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Dealers Who Want a True Community on Social Media Have to Create It

If You Want a True Community on Social Media, You Have to Create It

To Get the Customers Truly Engaged, Marketers Have to Get Past 'Likes' and Embrace People's Passions

 

Don't be the one to allow your clients to confuse "community" with social media. Marketers too often mistake tweets, follows or pins about their brand as validation that they are building a community.

 

This past Easter, I experienced community in a profound and refreshing way. I was at church with my family. My nephew and godson, Matthew, is a severely autistic, strapping 16-year-old, and while the priest was conducting Mass, he took it upon himself to run up to the altar to blow out the candles.

 

What happened next surprised me: The priest asked Matthew over and announced to everyone that it was awesome to see one of God's children celebrating the Resurrection. As the priest began to clap, the entire congregation joined in and clapped simultaneously for over a minute in celebration of Easter and of Matthew. It was very emotional, not because Matthew is my family, but because this community in a downtrodden neighborhood in North Jersey joined together in unison.

 

Easter with Matthew made me think of marketers and how they need to be reminded about what real community looks like. After all, from their customers' point of view, interacting online requires minimal effort and many times, minimal thought. Seriously, how much effort goes into a click or share?

 

Marketers also get seduced into thinking that because people buy their product they want to congregate around it. Consider the all-too-common rationale: Since my customers are carbon-based life forms and they purchased my product, shouldn't they be connected to everyone else who also bought my product, and for that matter, shouldn't they engage in interaction with everyone who happens to "like" my product? Are we all deluded into thinking that current fans, followers and others are truly an engaged community? Aren't most of them simply sending virtual high-fives our way in exchange for a promotion?

 

That day in church reinforced the idea for me that the strongest communities are structured around shared beliefs, emotions and goals. They are places we trust and where we're inspired by support to participate. On the social web, marketers have an opportunity to guide and foster powerful exchanges on any number of issues and areas that are relevant to their audience. The most enduring communities are ones that recognize the commonalities of their audiences and embrace their passions.

 

Years ago, my agency was working with SoBe beverages. We aligned the brand with action-sport athletes and health-conscious consumers who cared passionately about their sports and their bodies and thought it was important to give people space to engage with one another and interact with the brand, online and off. This strategy encouraged loyalty and intimacy with the brand and led us to arguably break a new category. For SoBe, it was the right approach because the audience was demanding a forum that celebrated their commonalities.

 

Today, I see MyStarbucksidea.com as an example of solid community building. Starbucks recognized that its customers -- as different as they might be from one another -- were passionate about not just coffee, but the "experience" of being at Starbucks and what might be possible with new products. The community, MyStarbucksIdea.com, continues to generate thousands of ideas and real discussions about ways to improve Starbucks. It's brand listening and consumer co-creation at its best. It works with social media because Starbucks is social: You work there, date there, eat there, cry there and listen to (sometimes) crappy music there.

 

As agencies, we have to be honest with clients and help them figure out how big or small their footprint should be in an ever-expanding social universe. Are we crafting community strategies with the brands' objectives truly in mind? Marketers should take the time to step back, look at how many things their consumers have in common and build social presences around what their customers care about and why they are connecting.

 

Real social media community building isn't simple. It's not an add-water-and-watch-it-grow kind of activity. It took my nephew and a North Jersey parish at Easter to reinforce for me this very basic truth.


Written by Anthony DelMonte 

Source: http://adage.com

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony DelMonte is founder and president of Squeaky Wheel Media, New York.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: 

One of the main reasons why I wanted to share Anthony DelMonte's excellent and sincerely genuine article with the ADM "Community" is because it made me think back to early February 2008 and my first experience with the reality of a social media "Community" in real life... After working on the site set up and initial design during most of the month of December 2007, I pulled the trigger and took AutomotiveDigitalMarketing.com live using an older version of the current platform on January 3, 2008.  Since I had already booked a suite at the Marriott Hotel close to the San Francisco Convention Center, where the 2008 NADA Convention was being held, and as my personal address book yielded more and more people joining the ADM network, I used the site to announce that ADM would have a reception for its members at my suite in the Marriott during the 2008 NADA Convention...

