The goal of many companies is to facilitate a vibrant online community around a brand or product. “Engagement” is a refrain we’ve all heard time and again, but it is crucial if you want to gain traction on the social web. We can look to the undisputed champ of engagement, Facebook, to inform our own strategies, communities and web presence.
This isn’t just about creating better Facebook ads, or even in getting more “Likes.” The bigger question is, what can our brand communities take away from the success of Facebook’s platform?
1. Facilitate What Customers Already Want to Do
It’s not about ROI or advertising dollars at the beginning. It’s not about messaging and positioning. Customers will come back to a place with a compelling reason for going there in the first place. Let the user determine the model, and look at the type of user that you want to attract as the primary driver behind the online presence.
In Facebook’s case, they started with simply facilitating the sharing of information — from personal profiles to pictures. They’ve kept that same core model but expanded into everything from shopping to events. What can you facilitate that will help your customers?
2. Extend Traditional Success
Most communities, like Facebook, are natural extensions of what happens in the real world. Facebook mimics personal relationships. Your online community should mimic the positive interactions traditionally formed within your company. If connections are made at trade shows, then start discussions online that would typically take place at a trade show. If your company’s growth is from sales in a particular vertical, then facilitate connections with influencers in that market.
3. Keep it Clean
If there are two things we learned from MySpace, not everyone is a web/UI designer, and people prefer a clean community. This is online design 101, but it applies to your brand as well.
The web has the power to infinitely enhance your capabilities online, but start small. Keep a simple, clean interface with a clear direction for a user to personally benefit. It will keep your brand’s image in focus, and give users a sense of the benefits they’ll get from engaging with you.
4. Treat Engagement as a Long-Term Process
Your content should be short, frequent and easy to engage with. Facebook’s News Feed is effective because of these principles. This keeps visitors coming back and spending more time with your community.
If done right, these returning visitors will slowly phase out some other older, inferior communication tools. For example, think about the things that Facebook has trumped — from classmates.com to that old personal blog you haven’t updated in months.
5. Make Engagement Easy
Generally, most people online are “lurkers,” viewing sites and communities without ever interacting with them. Enter the “Like” button, which made engagement quick, easy and approachable. With your business, create a community of quick and easy participation. This will get people invested in your message and enable continuous interaction.