What Marketers Need to Understand About Communities

For the past three years, ExactTarget's SUBSCRIBERS, FANS & FOLLOWERS research series has taken an in-depth look at consumer preferences and behaviors as they relate to email, mobile, and social channels. In Marketers From Mars, the 20th report in that series, we turn the tables and look at ourselves: marketers.

As marketers, it’s our job to be on the cutting edge. We were most likely the first among our friends to have smartphones. We were the first to tweet, pin, like, follow, and have a business page on Facebook. We Skype, not Keek. We Google Hangout, not FaceTime. We are the early adopters who, ad nausuem, are willing to try anything and everything that can move a marketing campaign meter.

Within the report were some interesting statistics about interacting with brands online. Online consumers with a smartphone rely on Facebook (31%) nearly as much as email (36%) for interacting with brands they trust, whereas consumers without a smartphone are far more likely to rely on email (49%) than Facebook (26%) for brand communications. If we dig deeper into the stats, Twitter (4%), Smartphone App, (8%) and Text (7%) register fairly significantly with consumers who own a smartphone.

I chose to explore this question from the report because it paints a very accurate picture of one of the main mishaps in building and nurturing a community: diversity. I’m not talkikng about ethnic diversity, what I’m speaking to is diversity in the ways we send and receive information. Logic tells you that if your community is predominately on Facebook, that is where you should invest your communication efforts.

But... that is only a starting point. In order to actively develop your community, there is a lot more trial and error (combined with user feedback) before you can comfortably confirm that single-channel communication will be your best tactic. I’m not implying that every community should be supported by a Twitter account, Facebook fan page, Google+ group, etc. Should you park those accounts? Sure. But don’t spread the love just because you think you should.

Your marketing message needs to be crystal clear, and sharing it should be platform-agnostic. However, developing the follow-through for that marketing message needs to be a time investment that benefits your users. Their usage patterns will show you the basics of where they want to meet and engage. And with a feedback survey or few focus groups, you can fine tune what messaging works, and where.

Marketers often forget that their preference for where and when to receive messages may be quite from the users or consumers they are trying to reach. Have I ever clicked an ad on Facebook or an app on my phone? No, never. But there are millions of people who do. Marketers are in a forever-state of "drunk on their own Koolaid," and it’s a sobering experience when that Koolaid proves to be a roadblock to building relationships and communities.

Looking for more insights into how marketers and consumers are different? Check out the rest of Marketers from Mars.

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