The results of sending the invitation to all ADM members was something along the lines of "Shock and Awe"... My suite was over flowing with new ADM Members, many of whom, the reception provided my first opportunity to meet in person.  Having sincerely wondered if I should even order some food and beverages, because I was concerned that nobody would show, I was sooooo surprised that so many ADM members showed up! Yet, over 100 ADM Members showed up that night, even though we only had about 500 total members at that time... That was the moment when I realized what had happened was the comming together of a genuine, authentic "Community"... That was when I added the words "Professional Community" to ADM and titled what we have to this day as the "Automotive Digital Marketing Professional COMMUNITY".  Since then, I have had numerous opportunities to experience the benefits of being part of this most genuine of communities, and like Anthony points out, all of us who are members of ADM have the opportunity to "...guide and foster powerful exchanges on any number of issues and areas that are relevant to their audience".

Thank you to all 4,000+ members for being part of OUR community, and please know that I take the role of being your "Editor-in-Chief" VERY seriously and am committed to the aspects of this online experiment which have created much value for so many community members.

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Tags: Automotive Social, Car Dealer, Community, Create, Marketing, Social Media, True

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Comment by David Johnson on April 30, 2012 at 7:26am

This is a great discussion Ralph and Larry. Larry you hit on an important point and that is to find something you love talking about. It can be anything really, it doesn't even have to align with the dealerships goals, not necessarily.

I've worked with a dealer who lives in city that had a few really big non-profits, we worked to create awareness and help these non-profits and before we knew it people in the community were connecting the dealership with philanthropy. The reason it worked so well is because we didn't take away from the community involvement and try to sell cars, instead we became part of the solution and brought others on board. These charities were something that people were passionate about, something that people wanted to connect around.

From there we created other communities, surrounding other social objects. We created one around local sports and even local schools (education). The whole idea is so become part of the community, to connect around an already social object and bring people together. This builds reputation, creates word-of-mouth and influences customer loyalty.

As I said, way down there in my first comment. All social objects have 3 things in common, they are:

  1. Conversational: people want to talk and have conversations with other people connected with the social object.
  2. Brings People Together: people want to be around other people that are connected with the social object. They feel part of a community, that they belong with each other.
  3. Talk Worthy: people feel the desire to tell other people, who may not know about the social object, so that they, in turn, become part of the community.

Once a dealer knows this, its just a matter of research when figuring out what to connect and build community around.

Comment by Larry Bruce on April 30, 2012 at 5:27am

EXACTLY my point Ralph! The communities you have seen have success the leader shared the passion for the community and lived it. 

As I said in my comment on Ad Age "You want to start a community or help a client start one?"

"Find something you love and start talking about it if there is a community there it will build itself with love and attention you give it."

Again Ralph, thanks for sharing.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 29, 2012 at 2:39pm

Larry, I do not disagree with your comment, but I do believe that developing and growing a community is a viable endeavor in much the same way that a farmer grows crops... Sure, the farmer is not responsible for the genetics contained within the seeds he/she plants, but without the farmer's care, nurturing and oversight (such as weeding activities) the crop will never reach its fullest potential from a yield perspective... Likewise, we have all seen many different businesses endeavor to grow and nurture their communities, most of them failing with a few succeeding, such as what Anthony points out.  I myself have assisted over 600 dealers in developing their own online social media based communities and have seen a full continuum of success... From nothing to extraordinary.  The deciding factors were most definitely NOT what everybody seems to want to identify, such as brands sold, location, etc., but success has almost always been more closely associated with participation by people, a sense of what is best for the community being grown and a freedom from heavy handed marketing, censorship or commercialization.  So, my point is that an element of community "fabric" must certainly exist for anybody to curate, foster and grow a social media based online community, but there is no doubt that the right actions and leadership will more effectively grow a community beyond what may have originated when the concept was conceived.

