Content Strategy

Why Community Building Requires Social Media: How to Build a Brand of Value

February 21, 2023

Marketing Consultant

In our previous installment we introduced the concept of holistic social media community engagement, a personalized approach for meeting and engaging your community members where they are at for continuous positive value gain on their preferred social media platforms.

In our latest installment about why community building requires social media, we will uncover how to build your brand to bring value to your community members and ultimately your professional network growth. We help you start to employ the techniques of a social media manager to benefit your own community manager goals, build trust across your members, and help authentically share the benefits of your products and services. Let’s return to the homework we discussed in our previous installment more in-depth.

You Deserve a Social Media Makeover

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one's hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. - Marie Kondo 

Chances are that if you are reading this, you already have an existing account and are determined to start leveraging it to stay more connected to your community members this year. While many come from a school of thought that their social media is just for fun, this will not serve you in an approach to holistic social media engagement of your community members. Like it or not, you are an extension of your company and your brand of value should reflect that.

We’re not suggesting that you just reshare every post from your marketing team (believe me that there is no faster way to lose followers), but your community members do expect to be in the know about your company brand, product releases, and community updates. As mentioned in our previous installment, automated newsletters will not be enough to win over the eyes of Gen Z and get them back into your forum. This is where social media comes in.

From product releases to newly released dev video tutorials, as community builders, chances are you are the first face that people associate with a brand. But before we start building your brand, let’s review your existing brand. For this exercise, we will use LinkedIn, but many of our concepts can be applied across multi-media platforms, whether your GitHub to Twitter profile.

Are there groups that you are in that no longer serve you? Leave them. Following a thought leader that no longer reflects the brand that you want to build? You get the idea. The bottom line is that you want to declutter past interests that no longer bring value to your brand and followers. People are reviewing the leaders that you follow, the groups that you are in, and your interests. Choose your own adventure, but choose wisely in this cleanup for sparking joy. 

Next, let’s make sure that your information is currently updated. If you are leveraging LinkedIn, have you updated your About statement? Included any published work, videos, etc from past roles to help position you as a leader in your field?

What does your banner photo say about you? Are you employing an image that your particular audience will love? Does your community have a custom social banner with CTA to join the community? Maybe you want to share a scenic image of the city that you live in to spark up a conversation? Perhaps you want to position yourself as a thought leader and use an image of you doing public speaking as a banner? Whatever banner or headshot photo that you choose, try to avoid changing as little as possible. Can you imagine your favorite brand changing every month? The same expectations in consistency apply to you, dear reader. 

What is My Brand? 

When I am coaching others, the first exercise that I recommend to leaders is to ask themselves what are the top 3 concepts that others would use to describe your brand? For some if may be countless HBR leadership articles (guilty here), articles from your favorite industry leaders around recommended practices in your and/or adjacent industry, and the occasional company product updates (I see those of you that and that last post a month ago).

In a world of “Just do it,” focus less on the do here, and more on the why. 

Why do you like to share those particular leaders' resources? Is there a reason why you chose to share an internal blog around the latest product update with uses cases and coding snippets, but chose to not share an SEO-riddled blog from marketing that could have been written by ChatGPT? The reason here and the why is the focus on value for your followers. Start to think about what 3 words or concepts define your own brand and how they might overlap and benefit with the mission of your organization.

You are not building a brand of noise. You are creating a brand of value.  

But What Content Should a Brand of Value Have? 

Whatever social media vehicle you are driving to get to the future brand of value awesomeness, remember that if you are not active on social media at all, I would recommend starting with LinkedIn. Why? Remember that you are part of a business for growth, whether you like it or not, and while many companies may have different growth strategies, from my SaaS community and social media experience, many of the decision makers aka future customers are first based on LinkedIn.

Additional research shares that 65% of decision makers believe that the company’s content had an impact on their final decision, and furthermore, Melonie Dodaro, author of LinkedIn Unlocked, uncovers that approximately 82% of buyers viewed five to eight sources of content from a winning vendor.

Whether you are building a community of practice or a tool specific program, again, you are part of your company's growth strategy and everyone is a future customer. This includes your current customers and paying community members because churn is real and in this economy of cautious buyers, customer retention is more crucial than ever. 

But your industry may be different and TikTok may be the winning way to go for you. Regardless, it’s better to primarily focus on one and grow your audience versus sporadically posting that monthly meetup group photo and an industry influencer post when you feel like it. But business aside, let’s get back to you and your brand of value. 

