6/25/2009

Online Communities vs. Social Media

Online communities or forums are social media, you might be thinking. Well, you are right. The distinction comes with contemporary thinking. When you say social media today, people naturally assume you are referring to Facebook, Twitter, etc., which happen to be trendier.

From a branding perspective, is it better to focus on forums or social media (SM) sites? That is a relative question and is highly dependent on what your objective happens to be. Personally, there a few obvious differences between forums and SM. One is that forums attract a group with a specific interest and SM sites appeal to a less granular cross section of society. Forum users probably follow the Facebook page of their select community, whereas the Facebook follower may not necessarily be a member of said forum. Users of the forum will be enthusiasts of the market, but not necessarily your brand. Whereas, fans of you SM site will be fans of your specific brand, hopefully. Another important distinction is that while you can go out and set up a SM page pretty easily, it is far more difficult to start up an online community and have any realistic expectation of achieving critical mass. You are late to the party on that note. So, I would say it is important to work on developing a presence with both the appropriate communities and building a SM site.

In order to position yourself or your brand in a favorable way within an online forum, you will need to develop a presence within the community. Since forums consist of voluminous amounts of information on a specific subject, the best way to position your brand is by contributing on a substantive level and create credibility for yourself. If you are patient and provide real understanding of the subject matter along with detailed information in the flow of dialogue, the audience will happy for your involvement. Remember, members of forums are apart of a niche community seeking information about a common interest. The most effective way to reach your target audience online is with a highly targeted campaign tailored in a setting where they are comfortable and thus more receptive to your message.

For SM sites, you build a page and leverage the availability of your brand on the respective SM site to build and or engage your audience. This is a little easier and less time consuming, especially if you have an established or desirable brand. Fans of your brand follow your messaging and engage you from time to time. For those that are followers of your page, this is a great way to keep them up to date with your activities and your brand fresh in their minds. This is also the trendier of the two approaches.

Either way, you are reaching out to your target audience. One way is to position yourself in a niche community and the other is to broadcast a message to an audience at large. Both platforms provide a highly effective means of reaching your target audience and really should be employed as a part of an overall online strategy. Take the time to get to know the nuances of online forums and social media sites and how your audience responds to your message within each. Stay active, be prepared and most importantly be authentic.

I can drill down into the specifics of both fields a hell of a lot more, but I try to limit my ramblings. If you would like to know more, hit me up.

Go Full Throttle Media! Share the experience, sell the dream...
FTM
Seth Horne

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