community engagement

We all know the power of moms and their ability to change the world we live in on a day-to-day basis, but did you know moms are now changing the world through social media?

A recent survey conducted by Burst Media sought to uncover deeper insights regarding audience interaction and uses with social media, as well as how blogs and bloggers can influence the purchasing decisions made by their readers.  The survey found that not only are moms highly active with social media; they also have the largest presence throughout the social web.

Three out of five moms visit their favorite social media sites at least a few times throughout any given day.  Moms are now engaging with family and friends through social media more than ever.

When it comes to “liking” or following their favorite content on social media, the survey showed that moms are the heaviest users of this feature with 70.6% frequently or occasionally liking a brand or product. So, what is the reason for such high numbers? Moms use this feature to gather and share content with their family and friends. They also want to be heard by the brand; therefore 33.3% say they follow brands on social media to share their opinions or comments towards the content.

With such strong statistics showing mom interaction with social media, it should come as no surprise to you that 3 out of 4 moms, or 74.4%, of moms who follow blogs say the mention or promotion of a brand within the context of a blog influences their purchasing decisions.

Moms and their opinions are now more valuable than ever to any given brand. This survey brings a new meaning to the saying, “Mom approved”.


I go to Facebook for a few things.

1. To see what my friends are doing.
2. To make sure no one has posted a picture of me from 15 years ago.
3. To share a piece of inspiring content, a song from Spotify, or a Ted Talk.
4. To post pictures of my dog Athena.
5. To go to my running community on Facebook.

While I am a Facebook user, I’m also a marketer and a “content person.”

Sometimes as marketers, we have an “us” and “them” mentality when it comes to marketing. And while the word “user” is usually shelved for discussions about drug-addicts, this word “user” is representative of the way we treat our Facebook fans with a one-size fits all approach. Recent studies show it’s backfiring.

A recent Ad Age study—using the “People Talking About This” metric—based on likes, posts, comments, tags, and shares, reported that only 1% of Facebook fans engage with brands on Facebook. Further proof of what Karen Nelson-Field, senior research associate for Ehrenberg-Bass Institute said in the Ad Age piece.

“Facebook doesn’t really differ from mass media,” said Nelson-Field.

For all that we talk about the end of megaphone marketing, it appears we are still doing it, but with content on our brand’s Facebook pages. But it makes perfect sense to me why the same Ad Age article reported the average Facebook engagement rate from fans for brands is .36%.

Niche Communities Who Congregate Around Content

Today an article was released “How Content Is Really Shared: Close Friends, Not ‘Influencers: The Best Way to ‘Go Viral’ is Engage Millions who Share in Small Networks.”

The article says that online sharing takes place through many small groups, not via the single status post or tweet of a few influencers.

The team at BuzzFeed, a platform that captures the most viral content on the web, looked at 50 stories that had received the most Facebook traffic since mid-2007. What they found was the largest stories on Facebook were the “product of lots of intimate sharing — not one person sharing and hundreds of thousands of people clicking.” People share information when it’s relevant to the people in their own community, among their friends.

If I want to talk about running, I go to my closed running community. I trained for the SF Women’s Nike marathon last fall. I belonged to a private Facebook Group with the other East Bay Team in Training members. If I wanted to talk about anything related to marathon training, I would only post content about it in this particular closed Facebook group.

I wouldn’t burden all of my Facebook friends with these intricate details about marathon training, because they simply wouldn’t be interested.

Picture of my offline Facebook group, my coach Al (see Do the Damn Thing shirt), and me at the actual SF marathon.

The Buzzfeed team says “content goes viral when it spreads beyond a particular sphere of influence and spreads across the social web via ordinarily people sharing with their friends.”

We know this makes sense when we think of how we use Facebook, so why do we continue to throw content at the wall and hope it sticks?

Houston we have a problem.

What do you think?

“As I was rocking my daughter Tahlia to sleep, I felt an overwhelming sadness that brought me to tears. I thought of all the Haitian mothers who were in chaos and darkness,” said Janine Cuthbertson, founder of the Moms for Moms Communities after the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January of 2010.

A ten year Colorado resident, she once lived in Miami and worked with Haitian students.
She was one of many moms in her community who felt disconnected to what was happening abroad and frustrated that she could not immediately offer help to these Haitian families.

Janine decided to take action by organizing a local relief effort. She needed a way to organize with her local community, and leveraged a local email distribution list.

As she carried out relief effort she grew frustrated with the limitations of email. After the Haiti relief effort was over Janine was inspired to find a better way to accommodate communication across the mom community.

Eventually Janine launched the Carbondale Moms for Moms community. This central hub became the go to place for discussion, community awareness and family support.

Janine working with the community to organize a relief effort

Janine’s story shows the power of passionate communities. Janine–the community organizer–provides a truly local experience for her members.

Janine’s community is bursting with user-generated content by moms for moms. She is the guardian of the community and cares about the user experience of each member and the overall integrity of the site.

The original Carbondale Moms for Moms community made traction so fast Janine was inspired to create more communities, and now the Carbondale Moms for Moms community is one of 9 thriving communities. All of these communities are run by moms local to the area of the community.

Janine’s story is a familiar one.

Gatekeepers of communities all over the web don’t want to inundate their community members with advertising. They are concerned with protecting the group. The community must always be a safe space where people can openly congregate around their passion without the interruptions of advertising.

At Linqia we feel influential community organizers like Janine are the future of the web.

We believe brands can earn entree into these communities only through meaningful, authentic content and experiences.

Only then will brands engage communities like Janine’s in the far corners of the social web.

Brands looking to engage with the European consumer will find comScore’s 2010 European Digital Year in Review a must read. Social Networking sites have eclipsed most other activities and are a magnet for consumers to while away their day with 34 percent more time spent social networking versus last year. Sharing photos and participating in community activities are amongst the three leading categories.

