As a social media guy representing a large retailer, I am lucky enough to speak at various conferences and meet some really cool people. Chatting to people from American Express, Barclaycard and Tesco last week though, made me realise that many people still don’t understand what social media is… But this is not a rant about the role of social media because social media has been around for ever.
Pigeon post, smoke signals, emails, letters…. Anything that has ever generated a conversation can be called social media. It is not new. (So in case you wondered, having a Facebook page and Twitter account does not a social media strategy make). No… The thing that worries me the most is that people talk about “building a community” as if it is no more complicated than replying to every tweet, comment or post. That is not building a community – that is ENGAGEMENT.
And because many people fail to understand this small but significant distinction, I think we’ve stripped “community” of all meaning. If you really want your brand to stand for something beyond price (and you want to build a community of advocates and evangelists), you need to examine what community really means…
According to Wikipedia…
The term community has two distinct meanings: a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and
often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also refer to the national community or international community.
I think that to understand what a community is, you have to look to Europe a few hundred years ago when everyone lived in small villages and huts. There were no windows or doors, so everyone knew everyone else’s business (for better or worse). People helped and supported each other. They shared everything that they had. Of course a hierarchy existed so that there was some degree of order, but everyone was treated equally and they all had a voice that could be heard. Imagine an online community acting like that… That WOULD be revolutionary.