Your Community Needs You…

by Jon Fortgang, Figaro Digital

…But only if you listen, provide meaningful content, engage wholeheartedly and without cynicism and reward users for theirtime. Otherwise no one’s really that interested. We asked experts from across the digital marketing industry how to cultivate relationships that work for everyone.

Sinead Doyle, Social Media Strategist at Essence: If You Closed Your Social Channels, Would Anyone Notice?


What role can community engagement play in achieving business objectives?

I think this is the wrong question. What role can your business play in achieving the community’s objectives? What is a community, anyway? It’s more than just a bunch of people who all happened to click ‘Like’ on a brand page. A real community shares something important: a goal, a passion, a sense of trust and togetherness. Most brand social channels totally fail to create that feeling of belonging because they’re too busy focusing on sales and their own KPIs. A good start is to flip this on its head and ask what your brand is doing for the people who care about it.

What do you think are the key challenges facing brands who want to grow their communities in 2014?

Paid social is going to become increasingly necessary to sustain reach on Facebook. Brands need to decide if this is a game they want to keep playing. As Facebook reaches saturation point in terms of its own desktop and mobile ad inventory, we’ll start to see the Facebook mobile ad network emerge, with Facebook data powering ads on other mobile apps. Marketers will need to decide where to put their budget: mobile, social, or mobile-social? Social ads are going to spread from their native platforms to the rest of the internet. Google+ will power socially enabled ads on the GDN (Google Display Network). Brands need to experiment with these new formats and find out what works.

How do you recommend measuring the value of a community?

One simple question: would it make any difference to your business if it disappeared? Take GiffGaff – without their community, the network couldn’t operate. For most brands, you could close their owned social channels and no one would even notice.


Justine Roberts, Co-founder and CEO at Mumsnet: Engage But Don’t Broadcast

Improvise. When I first started Mumsnet I used to post on the site under many different aliases. I was effectively talking to myself for a while. Don’t pre-moderate posts. Many of our users post in the middle of the night when they’re breastfeeding, feeling a bit exhausted and overwhelmed. We want to give them the support they need immediately. Pre-moderating posts would slow the process down.

Engage, but don’t broadcast. While we make an effort to surface funny, useful content, our aim is to start a dialogue with the people who visit our site. We believe that by pooling knowledge we can make parents’ lives better.

Encourage civility. It’s important that Mumsnet is a trusted space where people want to spend a lot of time. We don’t allow personal attacks or hate speech on the site.

Protect your users’ data. We urge people to be cautious about how much information they reveal about themselves. Most of our users are anonymous. This is important when people are revealing their innermost

Publicise and celebrate your community. I’ve done a lot of media to spread the word about Mumsnet. In the first year I wrote a column of sorts called the ‘The Diary of a Dotcom Start-Up’ for the Times Magazine and I’ve done a lot more press since.

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Tania Seif, Head of Social Marketing at Coral: Create Positive Experiences

What role does Coral’s online community play in helping thebrand achieve its business objectives?

Social media has helped us create a dialogue with our customers in a way that wasn’t possible with other forms of marketing. There’s an increased emphasis on tablet and mobile betting as key revenue drivers. We’ve also been able to build an engaged community of younger customers with whom we can communicate in real-time during sports events – that’s a key advantage to our business.

What do you think are the key challenges facing brands who want to grow their communities in 2014?

The changes to the Facebook algorithm and the introduction of the Twitter ‘Mute’ button are examples of how the environment is changing towards a greater focus on paying for your content to reach a wide audience. Couple this with the fact that so many brands are vying for a share of attention, and social marketers need to be savvy about the way that they grab and hold that attention.

How do you recommend measuring the value of a community?

At Coral we’re looking at a range of different metrics. I’d always recommend creating a community with a specific strategic objective in mind so that you’re clear about how to report on success. If your aim is to increase brand awareness then reach and share of voice metrics would be emphasised. It’s really important that I’m enabling Coral fans to have a positive experience with our brand on social media – as a result they’re turning into loyal customers. For me, the most important thing is that our community is active and engaging with our brand in a way that is turning people into loyal customers.

What tactics do you recommend for brands who want to deepen their relationships with existing users?

Knowing your audience and crafting content that is relevant to them is really important. We’re operating in an informal environment and people don’t like it if they feel they are being marketed to in an obtrusive way. Integrating your customer services and always responding to legitimate contact in a timely manner is a tactic that’s worked really well for Coral.

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Joby Russell, Marketing Director, at Back to the Brand

We all hear a lot of talk about ‘engagement’ but I’m not always sure what it means or why it’s of value to have 20 people favouriting or responding to a Tweet. I don’t think enough time is spent on the core components of marketing, which are how do you establish points of difference; how do you position a brand competitively so that it’s unique and motivating for the consumer? A lot of these old bedrock disciplines of marketing tend not to be discussed in favour of talking about engagement or content or Pinterest and whatever else it might be. We forget what is really important which is branding, and what needs to go into brands to make them special.

As featured in Issue 21 of Figaro Digital Magazine. Justine Roberts interview by Eilidh Wagstaff. Feature compiled by Jon Fortgang.