But What Do I Post? 

I was on a call with a mentee who was frustrated by the lack of engagement in their forum, and leadership had begun to wonder what the point of having a forum was in the first place. In addition to coaching them about the community of value that they had started the forum in the first place, I suggested they take to social media and apply holistic social media engagement  for their members. 

“But I hate social media! It’s a never ending highlight of self-congratulations and noise…and what would I even post? And worse, what if I post the wrong thing and make my company look bad?,” she shared.

This is a common fear that I often hear from those starting off on social media and it’s a valid concern. A tweet that may look antagonistic to your company values

Maybe you are starting off in a new industry and you are not aware of the competitive landscape yet? Perhaps you share content from a thought leader that is highly problematic and you were not in the know?

We all make mistakes, but the beauty of social media for community builders is that you get to experiment, hype up your community leaders, and most importantly, share value with your audience.

Let’s start with original content, which can be the hardest for many just starting to build a following. Too often it feels easy to rely on generic questions like, “What are your plans for the weekend?” instead of sharing a lesson or educational point for your community members and audience. When you are building your following, instead of asking this basic question, try a poll (people love to answer anonymous questions about themselves) to increase engagement, and continue the conversation with others in the comments. You will be surprised how effective this is for building community conversations on social media, while appeasing your inner social scientist nerd tendencies. 

When I was running all of our corporate B2B social media accounts in my past two roles, the number one most engaged types of posts were product update related. Do you know what was always the second most engaged type of post? Culture.

People want to know about the humans behind the solutions and that goes for you too! If you are not able to craft authentic short form stories brewed with conflict and resolved lessons to take back to their teams? No problem. Post photos of a virtual community meetup,  an in-person reunion with an industry leader, or even a cute puppy photo. Remember that you are not building an extension of the marketing brand, and it’s important to diversify the content that you share. 

But as a community builder, it’s in your DNA to hype others up, share educational resources, and keep your community members in the know. Go back to our original exercise and the 3 concepts that you want to reflect your brand, while ensuring that they are aligned with your company mission and your own values. When in doubt, look for your favorite tech newsletters (Morning Brew, The Hustle, are just a few that I really enjoy), subscribe, and give back time to yourself for continuous learning and sharing.

If sharing an opinion about a brand, be very careful. It’s easy at 3am and traipsing around some foreign terminal to mention the airline holding your missing luggage hostage, but as a community builder, this organization could become a future customer. It’s a hard sacrifice, but those corporate mentions should be instead for praising your customer company updates. This is the cost of building in public.

Remember to protect your brand. It’s the only one that you have. 

How to Build for Inclusion 

In a recent Facebook survey, more than 30 percent of global respondents shared that they had difficulties ranging from seeing, hearing, speaking, organizing thoughts and more. While you will not always get it right, build your brand with inclusion top of mind. Some simple steps that you can start employing for those using screen readers? Capitalize the first word of your #s, use punctuation, limit your emojis, avoid special characters for voice over and other assistive tools, limit your line usage, and think twice for language used. 

When in doubt? Research a11y resource guides, consider following accessibility accounts (Accessibility London is one of my favorites), and gently call in others in your organization that may not be aware of how their posts can be exclusionary for others.  While, just like this blog, these resources are not an exhaustive list, they will help you get on the right track for building an inclusive brand. 

Don’t Forget the You in Your Brand and Purpose

Whether it’s creating fun memes (love, sharing a lesson learned from a hard day, or your favorite quote, do not get caught in the trap of becoming your corporate brand. As a community builder, social media engagement should be educational, fun, and uplifting for not just your followers, but you too! Find the brand that works for you and start curating that content. Your community members and organization will be better for it.

Holistic social media engagement is a great tactic for engaging with your community members across platforms, while authentically sharing the value of your products and services. But it’s easy to get discouraged due to lack of engagement at the beginning of your brand journey. What’s worse, you may become…boring. Don’t forget that while you are an extension of your company’s brand, you are also your own person and this is why your community members will follow and engage with your content in the first place.

In our next and final installment, we will cover how to measure your social media engagement for success, how to scale your following, ways to authentically partner with your marketing team to improve reach, and hold a space for the inevitable topic, burnout. Again, remember that you are not building a brand of noise. You are creating a brand of value. Now let’s get to posting, engaging, and experimenting.

Tristan Lombard
Marketing Consultant

February 21, 2023

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