Comment by Larry Bruce on April 29, 2012 at 7:31am

Ralph this is a very moving story and a great example of how a community comes together to support a member in need.

However I have to say:

“You cannot create a community; a community is already there the best you can hope for is they let you help them do what they are already doing better.”

Ralph you didn’t create the community of Automotive Digital Marketing Professionals, that community already existed. What you did was to help them do what THEY wanted to do better…Share.

You provided a platform and the community built itself as more people shared content and more people shared the community the community grew.

Same with MyStarrbucksidea.com: Starbucks didn’t CREATE that community it was already there, they gave that community a platform and more importantly a voice to help make something they love better. They in turn shared that platform with others and the community grew and built itself.

“You don't embrace peoples passions… you share them! People who help build a community don't EMBRACE their passion they share it and they live it”

There is no strategy for community builders. The only agenda they have is to help and be a part of that community, because it makes them feel good to do so.

That said I have to respectfully disagree with Anthony DelMonte to a point.

There is no such thing as community building and it IS somewhat like an add-water-and-watch-it-grow kind of activity with a lot of love and nurturing …IF… there really was a community there at all.

Just my thoughts, thanks for the share. 

Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 28, 2012 at 8:01pm

One of the main reasons why I wanted to share Anthony's article with the ADM "Community" is because it made me think back to early February 2008 and my first experience with the reality of a social media "Community" in real life... After working on it during most of the month of December 2007, I took AutomotiveDigitalMarketing.com live on this platform on January 3, 2008.  I had already booked a suite at the Marriott Hotel close to the San Francisco Convention center and as my personal address book yielded more and more people joining ADM< I announced that we would have a reception for ADM Members at my suite in the Marriott during the 2008 NADA Convention... The results were something along the lines of "Shock and Awe"! My suite was over flowing with ADM Members, many of which provided my first opportunity to meet them in person.  I was sooooo suprised that anybody at all showed up! Yet, over 100 ADM Members showed up that night, even though we only had about 500 total members at that time... That was the moment when I realized what had happened was the creation of a genuine, authentic "Community"... That was when I added the words "Professional Community" to ADM and titled what we have to this day as the "Automotive Digital Marketing Professional COMMUNITY".  Since then, I have had numerous opportunities to experience the benefits of being part of a genuine community, and like Anthony points out, all of us who are members of ADM have the opportunity to "guide and foster powerful exchanges on any number of issues and areas that are relevant to their audience".

Comment by Jason Manning on April 28, 2012 at 7:19pm

Love it!  The Automotive Community must embrace Genuiness and Honesty at all times.  Face your customers, look them in the eye, embrace them and participate with real actions and thoughts.  The results may be unimaginable.  We have to bring trust and care, together.

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on April 28, 2012 at 4:41pm

Thanks Ralph, Great share.

Comment by Jim Radogna on April 28, 2012 at 3:57pm

This post is absolutely BRILLIANT! Thanks for sharing it Ralph.

Comment by David Johnson on April 28, 2012 at 3:03pm

Wow Anthony (Ralph). This is something that is very near and dear to me. Most business, dealerships especially, lack the social "stickiness" to influence a passionate community around itself. I've written extensively on social objects:

All social objects have 3 things in common, they are:

  1. Conversational: people want to talk and have conversations with other people connected with the social object.
  2. Brings People Together: people want to be around other people that are connected with the social object. They feel part of a community, that they belong with each other.
  3. Talk Worthy: people feel the desire to tell other people, who may not know about the social object, so that they, in turn, become part of the community.

When you're able to create a community strategy that aligns with the goals of the business, while connecting with an already social, object then you are well on your way to creating a true community. When working with a dealership or other business I like to ask myself 3 questions in order to find a social object(s) worth connecting around:

  1. What social causes can be supported by the use of the product and/or service.
  2. What lifestyles are supported or made easier through the use of the product or service.
  3. What are our customers passionate about that relate to the use of our product or service.

Again, great post!

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