – almost half of the world’s population is using it! But that’s exactly the problem. It’s become so enormous that it’s hard for any community to keep its focus. Brands are having a harder time than ever getting heard on networks like Facebook, and engagement rates are dropping all the time. According to Statista, they’re now down to 3.41%, and that’s mostly just ‘likes’, which don’t mean much anyway. In other words, you can expect only 3.41% of your followers to pay any attention to what you post.
Seems like a pretty poor deal, doesn’t it?
The reasons for this are simple. The familiar social networks aren’t there to help you grow your brand. They’re in it for themselves. They’re the world’s biggest advertising machines, and they sure aren’t interested in giving your company a free ride. On Facebook, recent algorithm changes mean brand pages are no longer nearly as visible as they once were. That works great for Facebook, since it encourages businesses to invest more in paid ads. In other words, they’re the ones in control; not you.
You might think we’ve been a bit harsh on the big social networks. After all, chances are you’ve already invested time and money into one or more of the above. Perhaps you’ve even enjoyed some success with them, but the next big step is to create a social network of your own; one you have full control over. The big networks still offer a way to learn about your target audience and raise visibility. But when it comes to building a real community, they have limited value. You also need to rally your people together under a common interest or shared goal, and that’s not likely to happen when you’re competing alongside a million other voices. Perhaps then, it’s time to try something new?
#3. Be different, but be consistent
It’s easy to be seduced by the big numbers when it comes to social media. But what really defines a successful brand community? Hint: it’s not member counts!
What matters is how your members engage with your community. Instead of chasing follower counts and likes, you should consider relationships; real interactions that matter.
Of course, it’s hard to quantify real human relationships, but a quick glance at the familiar social networks will show you what they’re not. Real relationships aren’t defined by people clicking the ‘like’ button on a brand page. They’re defined by conversations, friendships, and all the other behaviours you’d expect from an actual community of real people.
It all comes down to being different.
Every brand has its own identity and goals, and every customer has their own needs. An online community is much more than just a glorified mailing list where you spend your days battling for attention. It’s about bringing people together around your brand, in a similar way to how a music festival brings music lovers of a certain genre together.
So, what makes your brand different?
Let’s look at an example. Say you run a fitness business. Outside the gym, you might rely on Facebook to provide updates, promote events, and give your trainees a place to keep in touch.
But it’s not working how you hoped it would. Trainees aren’t engaging with your posts. Most are probably not even seeing them. Your events are going unnoticed, and attendance is at an all time low. Everyone’s distracted by the bombardment of ads published by every other brand than your own. They’re unable to keep on topic because of overcrowded newsfeeds, and you feel your only option left is to invest in paid advertising just to get noticed.
In sectors like education, professional coaching, and personal training, the one-to-many approach doesn’t work so well anymore. People tend to work and learn better as a team. Now, imagine you could actually bring your classes online and have a community where your people could come together, help each other out, and get actively involved online like they do offline. Add livestreaming, subscriptions, and online payments into the mix, and you can even offer classes remotely all through your own social media app.
If you create a social network app of your own, you can do all those things.
Find your purpose, and bring it to life
If you create a social network website or app yourself, you’re the one in control of the user experience. You don’t have to spend all your efforts trying to compete with a hundred million others, and you can keep your brand at the forefront of your buyer’s minds.
Branding is all about consistency, and brand communities are no exception. With the familiar networks, your brand ends up playing second fiddle to the networks’ owners. Facebook’s branding, for example, will still be the most visible thing on a Facebook business page, no matter how much you try to customise your page.
If you use your own social network software, you can truly build something that’s your own, with all the features and functionality your members want. Best of all, it will offer a familiar experience for anyone who’s used to social media, but with the added benefit of a real and functional community!
There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to social network software. But while the familiar networks make it easy to set up a community, they fall short when it comes to actually engaging with your members. Still, that doesn’t mean you need to create a social network website or app from scratch. A white-label app gives you a blank slate that helps you get up and running in no time. You also get to apply your own branding and choose the features that matter to you.
- Decide who you’re building your community for and why
- Learn about your target audience on the big social networks
- Choose a platform that helps you overcome the challenges
- Build something unique to the benefit of your target audience