From community management to community design: the Brick Lane effect

It used to be *simple* in Social Media marketing.

Four years ago, the average standard in agencies was that you had to idenfity digital influencers; most of them were bloggers, connecting one another through hyperlinks.

Once you had a value proposition to deal with them, you had to bring the readers to your brand’s social presences. In many cases, you just had to deal with a Facebook group, or later on with a Facebook Fan Page, at least in the UK.

Thus, in 2008, David Armano was already pointing what is now the main bone of contention: the “social divide” between interactive marketing and Social Marketing.

To sum up: the growing importance of the world of apps and open graph opportunities lead to a more pervasive journey between a brand and a pool of individuals and new influencers. What now matters is to be able to design both a technological path and a lively community of interest.

This “social divide” is now amazingly tense. If Twitter is for example now not so covertly closing its doors, in order to “better own” both its communities and their digital interactions, it’s for an obvious reason: the business is about fully designing communities, not only managing them.

Allowing brands to directly interact with consumers is still going to be the first “free” level in these platforms. Because it adds value to the whole network. But a bit like in freemium models, platforms are going to defend their data and UX to slightly change their business models: it won’t be advertising as we know it, but more consciously complementary products & services ie live-covering of events, live-participation, access to specific range of data, or, why not, branded curation on Branch or Medium etc.

If Facebook explored it few yers ago, for example with Louis Vuitton, which in 2009 live online broadcast its Women’s S/S 2010 Ready to Wear collection, the social network is clearly now positioned as a “social layer”, instead of a “community platform”. It can appear obvious, but the very first UX of Facebook was to make us actually spend tons of minutes ON Facebook. As users, we were asked to take actively part to groups; it’s now slightly different: we’re asked to actively browse WITH Facebook.It’s not yet true on Facebook app, where we’re more or less bundled to a limited ecosystem, but the trend will probably keep going, as 4G and other OS developments change the way we use smartphones.

As there’s going to be a growing dependency to social layers (then a bigger revenue to social browsing), there are already new Social Media Marketing opportunities:

1. Considering Facebook Brand Fan Page as a stage, not as the final destination:

Few brands have already a “socially designed” brand territory; because now the digital journey is far more important in real life than in front of your computer, there must be a rejuvenating integration of, let’s say, shopper planner and Social Media strategists. At the moment, you’re asked in most of the boutiques on Regent Street to simply “join” a Facebook Fan Page, whereas you’ve actually already joined or “shopped” a brand product: what else could you endeavour? For instance, posting a newly bought item on TumblR, to share inspirations to a community of real interest, instead of sucking up your customers’ inner circles?

2. Owning your data and knowing your digital contacts’ DNA:

Now brands have massive “fans” or followers, but can you actually transform it into value? Platforms are not the problems, the issue is to truly know your publics. As you can’t easily manage the diverse groups of people on a Facebook fan-page, you’re going to have to find a way to directly be able to reach the relevant ones without wasting money. Apple tries to impose alternatives to email addresses while Google uses one of its core assets: GMAIL.

3. Automatization of Community Design

Remember these old days when Hootsuite or Sprout did not exist? These tools considerably helped us automatize the content management. It’s exactly the same issue for Social Design: you won’t be able as a marketer to follow your communities’ pace if you need to enter large & complicated production processes. That’d be a good idea to follow hot start-ups like Overblog, which tries to mash up diverse services into a coherent experience. You can imagine additive boxes, “plugins”, as on WordPress, for specific brand experiences.

This coming marketing world is a bit like London’s Brick Lane:

  • *one road with very diverse communities
  • *socially designed events, like Sunday Market, where on the same road, very specific groups of people come and visit
  • *an industrial logistics, in order to make events very easy to implement: the parking is suddenly the central place for food on Sunday
  • *the possibility to interact with locals, through very defined patterns and associations
  • *a personalisation of the contexts, thanks to walls which are very often updated with new logos
  • *habits, with seasons, cultural values
  • *sense, as local hipsters and local Bengali keep spreading their knowledge

Laurent François is MD of consultancy French Ideas. 

Main image Bigstockphoto.com.