The safety and wellbeing of customers is a top priority of any responsible company, yet many take online safety for granted. It’s easy to assume that no one is going to come to any real harm when they’re just browsing the web or updating their social media profiles. Unfortunately, mainstream social media presents a raft of threats to both people’s digital security and privacy and even to their physical wellbeing. In the end, whether or not your customers have a safe community platform experience has a direct impact on brand reputation.

Today, trust in social media is at an all-time low, and it’s not showing any signs of recovering. In an age when social media marketing is supposed to be all the rage, brands in particular are taking a hit. As the public wakes up to serious issues like cyberbullying, online privacy, fake news and the misappropriation of data, many companies are finding themselves teetering on the precipice of change where they don’t quite know which step to take next. They need the visibility that comes with social media, but it’s also a challenge that comes at an increasingly high cost.

With legislation like GDPR coming into force, brands are under increasing pressure to become transparent about the way they collect and use data. With Facebook potentially facing a fine of £1.25 billion for failing to comply, it shouldn’t be hard to see why social media has become a difficult environment to work with. Add to that problems such as rampant cyberbullying, social engineering scams and fake news, and companies using social media risk becoming part of the problem whether they like it or not. Instead of making meaningful engagements with their customers, there’s a good chance they’ll end up spending more time trying to navigate the pitfalls of social media. All that leads to is wasted money and decreased satisfaction.

It’s time for a change. It’s time for brands to take back control and, in doing so, leverage the opportunity to improve the wellbeing of their customers. That’s why private communities are the obvious next step in the evolution of social media.

Build a safe community platform that you own and control

Until recently, companies relied heavily on social media to proliferate in front of audiences in the millions. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before those social media pages were inundated with fake followers, disengaged ‘fans’ and a near-complete lack of direction. To overcome these challenges, brands would have (and, often, still have) full-fledged social media teams fighting a constant battle to reach their target audiences through all the noise.

While there’s still no denying the value of the major social networks for increasing visibility in the first place, they’re certainly not the be-all and end-all when it comes to building meaningful relationships. In fact, they’re just plain bad for that. This is partly due to the fact that you have minimal control. Sure, you can remove troublesome followers, but you can also end up having to spend more time doing that than actually engaging with the people who want to hear from you. The major social networks are facing an ongoing battle to combat things like fake news, hate speech, cyberbullying and scams but, the thing is, it’s not your battle. Instead, by shifting your attention from social media to private communities over which you have complete control, you can greatly ease the administrative burden and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of your members.

With a private brand community, you can also apply your own security and privacy standards. No longer do you have to worry about third parties selling your data to advertisers, potentially leading to a breach of GDPR. This places you in control over the wellbeing of your members which, in turn, means more control over your brand. Now that privacy concerns are driving large numbers of people away from mainstream social media, that in itself presents a major value proposition to your new members.

Two girls on the sunset with their thumbs up

Create exclusivity to drive outstanding value

To create an effective community comprised of engaged members and brand advocates, it’s a good idea to follow the less-is-more principle. Creating a close-knit and exclusive community doesn’t just help foster sense of belonging and increase engagement rates; it also makes the experience safer for its members and the brand itself. As far as brand reputation is concerned, you have more control over your community, and smaller, more private communities are safer and easier to look after.

Think of it as the digital analogue of a big city versus a small market town. Crime, for example, tends to be a substantially bigger problem in the big city, not only because there are more people, but also because it’s easier to disappear among the masses. In a similar way, you’re going to have a much harder time trying to create exclusivity and have a positive influence on the wellbeing of your members when you’re working with a pool of over 2.2 billion active users on Facebook.

Exclusivity delivers a better experience for everyone. By participating in a niche environment where everyone shares a common interest, real and meaningful engagement is all the more likely. Both this and the fact that the community exists in its own self-contained safe community platform that’s under the complete control of the brand make it much easier to manage. Trolling, spamming, cyberbullying and other issues that are rife on public social networks will rarely, if ever, arise. This increased safety and sense of wellbeing will in itself encourage members to participate, especially since they’ll know who they’re really talking to.

Final words

The wellbeing of your customers is on the frontline of your brand’s reputation. The proverbial minefield that is public social media makes it harder than ever to maintain a healthy community where engagement is strong, and sentiment is confident. Instead, brands can build their own digital communities to enjoy greater control over their reputations and the safety and wellbeing of their members. It might take some effort, but taking the following steps will bring a return on investment you could never hope to achieve otherwise:

  1. Take back control over your community by building a safe community platform of your own
  2. Build an exclusive club that offers true value and relevance to its members
  3. Prioritise meaningful engagement over membership counts
  4. Make privacy and security part of your value proposition

Disciple safe community platform helps people build independent, valuable and trusted communities in a safe space that they own and control. Start building your safe community platform today.