Forrester’s Nate Elliott: There’s No ‘Community Building’ on Social

Elliott's advice to brands looking for real, measurable results through social media: integrate social aspects into a platform you own, such as your company's website.

Speaking at the Lithium Technologies LiNC conference in San Francisco, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst Nate Elliott dropped some truth on brand managers and marketers: you don’t build a community on social or have any meaningful customer relationships on Facebook.

Elliott’s advice to brands looking for real, measurable results through social media: integrate social aspects into a platform you own, such as your company’s website.

Elliott talked with SocialTimes about the pitfalls of brands attempting to build a community on sites like Facebook:

There’s no community there. This notion of “build a community on Facebook,” I’ve never seen any brand successfully build a long-term community on Facebook. Maybe around a topic for a week, people come together, but conversations aren’t threaded. They’re not archived. There’s never been a meaningful community there. Even pages that get lots of likes on posts, and comments and shares, there’s not a community there.

The notion that you build a community on Facebook, and that we call people who manage the pages Community Managers, it’s always been a pipe dream. If you want a community, you need to build a community, and that means a branded community on a domain you own.

He offered the example of Germany-based Consorsbank, which integrated social media into its website, increasing conversions by 30 percent. Elliott noted that despite the wide range of people on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other sites, the first place most people look for information is usually the company’s website.

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Sephora has a social community on its website — Beauty Talk. Elliott pointed out that users who visit Beauty Talk end up spending 2.5 times more than customers who hadn’t been there. By owning a social presence (and not relying solely on fans and followers on external platforms), brands aren’t as subject to the algorithm, design changes or stiff competition for reach present on social channels.

Elliott noted that one other major mistake brands can get into — especially the rush to be on every emerging or popular network — is that they fail to set real goals:

The biggest (mistake) and the most fundamental one is they go into it without knowing what they’re trying to accomplish. That manifests itself in a few different ways. Very commonly, it means they have too many objectives. You want to do this and this and this. Sometimes, it means they have literally no objective. “We’re using Facebook?” “Well, what do you want to do?” “Use Facebook.”

Sometimes, it’s just that the objective is entirely social in nature — we want followers, we want engagements, we want retweets. When there’s too many objectives, no objective at all, or when the objective is a pure engagement metric, all of those add up to be the same thing: you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. If you can’t describe to me in terms that my grandma would understand what you’re trying to do, then you’re doing it wrong.

Readers: Do you agree with Nate Elliott?

Image courtesy of Lithium.