Most social media managers throw virtual confetti in the air when their page starts to gain fans or followers at an alarming rate, and why not – it is actually great news; more people willing to listen and engage and the client no doubt showering the agency with praise as that’s the infantile metric he’s being measured on from head office.
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The problem is, as you grow, it becomes more challenging to target messaging and appeal to the different demographics and needs of your audience. The community manager and client wants to make sure that the messaging and content from the channel appeals to as many people as possible, and to appeal to the masses, you have to keep your message as simple as possible.
Not only is content the issue, but the platform itself puts up a fair bit of a challenge too. The largest social network, Facebook, allows for very simplified targeting by location, language, gender, relationship status, interested in, age and education status. The problem is that even though the message is targeted, you are still only going to reach a minimal number of those targeted fans.
Facebook has also made changes in algorithms that restrict the ability to reach all of your fans (on average a post reaches between 12-17% of the total fanpage audience). So unless your post receives very high engagement it wont be promoted to more news feeds. This makes the content and community managers’ job harder than ever because they will now have perform a balancing act between the conversations that actually evoke some use for the business and the humorous yet unrelated, ‘vanilla’ update that gets engagement from the masses.
For example, post X asks ‘spot the difference’ or ‘caption the following’. It’s fluff, but it creates a heap of engagement from the masses (keeping it simple) and helps you reach more of your fans.
Post Y asks ways in which the company can improve product A/B/C, where people enjoy purchasing this more, how to improve on services etc. A more challenging question means less engagement as the majority of fans drop off due to barriers to “entry”.
Many brands only post content that resembles the first example, and to be quite frank, I struggle to see why they’re on social. Deriving business value directly from quality feedback from customers is one of the, if not the biggest benefits of social media, and I’m sure you’d agree. The problem is that if you just posted these intensive, high quality feedback posts, you’d reach very few of your fans, and receive very little engagement and in turn Facebook would punish you because, in their view, your content isn’t ‘highly engaged’. It’s a catch 22.
I myself would rather have ten quality comments than 1600 comments saying “Lol”, “I Want diz wan” & “Plz cn I hv ths” (Yes, actual comments we have received on our pages). Facebook however doesn’t feel the same way. It’s about quantity not quality when it comes to content that Facebook believes more people want to see and then rewards with more reach of your fanpage.
Yes there are other platforms. Twitter in some shape or form can get more quality engagement or response. Linked Groups work for some, but if you really want quality, it has to be on an owned channel that allows you to play by your own rules.
I’m not saying let’s fall back into the “build it and they will come” mentality, but rather create an owned community experience outside of Facebook and Twitter where you can create real quality engagement, and have an even closer relationship with your real prosumers. I’ve seen this work really well with online company owned forums and mobile communities. The plus to owned communities also means it’s easier to spot real loyalists and brand activists using gamification elements, and the data is all yours, unlike in the case of Facebook and Twitter.
I think people are more than willing to go somewhere where they can receive quality content and conversation that they want instead of following Facebook or Twitter for the odd bit of content that intrigues. Don’t be shortsighted; plan and decide on how you will activate around an owned community in the next few years. After all, you’re here to get return on your investment, aren’t you?