Is your brand’s Facebook page a ‘community’? You sure?

Here are five reasons why your brand’s presence is more likely a marketing channel than a true community. The distinction may seem subtle, but it’s important to understand.

What are the defining characteristics of a community? It’s a topic I’ve been pondering lately. Is it about geography, common interests, socio-economic similarities, similar viewpoints, or other factors?

To get to this point, it becomes necessary to define what a community is. According to dictionary.com, a community is …

a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.

As community managers, it’s our job to manage a brand’s online (and offline) presence. It’s a difficult task that requires us to assume a leadership role, channel the company’s voice, create buzz, and drive engagement online and offline to achieve specific goals/outcomes.

It’s fairly natural to assume that as the leader, you are cultivating and expanding a “community.” After all, there’s X amount of “likers,” followers, subscribers, doers, doubters, troublemakers, and everything in between, who are communicating in the group. However with most brand pages, this environment is actually fostering a false sense of community.

Most Facebook brand pages aren’t actually online communities. They are just glorified marketing channels. Some are done very well, others not so much. Here are five factors to explain this subtle distinction.

1. Fans and “likers” usually don’t “like” a page based solely on common interests (or other community-defining characteristics).

Most Facebook fans didn’t decide to “like” a brand’s page in order to be part of an online community. The two most common reasons to like a brand are if you are a current customer or to receive discounts and/or freebies, according to a study by research firm, Chadwick Martin Bailey.

The next most popular reasons are to show support for a brand, to gain more information, and to get exclusive content. More than 75 percent of Facebook users who “like” a brand “like” fewer than 10 brands total, so you wind up with stiff competition for eyeballs and page “likes.”

2. The vast majority of fans don’t participate on Facebook pages.

One of the biggest misunderstandings about Facebook is the assumption that once a person “likes” your page, that person will keep coming back for more. A “like” on a page doesn’t guarantee that they will ever come back to that page and participate or even read any updates. Quite the opposite. According toan AdAge article, only 1 percent of fans on the biggest brand pages actually engage with the brand at all.

3. It’s a one-sided conversation.

The few fans who stay actively involved on the page often don’t feel inclined to post updates or comments. Most are casual observers or lurkers. This leads to a one-sided conversation led by the brand or, worse, no conversation at all. Eighty-two percent of brand pages are updated fewer than five times a month, according to a recent study by Recommend.ly.

4. Numbers still matter.

Many brands are still very interested in the numbers game. No matter how many times a community manager, specialist, or strategist vouches for quality over quantity, there’s always going to be pushback to expand the messaging to a larger audience. Brands will often do whatever it takes to get more. Many of these tactics are counterintuitive to core community-building strategies.

5. Gimmicks, expensive apps, and games drive a lot of the action.

So, how do brands up their numbers? Often they create gimmicks, such as games, contests, and other fancy Facebook apps, and then they pump hefty media budgets into Facebook ads or sponsored story campaigns. Some apps are quite effective. Yet, all they do is create a false sense of community to help a brand spread its message further.

All these are marketing tactics that are “forced upon” anyone who expresses interest in the brand. It’s not a natural progression in a community sense. In a true community, members stumble into the group and then start talking with one another, usually naturally and without any real incentives.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that brands are more likely to market instead of build community on Facebook. When done right, marketing on Facebook can be quite effective. That’s evident from Fortune 50 companies all the way down to mom-and-pop shops. After all, it’s all about creating an overall marketing strategy that encompasses your core business goals and uses the most effective channels and tactics to achieve them.

Facebook is one of the popular channels to spread awareness, get people talking about you and your products, increase conversions, drive offline actions (such as event attendance), and even increase sales. However, if you’re trying to build a community around your brand through Facebook, it might be time to reconsider those strategies.

Is your brand page a community or a one-sided marketing channel?

Jessica Malnik is a PR/marketing coordinator, social media specialist, videographer, and an avid blogger. Visit her blog for social media, technology, public relations, and marketing ramblings. This post first appeared on Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert. (Image via)

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