Tag Archives: social media

The Long Road to Build a Product Community


Every Product Needs a Community

A great product needs a community, or let me put it this way, every product needs a community to help sustain it. In this day of instant access to social media and news, the only way to leverage the power of word of mouth for a product may be through its community, and it’s time organisations start building communities around their products to propel it to a path to success.

“A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values, or that is situated in a given geographical area (e.g. a village or town).” -Wikipedia

In the world of virtual connections, online communities are the platforms for brands to nurture product-centric conversations and build a great reputation amongst the customers. Working as an instant source of information, online communities these days can be built by brands to encourage their users to comment, discuss, advice or collaborate on their user experiences around the product.

Brands Need to Proactively Nurture Communities

Says Gary Vaynerchuk, an author, speaker and a social media expert, in Go Big on Community Management, “Community management goes way beyond customer service and crisis management. Making human connections is absolutely crucial to the success of your business. There is no avoiding it.”

Why a Company Needs To Create and Manage a Community

While nurturing a community may not be what every organisation indulges in, but what no organisation can deny is the fact that there does exist a community of people behind every brand, whether the brand can identify it or not. This community is made of the company’s customers, and their loyal supporters, and may be their detractors as well. These are people who find the company products useful, and would like to engage with the fellow users of the products as well. It depends on the organisation to set the pace on how they would like to herald such people together, offer them a discussion platform and listen and learn from their conversations about the products.

How a Product Community Differs From Any Other Community

A product community differs from any other online forum or community only in its less tolerant approach to any other discussions, except on the products itself. These communities are more focused on customer support, product related queries and discussions on every other aspects with existing users of the products.

How to Build a Product Community

It is not easy to build a product community. It takes concentrated effort from the organisation is creating, promoting, and nurturing a community over a long period of time, before customers begin troop in to join into discussions centring around a product. While the Internet is forever buzzing with communications surrounding the product, channelling all that communication into a single platform may seem difficult, if not impossible. You cannot simply force your customers to come to your company simply because you want them to. As a brand, you have to develop a face and an environment of trust in your community, where customers can say everything they wish to talk about your brand. Most important community development happens when a brand engages with the customers actively, in listening and solving actively the customer issues voiced in the platform.

The Role of a Community Manager

A community manager plays an important part in adding a human face for the brand in the conversations on the community, as well as listening and moderating the discussions on the platform. He/she is the person who develops an environment surrounding the community, develops a coordinated way of answering on behalf of the brand by all the brand representatives, address the customer concerns raised in these platforms, and mitigate potentially disruptive situations that may arise out of any heated discussion.

Using Owned versus Existing Platforms

Should you use an existing community platform like Facebook or Quora? Is a social media platform a better place to create a product community than an owned platform? What can be the pros and cons of the platforms?  Says Patrick Groome in ‘Product Community vs. the Social Community: Which Is Better?’, ‘There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that is guaranteed to work for your company, and there are a few things you should consider before deciding what kind of community you want to have.’ While owned community can give you greater control over the conversations, and allow you to do a hard sell, organisations will still have to be careful in setting the right environment, or may run into trouble from the word ‘go’. Social media platforms, on the other hand, offers an existing space to develop a community for almost non-existent expenditure. And yet efforts to build a community on both the platforms remain almost as much, especially if your brand is struggling to establish an online identity.

Have a different thought about building online communities? I would love to hear from you. Do share your thoughts in the comments section.

Corporate Branding, Facebook and Terrorist Attack in France

Where you one of numerous people who had changed their profile picture on Facebook to reflect the French national flag, to show your solidarity with France, as it battled with one of its most bloodied terrorist attack that killed more than 120 people?

facebook Profile Photo courtesy: gloveo.com
Facebook Profile Photo Courtesy: gloveo.com

When Facebook allowed users to add a French national flag to their profile photos, my newsfeed got flooded with my family members and friends who did that. Exactly like the last time when Facebook allowed us to put Indian flag colours on our profile pictures, after Indian PM Narendra Modi visited the Facebook headquarters. That time, users were asked to support Digital India. Only days later there was a huge controversy over this move by Facebook, with allegations against the brand for using the temporary profile picture as a support for its Internet.org, touted to be much against the concept of net neutrality. The controversy took such proportions that Facebook had to come out with an explanation that the changing a profile picture is not equivalent to supporting Internet.org.
But that was then, and this is now. And sadly, once again, changing profile picture in solidarity with the French tragedy is facing a lot of flak. Says a report on Independent, ‘Euro-centrism – a worldview which centres and places overemphasised importance on the West – reinforces its supremacy through actions like these… If you want to show true solidarity with those who’ve been wrongfully killed, the first step is to acknowledge and mourn their deaths equally and genuinely, not just because they’ve brought to your attention by a tech giant’s misguided marketing tool.’

