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Building Community Online without Social Media Platforms

May 14, 2020
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Building Community Online without Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms have become such an integrated part of our everyday life that we sometimes forget Facebook and Twitter are businesses owned by other people who have established rules and regulations. Whether we read the agreement or only clicked the “I agree” box to get our profile set up, every user on each social media platform said we were willing to abide by the community standards established by the owners of the platform.

Over time, as “community standards” have evolved on different social platforms, new challenges have developed. Business owners who once easily connected with their ideal customers now find themselves regularly taking time away from other areas of their company to figure out the newest social media posting rules.

The headaches are endless, and they aren’t limited to Facebook and Twitter. Instagram, Snapchat, Google My Business, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube all sensor and flag content based on other platform users’ complaints. Additionally, owners of the social media platforms remove content based on their rules which are subjective to the judgment of the owner and change as each platform owner chooses.

The biggest challenge for business owners by far is the endless hoops to remove negative reviews that are placed by fake profiles or competitors posing as customers. Customer reviews are a catch-22 when you rent digital marketing space. The owners of platforms like Google My Business and Facebook Business pages reward companies with a large number of 5-star reviews by ranking them higher in search algorithms.

The Frustration with Rented Digital Marketing Real Estate:

  • Posting rules change at the discretion of each social media platform.
  • The rules are inconsistent between platforms and subjective within each platform.
  • Algorithms reward accounts differently on each platform.
  • Other accounts or platform users have the power to request Businesses to remove content based on their personal preferences.
  • Businesses are at the mercy of the platform to remove false and/or negative reviews.
  •  Your marketing only works as long as the platform owner keeps the social platform running.

Ultimately, the larger social media platforms become, the more headaches business owners encounter balancing business promotion and aligning their brand with the rules of each platform.

What’s the Solution?

Hopefully, as a business owner, you understand the importance of having a presence on social media spaces where your ideal buyer prefers to spend time. This is helpful for backlinking, social engagement, and PPC. If you’re a local business, especially one with a brick and mortar location, you need to set up a Google My Business page to ensure your Google Maps listing is accurate. However, you can’t depend on strangers to support your business marketing efforts.

When you use social media and your Google My Business page for business marketing, you’re relying on platforms other people own to send information to your ideal buyer when you want them to see it. As we know, this is not happening.

A Hootsuite article titledHow the Facebook Algorithm Works in 2020 and How to Make it Work for You”  points out that even people who choose to follow a business page aren’t guaranteed to see a post from a business. “As of late 2019, average reach for Facebook posts was down by 2.2%, meaning that brands could reasonably expect their posts to be seen by about 5.5% of their Page’s followers. Big brands with massive follower counts can expect even lower averages.”

How do we ensure that all of our ideal readers have access to the information they request to receive from us? We focus on developing the marketing channels we own rather than the spaces we rent.

Digital Real Estate You Own Includes:

  • Your website when you own your URL
  • Blog articles, white papers, and infographics
  • Custom images
  • Your email marketing list
  • Videos directly uploaded to your website
  • Private community groups using online community management software

We’ve covered the value of SEO optimized websites, content marketing, and video marketing extensively. Download The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing for Business Growth  for more information.

Download The Ultimate Content Marketing Guide

Email Marketing Lists

We’ve all received SPAM emails that fill our inboxes with needless information, viruses, or misleading text designed to attempt to trick us into giving away personal information. This can leave us with a sour taste in our mouth regarding email marketing. But it’s essential to look past our personal experiences and consider the preferences of our customers.

Consider these email marketing statistics:

  • 49% of all emails are opened on mobile devices. (IBM, 2018)
  • 99% of consumers check their email every day. (DMA Insights, 2017)
  • Over 50% of U.S. respondents check their personal email account more than 10x a day, and state it is by far their preferred way to receive updates from brands. (HubSpot 2020)
  • 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months. (Not Another State of Marketing, 2020)
  • 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email. (Adestra, 2016)
  • 59% of respondents say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions. (SaleCycle, 2018)
  • The most opened emails relate to hobbies, with an open rate of 27.35 percent. (MailChimp, 2018)

One valuable distinction between a blog post and an email is the opportunity to segment and personalize the content. Because of this, you can use your email list to build a community. By personalizing messages, encouraging actions with buttons, and asking questions, you engage your readers in your emails.

If a reader replies, be prepared to respond. Read more about the impact Emily P. Freeman’s email marketing made with this strategy on the blog article Find Your Email Marketing Voice.

Private Community Groups

“Facebook says there are more than 400 million people in groups that they find meaningful as of April 2019, up from 100 million in February 2017.” (CNBC, 2020) It may seem like a natural extension to add a community group to your Facebook page; however, if you set up a community group this way, you depend on a rented digital platform. Additionally, depending on your client demographic, it’s possible they aren’t on Facebook.

In a Business Insider survey, Gen Z reported using Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, with Facebook coming in a distant fourth. These were the only platforms where more than 25% of the survey population said they use it every day. A 2020 Consumer Culture Report about social platforms showed 77% of millennials 18 – 34-year-olds use Facebook daily, compared to 68% of 35 – 54-year-olds and 52% of the 55+ demographic.

Online Community Management Software

Rather than depending on Facebook, consider using online community management software. Community software lets you create a customized space for sharing ideas, collecting opinions, storing Q&A data, answering questions, and further developing your online community.   

Platforms vary in price and features, as well as customizations. Many have a similar view to LinkedIn for the main feed with the opportunity to customize topics for narrower discussions further. In addition to creating a space where your customers can interact directly with you, you have a chance to increase the value of your online community by providing exclusive insider content relevant to your brand and products.

Online community management software connects to your website, allowing easy to find and promote portal access. It also offers your customers the option to download an app. This gives them direct access to your content without the distraction of other ads and competitors.

Here are Five Online Community Management Software Platforms to Check Out:

  •  Mighty Networks summarizes its platform by encouraging users to “bring your community, online courses, and memberships together in one place. All plans are 100% ad-free and allow you to charge for memberships and courses.”
  • Tribe allows you to “Create a stand-alone or integrated community website. Enable your users to connect and discuss under your brand. Users can follow, ask questions, start discussions, upvote, comment, and share content.”
  • Ning states they are the "world’s largest SaaS platform for creating websites with great social integrations. NING sites are scalable and feature fast hosting, in-depth analytics, and advanced monetization options.”
  • Group Spaces Whatever your group type, GroupSpaces promise they can help you save time on tedious administration tasks and put the fun back into being part of a thriving group. Thousands of group leaders trust GroupSpaces to safely store their member data, communicate with members, and help manage their groups online.
  • Disciple Media summarizes its platform by pointing out there are two parts to the platform. “First, your community space, where your members meet and connect. Then, there’s the Console – your publishing and analytics dashboard. Bring your members together with multimedia posts, live streaming, hashtags, search, groups, push notifications, and more. Friending, following, and messaging help your community get to know each other.”

There are many additional options you can compare and contrast over at G2.com. I selected these because of personal experience and free options.

Are you ready to invest in building a community online without the hassle of social media? Do you need some support as you develop your strategy? Give us a call. We’re available to help you evaluate your target audience, develop a diverse content marketing plan, and create custom images.  

Contact SMA Marketing

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Beth Walker

By Beth Walker

Beth Walker is a Content Strategist who is passionate about storytelling. She leads our In-House writing team and works closely with clients and Inbound Strategists to ensure all the content SMA creates meets SEO best practices and tells each client's unique story.

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