Getting people to talk is often a perplexing task. Getting people to talk about your brand and engage with it on any meaningful level is even harder. If you’ve struggled with conventional social media marketing, then you already know how difficult it is to hold people’s attention, or even acquire it in the first place. With fake engagement being a serious problem thanks to the plenitude of fake profiles and automated response suggestions, it’s only getting harder to use social media to build real and lasting relationships with customers. But community brands take a different approach by focussing on the engagement metrics that matter most.
Understanding what matters
Before they can build an engaged customer community, brands first need to understand what constitutes engagement. And no, it’s not follower counts on social media or likes on posts. These metrics are becoming increasingly meaningless given the nature of mainstream online social channels. Just because someone follows your business page doesn’t mean they’ll have any further interaction with your brand. One of the reasons for this is that it’s getting harder to get noticed in people’s newsfeeds without spending lots on sponsored advertising. Similarly, likes don’t translate into meaningful engagement. Share your latest blog post on Facebook or Twitter, and you’ll see why – most of the time, you’ll get many times more ‘likes’ than people actually clicking on the link.
So, what really sets engagement apart from vanity metrics? Here are the metrics that matter most to community brands:
- Retention metrics refer to the number of people who return to your community within a specific timeframe.
- Active users, which may be measured daily, weekly, or monthly, refers to the number of unique visitors over specific period.
- Session length is the amount of time visitors spend in your community. Remember, most members will prefer to ‘lurk’, consuming, rather than posting content.
- UGC percentage is the percentage of user-generated content, or posts and other content created by your users rather than the brand. Higher is almost always better!
You can’t expect to build engagement if you’re an outsider. What makes community brands successful is that they’re consistently present in their networks, actively engaging with users and showing their appreciation for their involvement. This itself is a reward, since there’s no faster way to kill an online community than by silently watching over your members. After all, no one wants to be ignored.
Successful communities foster peer-to-peer support and relationships by recognising constructive participation and active engagement. Say, for example, a member goes to the trouble of writing an insightful post, a how-to guide, or a suggestion for a future product. They want to be recognised for their efforts, hence the need to highlight user-generated content.
Choosing a community platform with the right feature set can help with this process too. For example, a reputation system provides a fun and competitive element that taps into our innate psychology to encourage people to get involved. This might be something as simple as the ‘like’ button found in almost every major social network or a more sophisticated system of ranks, points and badges.
Another way community brands engage and reward their customers is by running contests. A contest doesn’t always have to feature an expensive prize – it could just be about getting featured on the community homepage. Most people enjoy public recognition for their efforts, so contests don’t even have to cost a thing. In fact, the video games industry does it all the time where many companies offer eSports or modding contests. For many people, winning is ample reward.
Keeping people informed
Posting a comment in an online community is one thing, but it’s the comments that give rise to insightful conversations that really count. That’s why notifications are the glue that keeps a community together and encourages members to come back for more. It enables interaction and validation by reminding people when they receive responses to their posts so they can keep coming back to partake in the conversation. You can’t expect to keep the conversation alive if participants aren’t regularly informed.
The ease of keeping informed is one of the main reasons it’s so important to have a mobile-friendly community, preferably in the form of an app that can send push notifications. Since most smartphone owners keep their devices on them all the time, this makes it as easy for them to engage as having a chat on WhatsApp.