Sunday, May 22, 2011

It Takes a Community to Build a Community on Facebook

We have a vision.

Our stores will be full of people, cheerfully exchanging greetings with the salespeople who know them by name.

Our gigs will be full of fans.

Our products will fly off the shelf.

Our events will be full of entertained, educated attendees.

We have a vision of our company, our organization, our band our cause.

The question is - how do we get there? How do we fill our stores, our gigs, our events with people?

One of the most common things you read about Social Media is that it helps build a community. While this can be true, it's not a simple prospect. As many businesses have found, Facebook Pages often lead to - at best - a few "Likes" per post and, often, dead silence even when direct questions are asked.

The truth is - it takes a community to build a community.

Let's take my friend's band as an example. I know, it's a friend, so you're gonna roll your eyes when you read this but - they really are very, very good. Like so many bands, they have a unique sound that appeals to an adult sensibility. If you know anything about music, you know that the sharing of music has made it easier - and harder than ever before - for bands to be heard.

The band has a Facebook Page, but gets almost no response from posts - a clear indication that the band was "liked" by friends and friends of friends, then hidden. Or folks who aren't terribly active on FB are making up a big part of the "Likes." Very typical problems for a small audience on Facebook. With few people paying attention, then only a few people are listening, liking, sharing or commenting.

Before they can build a community around their music - or become part of an existing community for independent musicians - there are some questions they have to be able to answer. All of us have to answer these questions before we can effectively create a community of any kind:

Who are we?

What do we want to say?

Who are we talking to?

and, Who is doing the talking?

Facebook is a terrible place to build an audience or a community. Successful Pages on Facebook are almost always Pages by already-popular brands, companies or people who are using Facebook as another way to touch base with people who already know about - and care about - them.

When we envision our communities on Facebook, we have visions of a busy Wall, full of encouragement and conversation. What many companies often see is a series of announcements, requests for "Likes" and finally, pleas for a response of any kind.

Before you put your eggs in the Facebook basket, build yourself a community elsewhere. Keep it lively, full of conversation and contests, questions and answers. When you've built those conversations up in other places, you can feed those folk who already make up your audience a new way to communicate with you - on Facebook. Instead of using Facebook to build an audience from scratch, you'll want to control the space yourself. Your forums, your mailing list, your website, your terms of engagement. It's much easier to know who you are when you're on home turf. Develop your identity in a space you control - then take it on the road. Building an audience through Facebook is hard, expanding upon an audience already built using Facebook is easy.

The folks who engage with you elsewhere can help you grow your Facebook presence. Then you'll have a community to help you build that Facebook community.


Postscript: My friend's band is Eminence Grey (he's given me permission to mention their name and link to them) and if you do visit their Facebook page, you can listen to their song "Mourning Coffee" on the Facebook music player. It's a pretty terrific track, so I hope you'll drop by for a listen!
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