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The Futurist

Social Media Communities - you’ve built it, but have they come?

Quote by Marshall McLuhan

You’ve spent lots of time, effort and money getting your website up to scratch. You’ve got your tweets crawling and the comments are active and your fingertips are poised for a flurry of interaction.Only - nothing. You get a decent amount of traffic to the website, but your social media channels are like a Blue Light Disco after 9pm.Unfortunately in online spaces, it’s not a case of “build it and they will come”. I’m not afraid to say it - Kevin Costner was lying. Developing a following on social media demands time, patience, insight and, above all else, a plan.We know that social networking is a vast and sometimes confusing landscape, so we'll be dedicating a few blog posts to best practice for development on social media communities.

You’ve spent lots of time, effort and money getting your website up to scratch. You’ve got your tweets crawling and the comments are active and your fingertips are poised for a flurry of interaction.

Only - nothing. You get a decent amount of traffic to the website, but your social media channels are like a Blue Light Disco after 9pm.

Unfortunately in online spaces, it’s not a case of “build it and they will come”. I’m not afraid to say it - Kevin Costner was lying. Developing a following on social media demands time, patience, insight and, above all else, a plan.

We know that social networking is a vast and sometimes confusing landscape, so we'll be dedicating a few blog posts to best practice for community development on social media.

Meet the neighbours

Social media spaces are often characterised as lawless frontier spaces where anything goes and it’s impossible to predict hits and flops. But listen closer - every social media platform, new and established, quickly develops its own codes, tastes, patterns and conventions, much like a neighbourhood.

These patterns can be quantitative (eg. what time to post or how long a post should be) or qualitative (eg. language, tone, imagery) and it’s in your best interests to learn these codes before developing your social media strategy. Learning by doing can often be the most valuable method - sign up for a personal account and observe critically how content flourishes and problems begin on social platforms.

You want to tend your own garden, but it’s important that you know the broader conventions so you don’t irk your street-mates on whom you’re dependent for reach, conversation and community. Of course, subverting these expectations can be powerful in terms of gaining attention and profile, but you should have a strong rationale for bucking the trend.

It’s also why working cross-platform can be risky - what plays on the South side (Twitter) mightn’t fly on the North (Facebook). Auto-posting to multiple platforms or using social media management software to post in bulk across platforms can be risky. Twitter feeds that consist of nothing but links to shortened Facebook content or vice versa can make your presence appear sloppy, inexpert and robotic. These associations are all anathema to a social media space that functions best when it’s personal, responsive, entertaining and engaging, so what looks like a time-saver can ultimately constrict your return on investment. If you don’t think you have the time to do it well - maybe consider not doing it at all.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing which social media platforms might be more suited to your needs:

  • How often are you planning to post, check responses and interact?

Some networks are built to encourage discussion and two-way feedback, while others form more of a noticeboard. Followers leaving support requests on your Instagram feed will quickly change the focus of the post and dilute your message.

Yes: Facebook, Twitter

No: Everything else

Next up, we’ll talk about identifying your audience and how to go about finding them online.

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