social media communityHumans are creatures of habit. Often times our behaviors are predictable. Old habits are hard to break, good or bad. Why would we expect social media to be any different? Why should we expect that just because marketers can now connect with anyone across they world in a simple 140 character tweet that they will by default do it any different than the days of email spam, direct mail and traditional broadcast marketing advertising.

Traditional media and marketing use to be focused primarily on a broadcast message. A one to many message focused on delivering the message the brand wanted the recipients to hear. Most marketers didn’t care if you understood or even liked the message, as they had the expected percentages of return based on the number of eyeballs or ears who heard and read their message down to a science.

I was one of them and can remember being able to predict almost to the penny the return I would get on email blasts, direct mail and other marketing mediums. I could predict how recipients  would respond. I knew that they were creatures of habit and were taught to behave in a particular way. They had no other option if they wanted to learn about brands, technology and how to grow their business. We knew if they had a need that eventually they would purchase the product and the more that we were in their face, the better and deeper brand impression we could make, the higher our chances were that we would be the chosen brand for purchase.

Guess what folks… times have changed.

People no longer buy things, they join things.

People no longer are amazed by the latest commercial, billboard or radio segment. People aren’t running to their mail boxes excited for the next spam letter or coupon. They’re not looking on their iPhone for the next email spam message with a deceptive title only to find the first three paragraph bragging about you, your company and your revenues!

They also aren’t waking up early in the morning thinking “what Facebook pages will I go LIKE today” or “what business Facebook pages will I go visit and see what they want to sell me.”

Nope, people are waking up overwhelemed. They want to connect with real people who will help them make it thru the day. People who they can share their ups and downs. People who will support them, inspire them, educate them and help them grow. They want to connect with real people and make real friends. They want to interact with brands who treat them as human beings not robot Facebook likers.

They aren’t thinking first of what they are going to buy. Instead they are looking for things to join.  It is human nature to want to connect, be accepted, be part of a group that will make you feel better.

They will buy products from communities who make them feel good. People buy from people. They will buy from you when you make them feel like a person, not a number.

It’s why people run to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. It’s not just about sharing pictures, status updates or spying on the neighbors. It’s about being accepted. It’s about fitting in both online and in real life.

Think of when you purchased your first iPod or iPhone. Did you purchase it because you wanted the product? Of course you did. But you also purchased it because you instantly became a member of the white earbud community. You were part of something. The white headphones and iPhone connect you with people you don’t know. Even if you don’t want to admit it’s true, you know deep down it is.

social media control

People want value.

Business leaders must learn it is about much more than a Facebook like. It is not about community control and selling to robots who like your Facebook page.  Change your mindset to “how can I create a community that provides value?”

The focus should be on building communities that people want to join. Communities that are organic and dynamic. Communities that inspire, educate, make people laugh, support them,  pull them up when they fall down and forgive them when they make a mistake.

Build Social Sticky Fabric

The businesses who will win in the game of social media will be the ones who are the community. Sorry folks, your only goal of a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, or a website isn’t to increase rankings or your influence score. The social networks are also not just another medium for you to blast more noise to an already noisy world! Instead think of it as one big social fabric you can leverage to create the most sticky community possible.

Connect with people in real ways so that they do think of you when rolling out of bed. However, only difference is they’re not thinking of what you tried to sell them. Instead they’re thinking of how you made them laugh. How you helped them grow by teaching them something new. Or how you helped them win, become the hero at their workplace by feeling empowered to impact needed change.

Invest in people first, business second. 

I have said it a million times and I’ll say it again. Social media is about the people. You must first get in the head of your communities and understand what makes them tick. What will make them sticky? How can you help them, inspire them, make them laugh? Only by investing in people will you ever see return on your investment.

Go ahead ignore me. I challenge you to come back in 12 months time doing it your way and share with me your results.

It’s not about you.  It’s about what you can do for the people. It’s what you can do to build a community of people who support one another.

Be the fabric, not just the loud noise screaming for attention.

Your role as a business leader, brand, company and community leader is to be the fabric. Facebook is not the fabric. Facebook is the platform, the materials of which the meidum depends on. You my friends are the fabric. Your heart, your voice and your time. That’s the fabric.

Brands that learn this early in the adoption cycle of social media will be far ahead of their competition. Facebook is not going to solve your business problems. You are going to solve your business problems just as you have been doing since the day you opened your business doors or you accepted your position at your organization.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the million other platforms are the vessel, the tools and technology for which you can build the fabric that connects you and your brand with the people. It’s the conversation, knowledge, time taken to invest in people that will make your fabric sticky. It’s not asking for likes or begging me to take a non-existent Twitter conversation to Facebook when we haven’t spoke to begin with.

15 Tips To Build Communities

1.  Focus on the people. Know who they are, what they want, and how you can help them.

2. Invest in people first, business second. 

3. Quit measuring your success by only Facebook likes. 

4. Your influence and ability to build community is more important than your Klout score.

5. Focus on value to the community. Know what you have to offer. Know what your members have to offer.

6. Empower leaders. Leaders should rise to the top organically. Empower them, not stifle them. They will be your most powerful evangelists.

7. Don’t depend on Klout and other influence scores to determine who should be in your community. You may miss out on your greatest community leaders, clients, partners and even investors if you make decisions on who you should interact with based on a metric that is not related to human connection.

8. Don’t follow your competition. Just because it’s the way your competition is doing something does not mean it’s the right way. Learn from them but do not copy them. Do your own research.

9. Come out from behind the logo and avatar. Show your smiling face. Let us know there is a real person behind the Facebook wall.

10. Treat me as a human being. Talk to me like I have ears, a mouth and a heart. Don’t treat me like a robot and deliver the same message repeatedly. I have good days and bad days just like you. Sometimes I want to be inspired. Other days I want challenged. Vary your message and you may get to know me.

11. Learn more about me than teaching me about you. Don’t send me an email after I have opted into your email newsletter that is filled with 3/4 of information of all the awards you have won, or your fabulous growth when I am waiting on you to return my phone call. I am amazed at the number of these I receive from supposed successful social media and marketing agencies. #fail in my humble opinion.

12. Provide structure but let the community organically grow. Let the people norm, storm, form and perform. If you try to force them from norming to performing you’re pushing against human nature and it human nature will win. Lead them but don’t control them.

13. Be innovative. Don’t just depend on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Leverage the tools to build community on and offline. Host a tweet chat or an offline meetup. I host the #GetRealChat Tuesday nights at 9pm et. We usually have between 12-18 million impressions within an hour timeframe all via Twitter. I’d say tweet chats are living proof of people wanting to connect in real ways.

14. Quit asking me to like you. Instead of begging me to visit or like your Facebook page, provide me a reason to. Spend the time you normally spend spamming me on developing something that provides me value.

15. Share yourself and your brand with me. Share your innards. Don’t be afraid to show your real self. But do so in a way that enables me to connect with you as a human being not as a cash register.

Your Turn

Are you building communities or are you guilty of viewing your communities as an audience of likers? What are some of the great communities you have seen?

 35 Social Media Truths

This is the second in a series on social business I am working on “35 Social Media Truths“. It is part of a keynote presentation I gave at Rochester Institute of  Technology. If you want to hear more, sign up for the 35 Social Media Truths Newsletter and you will receive all 35 of them over a period of time. Included will be different mediums such as video, blog posts and more.

Related Article: Be Your Own Social Duck By Differentiating with Results