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A Reflection of Online Community

The word community is much more than an overly used buzz term or the title of a television show saved by a group of its fans. Community is part and parcel of your marketing and branding processes and while made easier by technology and social media, cannot stay there. Real life interaction must also occur.

You may be asking what in the blue hell a bunch of PEZ dispensers have to community. Well, all of the dispensers share similarities: they are members of the same group, they share the same area, they’re sharing the same experience and they share the same purpose. While this may be a high-level way of looking at things, this analogy displays the basic characteristics of a community so that we can look further into why its creation is so important. Trust me, there are practical uses for this.

Where Social Media (Marketing) fits in

Any vertical that touts the position of Community Manager has to be one that understands the importance of this particular concept. For a long time, social media wouldn’t stop talking about community, however, in the beginning there was very little explanation for the proverbial newbie. Strangely enough, in the case of the social web this notion is rather intuitive. Social media provides a forum, through technology, where you can cultivate a group of people with various commonalities to discuss any topic. Much of the internet was built with this in mind and the social space is the latest iteration of this idea.

Perfect examples of how business is using the idea of community to build business include NIKE and American Express. As these cases illustrate, these companies tapped into behavioral patterns by a bunch of people in the same virtual area sharing similar experiences and brought them together with a purpose of purchasing which, in this case, was something this group of people was going to do anyway. Developing a campaign in this well thought out and logically strategized manner practically guarantees some sort of success, if not in immediate revenue in Lifetime Customer Value (LCV) and isn’t that what businesses really want when it comes down to it?

So does that mean that we drop everything and become solely digital?

Contrary to popular belief, assimilation is not the goal of community building, at least not in the case of business. The goal is to encourage measureable actions on AND off line. True social activity happens face-to-face – in real life. If you never reach out and touch people in real life, you will easily lose to those who make that connection. Studies tell us that 66 percent of people wish they could spend more time face-to-face rather than “Facebook-to-Facebook,” so to speak. With that said, here’s an overview of one way Nike just does it all the way with social media in conjunction with their product launches:

  1. Follow your nearest Nike (owned) Store on Twitter;
  2. Watch for the store to send a specialized RSVP tweet on the designated RSVP day; and
  3. Respond via direct message with the product specific hashtag, last four digits of your ID number and shoe size.
  4. Confirmed recipients then pick up their Nike footwear in-store at the designated time and date which opens an opportunity for the store to sell additional merchandise.

What you see above demonstrates a full circle, community based campaign beginning in social media and ending in the real world. They found their community, gave them a step-by-step, actionable process in which to reserve and receive the merchandise they wanted in as easy way and then followed through on the promise by delivering on the promise and providing chances to engage with them again. This is how you tap into community and when people reflect on your campaign, they will be amazed out how a little simplicity and doing things for the consumer can be truly rewarding – especially in the long run.

Author bio: Gary J. Nix is a native New Yorker and a marketing specialist at a digital marketing agency. He can also be found expressing his ideas about brand strategy and general pop culture on Twitter at mr_mcfly.

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