Top 40 Business Tips #24: Build an Online Community


Many companies are missing the point on social media. The key objective should be to build an online community that brings your customer close to you — to build affinity.

Yet many companies, it seems, are just dabbling in social media and web 2.0. Erin Byrne from Burson-Marsteller looked at the social media use of the Forutner 100 companies and found that 79 percent used only one social media mechanism. Most chose Twitter, probably because it’s easy and doesn’t involve excessive content creation.

It can also be perceived as largely a one-way mechanism. It’s the closest social media offers to the old-style corporate approach of pushing messages out to an eager and grateful public!

Times have changed, of course, and people want to get involved. That means there needs to be a ready mechanism for them to respond to what you post, to provide their own thoughts and bring in discussions that might not always be positive about your brand.

Even the government is open to this approach — sort of! Nicholas Gruen says he chaired the Government 2.0 Taskforce to help develop more effective ways for the public to engage with our politicians.

Ian Farmer says engagement is a crucial part of a social media plan. Companies need to listen, find ways to engage and only then can they influence.

I believe companies have little choice but to head down this road of opening up their companies for discussion with their community of users. Jon Bird from retail consultancy IdeaWorks points to the Joe66 factor, where a shopper is more likely to believe a product review from an anonymous online source than they are to listen to a recommendation from a salesperson on the shop floor.

Clearly companies need to find a way of being part of this huge online discussion. If people are going to talk about you, surely you want to be involved!

First published on CBS News

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