Why Not Just Use Social Media for Your Online Community?
Take the Road Less Traveled
We all have a tendency to follow the path of least resistance. It is human nature and in some instances that path of least resistance is the most effective and efficient option. That easier way out is not always the smartest tactic, however. And if you are building a community for your organization or cause, the natural tendency is to utilize an existing tool (that’s the path of least resistance) and many successful organizations do exactly that.
Creating a private group on Facebook or LinkedIn is a perfectly acceptable route to start a community of like-minded individuals, but we would argue it is not the optimal route to start a successful and valuable resource for your organization. Let’s take a quick look at pros and cons for each option and you be the judge.
Benefits of Traditional Social Media Groups
Pricing (as in free). A very seductive attribute to any savvy shopper is the concept of free and that is exactly what social media groups are. But, as we have all learned (and mostly the hard way), you get what you pay for.
Pre-populated. It would be unfair to not recognize that a significant portion of your audience is already registered on at least one, if not many, of the traditional social media platforms. But guess what is also pre-populated on those platforms? Competing interest groups and lots of other fun and distracting content.
Ubiquitous. For better or for worse, traditional social media is hard to avoid. These apps and sites can be found on nearly every laptop, desktop, phone, tablet and wearable device on planet earth. Which begs the question, are you sure you want your community to be a single grain sand on that massive beach (so to speak)?
Simplicity. Silicon Valley engineers are good, maybe the best, at making their applications very easy to use. Whether you’re a teenager online all-day every-day or a retiree who only uses a few apps, traditional social media platforms make it painless to get started.
Disadvantages of Traditional Social Media Groups
Distractions. This has to be the least discussed downside of social media. Your organization’s messaging is competing with the world’s largest brands, plus your member’s friends, family, colleagues, frenemies, teammates, pets, hobbies and much, much more. The idea of capturing sustained attention in that type of environment is almost laughable, at least to us. Stories, posts, photos and videos fly through personal feeds in the blink of an eye and the stream of content is endless.
Branding. Your ‘online community’ is represented with a small headline and that’s about it. The balance of the branding goes to the social media platform you are borrowing the online space from.
Ownership. Traditional social media does not provide access to your member’s data, in any fashion, period. Consequently, you are not able to fully understand who your members are and those large platforms then sell your member’s behavioral data to the highest bidder to enhance their bottom line.
Volatility. If you communicate with your members on a traditional social media platform, you are at the mercy of that entity. Let’s use Twitter as a recent example. Many users have indicated that they will no longer use Twitter due to their change in leadership. If that platform is your primary community tool, the end result could certainly be perceived as negative for your organization.
Bots & Bloat. Face the reality: traditional social media platforms are chock full of inauthentic accounts and non-human users. This reality often equals out to an unengaged audience that provides no real value, outside of vanity metrics on a report.
We can now finish up this conversation with a list of reasons why a dedicated online community is the superior option versus traditional social media groups. Overall, you will realize more options and more collaboration when you own the space. Take a look at the reasons below and let us know what you think.
Events. Plan, execute and recap in-person or virtual events is a powerful way to build community. Manage RSVPs, communicate with registered attendees and host your event right inside of your community. Try accomplishing that on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Profiles. Customize the shareable information for each member of your community to the needs of your organization. Custom fields for accomplishments, certifications, and personal information can be tailored to your specifications. Ask Facebook to update the fields on your member’s profile - we would love to know how that conversation goes.
Storytelling. A branded and dedicated online community provides the flexibility and unique tools necessary to authentically tell the story of your organization. Features like deep emotional tagging on video posts cannot be found on traditional platforms.
Conversations. Instead of simply posting content and hoping for a few ‘likes’, exclusive communities provide the ideal environment for members to truly express themselves in the form of conversational threads and not quick, limited-character responses.
Moderation. Build your community to the exact specifications of your organization. Control which groups and individuals have access to certain content or sections of the community. This feature is especially important to educational programs and organizations dedicated to sensitive topics.
Knowledge. Here is a novel thought: thoroughly understand who is part of your community. A robust online community provides the ability to analyze audience data and metrics for a robust understanding of your members. Your organization can then utilize this information to deliver customized content and experiences for the entire community or targeted groups.
Networking. Leverage custom controls to play matchmaker between members and create meaningful connections. The ability to pair students with educators or participants with coaches is the ultimate purpose of an online community and these tools are simply not available via traditional social media platforms.
Interested in hearing from an online community specialist? UpSquad can help turn your traditional social media group into a thriving and robust online community branded for your organization. Contact us to learn more.