Organic reach across social media channels has been in decline for several years now, with platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all limiting the amount of people that your content reaches, resulting in lower engagement and views. This year alone there has been a 50% decrease in organic reach across major platforms, causing a huge headache for brands and individuals that have invested a lot of time and money into building an audience. Brands are creating more content than ever before, but the majority of this content is simply falling into the ether, with countless brand pages getting extremely low organic engagement and struggling to get traction without putting paid spend behind posts. Even when brands use paid mechanics to increase their following, this method does not guarantee that these new followers will want to engage with your content and are actually interested in your brand. This can lead to brands having large followings on their pages but very little engagement on day to day posts.
The unfortunate reality is that the social platforms have all the power, and will continue to push brands into a corner so that their only real option is to use budget to boost a post and reach a sizeable audience. Brands and marketers need to evolve how they are creating an organic community beyond their Facebook brand page and start to look at new or existing methods that can result in a larger percentage of their community seeing their content. Below are a few ways that you can start to build a community outside of a traditional social page and regain power over the conversation.
Brand Facebook Group
In the past year, Facebook has prioritized Groups on the social network, aiming to connect people on the service in a positive way. Groups are all about community, which is what Facebook was originally about, and the platform has gone back to its roots by enhancing the visibility of posts from groups and limiting the ability for video’s and clickbait articles to go viral.
Unlike a normal page, a Facebook group is usually specific to a certain topic or interest. Covering pretty much anything, you can find a group of likeminded people that share your passion and discuss topics relating to the page. As an example in the UK, one of the biggest streetwear communities, The Basement, is centred around their Facebook Group that was created several years ago. The Basement has 82k members, which might not seem like a huge amount if you look at some influencer pages that easily surpass 1 million fans, but The Basement is an extremely connected and passionate community that refer to themselves as a family. Unlike most pages The Basement can rack up more than 100 individual posts a day with each one receiving a number of comments and engagements - this level of engagement and interaction for the number of followers far surpasses the biggest influencers pages on the planet.
A brand which has effectively harnessed the power of Facebook groups is Peloton. Their group now has over 440k members and is full of communication between fans, all centred around a love of spinning. Pele0ton have built a cult-like community of users by being more than just a cycling product, instead operating as a community that people can connect with. Another example is UniLad, who created a travel and adventure Facebook group were people can share videos and stories from recent holidays and trips. The group has racked up over 90k passionate followers and sits as one of a number of groups UniLad have created that link to their various brands.
Brand WhatsApp Group
WhatsApp now has over 300 million daily users who send up to 30 billion messages every day. The messaging platform is loved by many because of the ability to directly message and share content instantaneously. For marketers though, WhatsApp has been a tough platform to break through. No ads, no media to buy and users not liking intrusive spam messages means you need to work harder to generate consumer engagement. The most critical thing about WhatsApp is that you cannot push messages to consumers you do not know. You need to get invited by consumers to become their contact.
A WhatsApp group offers a way to overcome these hurdles to reaching consumers on the platform. With a 70% engagement rate across groups it’s worth putting the time in to build a community, but you need to provide real value if you want to gain and retain group members. Hellman’s are a great example of this, by creating a Whatsapp group that shares cooking videos and allows you to get top tips from professional chefs as you are cooking. What Hellman’s did perfectly is create a community around a passion point that links to the brand (cooking), and which also brings value to consumers by allowing them to get real time advice on recipes and feel empowered by sharing their own videos.
WhatsApp can also be a great place for market research, with some brands creating freelance network or focus groups that can give them live feedback on products or cultural insight. A number of marketing agencies including KRPT set up marketing news groups where industry professionals can exchange useful tips and also tap into a wide network when in need of some feedback or advice.
SMS Marketing offers an incredibly powerful way to interact directly with users and In a similar vein to Whatsapp, SMS messaging sees an extremely high open rate of up to 82% and 45% response rate (email has just 8%). The difficulty for brands using SMS is that it is very personal, so in order to utilise SMS well and avoid coming across as spam you need to provide value to recipients through messaging that feels tailored to them.
Platforms like community.com are revolutionising SMS messaging by allowing you to segment your database and send out messages based on location or interest. By doing this you can be highly targeted with your message and ensure that the communication feels personal and relevant. One of Community’s USPs is that it allows high profile influencers and celebs to send out messages to their audiences that are real time and genuinely from the talent - so it feels like you are getting a personal message directly from Beyonce. This also presents a wealth of opportunities for brands to work with influencers in an innovative way to send direct messages to an audience via the influencer.
Understanding what your community represents and what your customers really care about is the essential first step to any of these strategies. Brands must do the groundwork to really understand what their consumer interests are and what their potential consumers want. From there, the key is to create a community that taps into these interests and doesn’t focus purely on the brand product and what you are selling. Brands like Peloton have been able to create a ‘cult’ followings of fans by tapping into the passion points of their audience and empowering them through their channels.
It’s never been more difficult to reach an audience through Facebook and Instagram - so brands do need to look at alternative ways of building an audience and interacting with them on a regular basis. For small businesses that can’t afford to pump £££ into boosting every piece of content these new channels of communication can bring a huge amount of value if used in the right way.