What if we *don’t* need a community?

Depending on who you’re talking to, it may sound preposterous, hypocritical, ignorant or just plain dumb. But it’s always, always a whole lotta fun.

Now, this is kind of tricky territory for us, because some clients have been known to find us too thick or too non-serious when it comes to the wonders of social media. (Maybe they’re right?)

But every time we’re in a meeting, or a pitch or something, with people talking about how a “strong, engaged community” is the single most important objective for the brand, we’re just waiting.

Waiting to utter the simple question that instantly transforms the atmosphere and provokes a reaction from every single person.

“Why do we need a community?”

But seriously. We sometimes really don’t understand. And community mostly means a Facebook page.

Maybe it’s a good idea if you’re, say, an ecommerce business (promos, CRM). Or a bookstore (passionate, niche, local audience). But what if you sell bluetooth headsets? Or washing machines? Now we don’t have any research, but we just wonder if people out there are dying to have conversations about washing machines.

“It’s an excellent way of keeping people engaged with the brand over a long term.”

Is it?
In May 2011, Eminem had over 41 million fans. Which is about 41 million more than most brands do.
But the core fans – who interact with the page more than the average (which is usually once) – were 575.

That’s 0.001%.

And that’s Eminem. People generally tend to love him a bit more than their washing machines.

Also, the way Facebook works is poorly understood. Most people consider the million or so fans they have as a captive audience of minions waiting to hear the brand’s message and scream ‘Wah-wah, wah-wah’.

In reality, it’s nothing but an illusion. Unless you have actively interacted with a page – continuously over time – Old Zuck’s secret (dubiously acquired?) algorithm will make sure you never see its updates again.

In reality, about 96% of fans will never visit the page again, after liking.

In reality, links posted by pages get 0.00093 clicks per fan. That’s roughly 1 click for every 1000 fans.

It all comes down to how different, interesting, relevant and creative you can be. And how meaningful your message is.

For an average page, there’s hardly any point.

But let’s just forget all about it. Let’s assume we did have a community of a million people, eager to listen to what a brand had to say. What will we say then? How will it help? Even if we post cat videos and pictures of Aishwarya’s baby and keep a million fans hooked, will they buy our product because of it? Will it have any effect at all?

And then comes the big one. The one that clears the fog of confusion and lets in a bright ray of light to illuminate our befuddled faces.

“Let’e be clear about our objectives here. It is not sales. It’s brand salience, consumer engagement and long-term relationships.”

Ah. Why didn’t you say that earlier? Of course, it all makes sense now.

As usual, we apologize for the silly questions.

*Sources:

http://mweigel.typepad.com/canalside-view/2011/09/fashionable-yet-bankrupt.html

http://www.marketsentinel.com/blog/2011/08/can-facebook-work-for-brands/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/14/page-post-ctr/