CommunityThere’s a consistency in what CEOs, CMOs and brand managers are saying these days. “We want to create a community around our brand.” More and more of them are saying it to social media practitioners and champions since advertising agencies can juice your messaging up on “buzz” or craft a catchy video that “goes viral” but never create a community.

But social media is about connecting to communities, not creating them.

Mind you, good social media programming and activity can attract brand fans and foster the growth of brand communities. But most times, the communities themselves exist

In cases of dynamic marketing, like Apple, there need be no social media or networking. Their brand fans are relevant and prevalent without Steve Jobs ever having to say, “Go henceforth and multiply.” Can you imagine how obnoxious they would be if he did?

Then there are similar brands, small ones, which use social media tools to connect to consumers. Night clubs and bars are pretty good at this without ever knowing what they’re doing. Third Street Dive is a punk bar in downtown Louisville. Their bouncer whipped up a MySpace page a few years ago, not to build a community but to find the Third Street Dive community that already existed there.

Now the club, which is smaller than some people’s living room, has 2,800+ friends on MySpace, uses local artists to decorate their pages and routinely updates events, specials and featured bands through their community hub.

Or check out Lewis Green’s business, which he says has grown specifically because of social media activity.

Instead of taking your business or brand to an advertising agency, marketing firm or even social media strategist and saying, “Go build me a community,” you should bring your already existent community to your partners and say, “Help me give them the tools to grow.”

By reaching out to those who know you best, giving them the mechanisms and motivations to share in ownership of your brand, you set in motion a series of events that can take a group of people who use your product or service and transform them into a passionate army of brand ambassadors who essentially market your brand for you.

A prospective client asked me last week how they can build a community around their organization. My response was, “How many people would you consider interested stakeholders in your business?” She said a few thousand. I continued, “There’s your community. We just have to find ways to connect to them and them to others and motivate them to share your story.”

It’s not about creation. It’s about growth.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Small Business and Social Media
  2. Bulding Iconic Brands
  3. Best Practices For Online Customer Communities
  4. Do You Know Your Citizen Marketers?
  5. Yahoo Says Advertisers Should Tap Users Passions

IMAGE: “Community by Jeff Kubina on Flickr.

[tags]community building, social media, social networking, community, brand fans, brand ambassadors, citizen marketers, brand enthusiasts, passionistas[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.livingstonbuzz.com/blog Geoff Livingston

    Jason, you are so on with this one. Businesses can not own the community, or the relationship.

    Buyers really don’t care about companies, they care about their problems, and how companies can fix them. So companies need to come into their communities and serve them, rather than demand that people come to the company and participate in some sort of a rigged community.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Thanks Geoff. It’s astonishing how many companies don’t even recognize the communities around them already in existence. Here’s hoping they flock to folks like us (social media thinkers, not just me and my agency) to help them figure it out!

  • http://www.conversationagent.com Valeria Maltoni

    How about employees as the first community that rallies around a company? Do they qualify even if they are inside? ;-)

  • Robert Armstrong

    I am in talks with a CEO who understands the necessity and the dangers of working with the community that will grow around their products. It is a start-up and the product hasn’t been released yet, so it is a great time to be involved. I applaud his thinking ahead and his ability to understand he can’t do it alone.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Valeria — Absolutely. Employees often become the most passionate brand ambassadors, but you have to educate them on the special way they have to communicate with others to build the community. Transparency and honesty are a must and employees don’t know that intrinsicly.

    Robert — I applaud the CEO you refer to as well. In the case of a new company or product, obviously my post doesn’t quite apply as effectivley. Most of the companies and brands I deal with have existing products or services. But building a community of beta testers and early adopters can get a new company over the hump quickly. Thanks for chiming in.

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  • http://lgbusinesssolutions.typepad.com/solutions_to_grow_your_bu/ Lewis Green

    Jason,

    Excellent post, and thank you for the shout out. Valeria asks the right question. Employees are the most important ingredient to building a community around brand.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Thank you Mr. Green. Glad to point folks your way. Interesting perspective you have on it all. I’ve enjoyed reading your stuff. Thanks for stopping by.

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  • http://thinkinginteractive.com/2008/04/07/the-9-types-of-brand-community-expanded/ Andrew Lockhart

    Great post, Jason. It is remarkable how many people overlook their existing community in an attempt to build a brand community I just penned a post on my blog trying to identify the different types of brand community members and would love to hear your thoughts if you have a moment.

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