Brands have always weaved their marketing and communication strategy around consumer behavior. So it was never an option for brands not to try and build strong social media presence. As per statistics available there are 3 billion active Internet users of which of which Nearly 2.1 billion people have social media accounts. The game seemed simple, be present where your consumer is and try to get maximum mindshare and eyeballs.Among various social media platforms Facebook has the lion share of user base, there are nearly 1.4 billion active users, i.e. 47% of all Internet users. The rest viz Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest have 316 million, 300 million, 300 million, 100 million active users. Almost every brand which has a digital presence in form of website, mobile app or otherwise has presence on social media platforms too.The larger objective of every brand to be on social media, whether it’s said or unsaid is to build a strong community of brands consumers and nurture them into brand loyalist and advocates.The Bait:For social media platforms it’s an absolute sweet situation. On one hand they been able to give consumers or their users at large the comfort of creating their own virtual social space and now the user base is completely addicted to the offering. On the other hand they opened up avenues for the brands to create their presence on the same platform and gave them access to the user base.The Plot Thickens:For the users of social media it’s a free platform but if you observe closely it’s not the same for the brands. They can set up presence for free but if you wish to reach out to the larger section of the user base on these platforms they have to pay. Well there no free lunches are they?The Challenge:It’s a known fact that weather on ground or online consumer is always the king. He or she will and does like and follow multiple brands on multiple social platforms. The way I see it consumers are free to flirt with any number of brands on social media platforms with no necessitated commitment to any one brand in particular.The flirtatious behavior of social media users makes it even more difficult for the brands to identify who are the true fans. The one you believe is your true brand loyalist might as well be sleeping with your enemy.For brands these days it’s getting increasingly difficult to reach out to not just the social media platform user base but also their own brand page user base organically.Sample this:“Let’s take Facebook as an example to examine this further. Each time a user logs onto Facebook, there are 1,500 stories on average that could appear in a person’s News Feed. Presumably people have lots of friends and Page likes, hence as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time a user logs on.It is said that the total number of Pages liked by a Facebook user has grown by more than 50% last year.News Feed on Facebook is designed to show each user the content that’s most relevant to them. News Feed displays approximately 300 stories out of the 1,500+ stories a user might see whenever they log onto Facebook.”One of the articles suggests that Facebook pages with more than 1 million likes saw average post reach of just 2.27%, with 11.64 % of those users engaging with the post.Social media advertising spends are no longer low focus spends, they are more of a mainstream online spend. This spend is coupled with cost of creating quality content to be shared on these platforms makes it even more serious concern.To sum it up the challenge is two pronged;
- Getting the undivided attention of your consumer on various social platforms.
- So called branded communities on social platform being inconsequential.
So Is It The Death Of Social Media For Brands?Well I am making no such tall claims. Brands can never take the risk of not engaging with its consumers on the social media platforms. However it’s about time that brands small, medium and large think beyond social media for online community building and engagements.So How Are Brands Building Community Beyond Social Media?The fact is a few of the brands are already strategizing and addressing this by building their own customized communities online. Some are calling it forums. I can hear many of you saying that there isn’t anything new about this. It's true concept of forums isn’t new but it’s just that they are now being reinvented and finding relevance.Social media platforms are ideally turning into hunting and fostering grounds to identify a brand's true fan. Once identified you direct the fans to join the brand's exclusive community or forums. Once you have been able to migrate them to the forums it’s easier for you as a brand to not only have a more customized communication but also get undivided attention of your fans. Then begins the journey of turning them into true brand advocates.