Why have we seen a rise in brands adopting social communities?
Fundamentally, social communities are nothing new. At a very basic level they have existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years, as they tap into the very basic human need for contact with other people.
The recent rise of these online social communities is powered by digital technology and the acknowledgement by brands that they can have a direct impact on the bottom line by helping to reduce service costs through consumer-led advocacy.
Technology is now faster, more accessible and more widely accepted by both brands and consumers than ever before. People have always wanted to seek each other out to share common interests and topics that they are passionate about. Now, technology has allowed this to happen much faster and more efficiently than ever before.
Digital communities are forming around a diverse range of topics, but interestingly brands are now often at the centre of these discussions. Now we are finally seeing signs that brands are waking up to the fact that conversations are passing them by and the growing realisation that they aren’t involved in them.
At a recent roundtable Ben Kay, head of digital strategy and adoption at Everything Everywhere, warned that brands risked being left behind if they didn’t acknowledge that customers were talking about them:
“Social has been around for a long time, it is just that in the last 18 months brands have woken up to the fact that it is here to stay and is constantly evolving. These social conversations are happening, and people are out there every day talking about our products and services and those of our competitors as well.
“There are huge opportunities out there for any brand that is willing to listen, learn and engage with conversations that are happening. If we as brands don’t capitalise on the opportunity, others will. It’s not a case of should we get involved – it’s a case of if we don’t get involved other’s will. “
Tom Burrell, global CRM director at LBi, added that it was important for brands to empower communities to allow them start the conversations and to spread the knowledge and passion they have about a brand.
“Brands are finally starting to realise the power they can gain from communities in terms of advocacy and service costs. If they can empower communities to have conversations between themselves it can be very powerful.”
Consumers today are changing their minds about how they want to be supported and how they want to interact with brands. Gone are the days of linear, one-way conversations from brand to consumer. Today consumers and the conversations they have socially hold the power. Loyalty is a fickle thing and can be won or lost by something as large as a multi-million pound marketing campaign or something as small as a social recommendation.
The reality now is that social conversations are growing into the bedrock of consumer decision making processes and brands that don’t involve themselves in those conversations risk being left behind.