So has corporate branding reached a new high, or a new low, depending on how you look at it? Since Facebook has just started to offer this feature of adding a coloured filter to your profile picture, can this be the new way for users to offer support, or is it simply armchair activism, a way to say I care, but only this much? An article on Wired reported, ‘Facebook has put itself in the business of ranking human suffering, and that’s a fraught business to be in.’

Photo: http://www.newzulu.com/
Photo: http://www.newzulu.com/

I tend to agree with French editor, Charlotte Farhan, who said, ‘I won’t be changing my profile to the French flag even though I am French and from Paris. The reason for this is that if I did this for only Paris this would be wrong. If I did this for every attack on the world, I would have to change my profile everyday several times a day. My heart is with the world, no borders, no hierarchy, I hold every human’s life with value who is attacked by extremist beliefs whether they are based on religion, prejudice or profit! Don’t be part of the “us and them” mentality which the war mongers want you to do!’ It’s no wonder her message got picked up by every newspaper around the world.

Tragedy of any proportion, man-made or natural, affecting few or many, is unfortunate. Most of the time, in our urge to do something concrete and yet not much time consuming, we land up picking up the first thing that comes our way in the name of support. Changing profile picture in Facebook is probably the easiest thing to do, corporate branding notwithstanding. A few clicks, and we land up feeling satisfied to have done something for the victims of the tragedy, and the social media platform records maximum engagement from users!! Do we feel good about it? Oh yes!! Does it help the victims or their families? No, sir. And yet around 100,000 people had changed their profile pictures on the platform, and the platform itself saw a spike of 3,000 times its regular traffic (Wired report), making it surely one of best engagement strategy for the company ever. This is corporate branding at its best, definitely.

No, I didn’t change my profile picture on Facebook, not now, and not much likelihood of doing that in future either. If there is a post on the French tragedy that moved me the most, it’s an Instagram post by karunaezara, ‘It’s time to pray for humanity. It is time to make all places beloved. It’s time to pray for the world.’

Photo courtesy: Instagram

How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media to Generate Business

A friend of mine has a small jewellery boutique she runs out her house. The store stocks really stylish and fun pieces, and she uses social media platforms as her main source of advertising. Looking at way the small businesses use social media to sell their products, it makes me wonder at the scope of business these platforms offer to their users.

Exposure to a Larger Audience

Even when these businesses are not using the paid promotional posts, social media platforms are the best places to showcase their niche products to a large audience. A ‘like’ on the update and ‘share’ on the product photo actually works wonders for these businesses, which only depend on their organic reach of these posts for popularity. I guess it’s easy to be a big brand and pay your way to popularity on these pages, but if you are a small brand, it’s your unique posts and strength of your designs that carry you through. For a small business, even a thousand likes can turn into actual sales at a ratio far more favourable than inorganic reaches of promotional posts.

User Engagement Matters

I am often amazed by the way small businesses get users to engage with them. My friend’s page, for her brand Adorjo, is always a vibrant discussion of a day’s schedule, or a new trend, or even a discussion of the latest design. My very creative friend often uses mystery as an ingredient to a product launch. Her posts often read, ‘A sneak peek of our next collection, stay tuned,’ and is often added to an expertly designed product photo, that keeps the audience guessing about the nature of the upcoming jewellery designs.

Effective Use of Contests

No, the boutique page doesn’t use the social media contests as blatantly as the big brands. But often it coaxes its users to post photos of them wearing a designer piece, and I am always delighted to find a whole lot of buyers actually complying with the idea!! Yes, contests can have many forms, so long as you hit the pulse of your audience, the prize may be in participation itself.

Pictures Speak A Thousand Words

A food blogger friend of mine, who wanted to get some good shots for her own food blog, decided to master the art of photography, and now successfully runs an extremely popular and award-winning food blog as well as her own agency for food photography. Rekha’s social media presence is all about amazing photographs of food she has cooked, or arranged and designed. A set of good photographs can often take your social media presence to great heights.

Build Your Brand by Sharing Yourself

In this day of content strategies and automated posts on the social media channels, my friend Monica successfully has turned her social media page about her baking venture into a discussion about her likes, her taste in food, and the events she attends as a food entrepreneur. She keeps her audience hooked into her creations by sharing tit bits about her life. Her pages are full of everything that is her, and her brand’s page stands tall with a neat 6k followers waiting to hear the next thing from her.

I tend to agree that small entrepreneurs of today has got their social media pages so right, that too without any dedicated professional help, as they believe in one single most important thing, that it’s all about their audience, a point which some larger businesses are surely missing at this time.

Photo Courtesy: Flickr (Page by Rosaura Ochoa)

(Initially published this post on my LinkedIn profile)