"Facebook is the greatest customer engagement tool on earth."
"I want my online customer community to be like Facebook."
"My customers are all on Facebook. Why can't I just start a community there?"
These are the type of things thing that we hear from businesses and nonprofit membership organizations when they first contact Socious about launching a private social network for their customers or members.
Facebook is seen as the pinnacle of social networking. This is mainly because it has the most awareness, the most usage, and the most media coverage of all of the public social networks.
After digging deeper into their customer community strategy, most organizations understand that Facebook has a role in their marketing and customer communication plans, but Facebook and private online customer or member communities play a very different role in their business.
However, Facebook offers some very clear lessons for companies that are putting an online customer community at the center of their CRM strategy.
Using Insight from the State of Social Media Report to Make Your Private Online Community Better
The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project recently published data around usage of public social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. In the State of Social Media report, they highlighted the existence and causes behind Facebook fatigue the trend toward people using Facebook less or taking an extended break from Facebook usage. Take a close look at slides 10-15.
Even with all of their cash, media attention, and innovation, Facebook is experiencing many of the pitfalls that we warn businesses, user groups, and associations about when we help them plan and launch their private customer or member communities.
Let's examine the parallels between the reasons why people stop using Facebook and why some organizations' private online communities don't get traction with customers or members.
65% of the people who have taken a multi-week break from Facebook indicated reasons that involved not getting enough value from the social network to cause them to log back in.
46% of the people who have taken a multi-week break from Facebook gave reasons that could have been avoided if Facebook was able to use the right channel and value proposition (content, personalization, etc.) to keep them engaged.
These are the two biggest characteristics of unsuccessful private online communities as well. Sometimes it has to do the strategy and the organization's focus/capabilities. Other times, the business or membership organization has selected an online community software platform that can't provide the value and engagement features that the organization needs, and their customers or members demand.
Takeaway for Private Online Communities
Not even Facebook is infallible. Many of us have anecdotally experienced the drop in Facebook usage, but the data is validating this trend at a more rapid pace than ever.
One of the best pieces of social business advice that you can bring back to your team after reading this article is the following:
When your business, association, or user group creates a private online community to engage customers or members, work to maintain a maniacal focus on finding out what your target audience values and making that value the centerpiece of your online community.
If your customers want faster support, build your customer community around providing tips and helping customers with questions connect to customers with answers. If your association's members care deeply about getting news about other members, create a private online community where member news is at the surface and members can easily connect.
While providing exceptional value is vital to a community's success, don't develop tunnel vision around it. Also keep in mind that a valuable community is nothing without a way to drive busy customers or members back to the community to get that value. In addition to focusing on value, make sure to plan to put in place the automated and manual community processes that your technology platform needs in order to keep your target audience coming back to the community over time.
As you can see in the Pew data, even Facebook struggles with maintaining these critical elements of online community success. By keeping customer value and ongoing engagement at the center of your strategy, community management plan, and technology, your organization will be on your way down the path to preventing your customers' or members' Facebook fatigue from creeping into your company's private online community.