Whether it’s your Facebook page, your blog, your Linkedin group, or your private brand community, your social media home base operates like a sports bar.
You first go to a sports bar for the amenities. The TVs. The food. The beer selection. But you return again and again not for the elements that brought you initially, but for the people. The regulars. The characters. The waitresses.
In my pre-fatherhood days, I used to go to a place called Big Daddy’s in north Phoenix. It was a little sketchy, but the food was decent, the beer was cold, and it was within walking distance. Then one Sunday, an ancient regular sitting across from me accidentally caught his oxygen mask on fire while trying to light a cigarette, and created an impromptu flame thrower that almost burned Big Daddy’s down. That’s the kind of humanity that builds loyalty.
Come for the Brand. Stay for the People
Social media is about community. And the connection between your customers and your company isn’t one.
Sure, interest in your brand will get customers to investigate your brand community (as long as you give them a rationale). But unless you facilitate connections between your customers, and let them build bridges between one another, they’ll show up, have a couple drinks, and keep moving.
I’m no visual information genius like David Armano, but I’ll try to represent this difference graphically. Here’s how the relationship between companies and their customers has historically been structured:
Here’s how that relationship changes in social media (which is an improvement, but still not ideal):
How Can You Build a Triangle?
This is what you want. This is a community. This is sustainable:
To build the triangle, you need to find ways to not just humanize your company, but put a spotlight on your customers. How can you get your customers telling the story of your brand from their perspective, not yours? Can you interview your customers? Create a directory of them? Let them help one another solve problems? Introduce them to one another? Encourage them to meet up or tweet up in their own towns?
Make Your Customers the Star, Not the Brand
Here’s an easy, relevant example from The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, a Facebook group for homeschoolers. They feature a member each week, and tell their story via a Facebook note, giving the community the opportunity to learn more about that person and how homeschooling impacts their family.
How can you shine the light on your customers and build a triangle community? What examples have you found?