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Getting All You Can Out Of Online Social Communities

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So you’ve entered the land of brand-building in online social networks.  Now what?  Online communities can be great places for marketers to learn and engage with their customers and other consumers.  In order to get all you can get out of it, there are certain guidelines to follow that may help.  Below are the 5 Commandments for How to Act in an Online Social Community.

1.  Get to Know That Online Community

If your research said that your consumers were active in the social networks that you are engaging in, then your goal is to engage.  Find out more about them.  Let them know more about you and possibly your company, but be careful you’re not pitching to them.  Companies invest millions in focus groups every year.  Online social networks can sometimes be a great alternative to a focus group.  But in order to get all you can get from the community, it’s important to develop meaningful relationships.  This concept is heavily reliant on Ignite Social Media’s idea that Social Media is a Cocktail Party.

2.  Give to the Community- Don’t Spam

Even if you’ve done all of the research and you feel that the demographic of the online community seems to get you, you also have an obligation to be different than your traditional marketing counterparts.  Don’t jump into a social network and immediately start pitching your product or your ideas.  People don’t appreciate that!  They want to feel like they know you.  Part of doing so is in giving back to the community you are immersing yourself in.  This shouldn’t be hard if you followed steps 1-6.  This process is fundamentally different from advertising.  Giving something back to the community means community members trust and view you as a part of the community and not as an advertiser- or even worse- a spammer.  If all you do is continuously ask things of the community members or constantly send people to websites, etc. people will resent your presence in the network.

Don’t have time to engage like this?  Then look into partnership opportunities with the social networks.  These are transparent ways to create a presence in the community without tricking or spamming people.

3.  Be Transparent

I feel like I can never say this enough (and even as I say it, there are people out there right now pretending they don’t work for the company they are talking about in a social community).  If you have followed the guidelines and you understand your audience and the community that you are engaging with, then chances are they know that you’re not there just to be their friend.  Don’t lie!  It’s okay to say you work for a company and you are promoting their products by engaging with customers.  Most consumers will appreciate that, but will not appreciate feeling like they’ve been tricked in the community that they spend so much time in.

4.  Don’t Leave the Community

If a social network is important to someone, they visit almost everyday.  That means you must also.  Don’t put up a static profile, communicate once with someone, and never visit the site again.  If you are truly hoping to engage and learn from your customers, you have the responsibility to continuously visit the site as frequently as your consumers.

5.  Start with One Community and Then Add Communities

If you are a social networker yourself, then you know you didn’t sit down at the computer one day and simultaneously set up a YouTube Channel, a Blog, a Facebook Profile, a MySpace Profile, a LinkedIn Profile, etc.  Find the most active and RELEVANT community to start in first.  Learn from the members in that community and then find other communities that those members are in as well.  Then (as with the “Thou Shalt Not Act as if You’re on Myspace” comment in the inspiring article for this post) you have to learn a whole new set of rules and standards for the new community.  Examine and learn from the members in that community as you learned from the first community.

If you’re confused about why there are only 5 commandments here (when even non-religious people know there are 10), read my first post on the 5 Commandments for Entering a Social Network.

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Getting All You Can Out Of Online Social Communities
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About Kailee Brown
Kailee is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Media Production. She has also done PR and Advertising for Clear Channel Communications and Student Television at UNC. At Ignite, Kailee has integrated her marketing experience and love for social media with her multimedia production experience by helping clients to integrate podcasts, video, and other multimedia interactivity into their social media campaigns. She is a writer on the Ignite Social Media Blog. WebProNews Writer
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