In the past few days, I have noticed the conversations taking place online at SXSW. Let me be clear, I’m not in Austin, but I’ve have been tracking conversations on Twitter, Facebook and my catalog of blogs. I have noticed the same words and ideas coming from these conversations and that is “how do we all grow our communities?” But then the conversation ends on that note. I’ve been left hanging on the second 50% of this method of “growing communities.” Where did it go? Where’s the next half of what’s supposed to be said? What I mean by that second half is “who’s joining your community?” This is more important to me, by far. I’d rather have 500 dedicated contributors who converse with each other and the brand than 1,000 fans who just sit there, not activated. With that in mind, here are three reasons why Facebook “communities” (no worries, we’ll get to Google+ in the next entry!) are more valuable than Facebook “fan clubs.”
1. Connection: yeah yeah, I know you’ve heard it, but you’ve heard it because it’s true. Fan clubs don’t build connections. Communities build connections. How? When you become part of a community (both offline and online) you become transparent. The community feel enables you to let your guard down a little bit and open up with genuine thought, creativity and respect. When this happens, the connection airwaves are 100% open. You just can’t beat that value.
2. Word-Of-Mouth: this is all the good stuff that comes after you have a successful community. Or, it can be all of the negative chatter. But for now, let’s look at the positive effects. When an online community is thriving, and a brand is at the center of conversation, fans (yes, real people) are conversing with one another about not only the brand, but other topics that have surfaced within in each comment thread. Fan clubs, if there is any chatter going on period, tend to only stick to promotional dialogue. “That’s so awesome!” type language. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing to hear, but you want more than just that same hollow comment reverberated in your community.
3. Friendship: remember this? In the beginning… Facebook was created help people find like-minded friends. That fan number is actually made up of people with brains and points of views. What are communities made up of? Exactly! When you scroll down a Facebook business page’s wall, see how many people are conversing with each other. Trust me, it exists. I’ve seen communities (and not just on Facebook) where people are asking others “what time they are going to a specific event” or “are they there at the event?” If you are on a page of interest and you see this type of conversation flowing then I’d suggest clicking “like.”