Other interesting statistics:

  • Approximately four out of every ten internet sessions included a visit to a social networking site.
  • In the UK and France, total display ad impressions on social networking sites grew by 47 and 64 percent, respectively, while in Germany that number more than doubled.
  • In December 2010, viewers from Germany, the UK, and Spain spent more time watching online videos than those in the US, averaging 18.0, 17.0, and 16.2 hours respectively.
  • Smartphone ownership increased 9.5 percentage points in Europe during 2010 to 31.1 percent
  • IAB Europe reports that internet advertising is approaching a 20-percent share of total advertising spend, almost doubling its share over the last two years.

Whilst display advertising and click rates are increasing, brands are experimenting with various other platforms and tools to reach and engage consumers across social networking sites.

It’s well known that Social Networking Activity is growing enormously worldwide.

An interesting study provided by Datamonitor predicts within the next four years there will be 107 millions members of Social Networks in Europe – compared to a current total of 41,7 mio Europeans.

The European Ranking is:
No 1: UK is the leader with 6 million users growing up to 27,1 mio in 2012.
No 2: France follows with current 8,9 mio users increasing up to 21,3 mio in 2012.
No 3: Germany currently has 8,6 mio users growing up to 21,7 mio of users in 2012.
No 4: Spain has 2,9 Social Network users and is very likely to reach 7,3 mio within the next four years.

This enormous growth introduces significant opportunities for today’s marketers assuming that they have the right strategies in place. Marketers who would like to be successful need to know which kinds of advertising formats are effective within Social Networks.

The survey Community Effects 2008 has verified that sponsored music, viral videos and games are most accepted by community members. “A particularly promising strategy is a combination of decently communicated advertising messages, a high fun factor and the possibility to communicate indirectly with other users.”

More than every second questioned participant evaluates music-clips (59%) and video-campaigns (51%) as a throughout positive advertising medium. On the contrary, most community users reject classic contests (30 %) and implored Flash-Layers (31 %).

The key for any advertiser getting started in a group campaign is to acknowledge that they don’t know what they don’t know. Advertisers don’t know groups.

Sure they’ve spent a fortune on garnering demographics and compiling an impressive stack of statistics, but numbers alone don’t reveal the nuances of individual experience and they can’t accurately predict how a group will react to their advertising content.

To begin to really understand what motivates an individual to contribute to group discussion, advertisers must turn to the Group Leader.The Group Leader better than anyone else can reveal a long history of engagement.

Advertisers must learn to appreciate what a unique vantage point the Group Leader has. He (or she) can anticipate what his members will like, dislike, be passionate about or even revolt against.

He knows what kind of content gets the most clicks, what discussions are most likely to generate heat or cause infectious laughter, spirited debate, thoughtfulness, creativity, insight, empathy or knowledge.

Group Leaders have bought together hundreds and thousands of people; all bought together by common interest, cause or experience.Usually the Group Leader themselves shares this in common.

For example, the Group Leader of a weight-loss community may well have undergone a personal weight-loss journey of their own and created a community to share and encourage others on the same journey.

Sharing with a group is often cathartic. Groups offer a sense of camaraderie and the opportunity to genuinely connect. Therefore the most active, vibrant groups are bound together by trust and openness, and more often than not, it’s the Group Leader that leads by example.

So how does a Group Leader introduce an advertiser into his or her group?

He needs to continue to communicate openly with his group. Any pending advertising campaign must be made transparent. The advertising campaign might be a product trial, a competition entry or simply a question to answer.

Therefore the Group Leader may post an introduction on the community noticeboard or the community blog. They might send out a direct email invitation to participate or inform group members.

What language they use; what tone they set is entirely up to them. They communicate with their members, day in day out. They know what to say and how to say it.

Typically clear and concise is best. For example:

“I’d like to welcome [Advertiser X] to our community.

[Advertiser X] will be running a social media content campaign within our group for the next month. What is a social media content campaign?Well, [Advertiser X] would like us to contribute to their campaign. They would appreciate it if we could …”

Advertisers might ask group members to trial a product; answer a question; share knowledge; provide feedback or apply creativity. The Group Leader may then elaborate and sign off with something like the following, for example;

“[Advertiser X] has offered us an assortment of content to download into the group. You may wish to view, comment, share, like, dislike, reject or embrace. It’s entirely up to you. I’ll be on hand to hear your thoughts. Get in touch.”

The message is simple and to the point. Of course the anticipated upshot of a social media content campaign is to encourage or entrench advertiser-consumer relationships.

Branded content is distributed into online groups to spark conversation-led advertising campaigns. However unlike traditional advertising, conversation-led campaigns welcome the entire spectrum of consumer reactions.

The Group Leader downloads whatever content he feels will add the most value to his community and at what time and where within the site they feel it’s best suited. The Group Leader needs to provide a specific place to post reactions and garner activity around content.

For example, if the first piece of content prompt a good number of posts, the Group Leader may suggest it’s best to let the conversation continue rather than to try and “hijack” attention to another piece of content.

But what happens when an advertiser wishes to participate in group conversation?

Again the key is transparency. Beyond speaking with the Group Leader to understand what tone and language they might use to post comments and ask questions, it’s also a good idea for the advertiser to spend some time in the community beforehand.

Spending time in the community, observing the tone and nature of the conversation is a practical start to any social media campaign.

If an advertiser doesn’t possess the expertise to post on a particular subject, then the advertiser shouldn’t position themselves as an expert. Group members will inevitably see right through it and consequently they may feel deceived.

Better to bring in experts or pool employee resources to answer specialised questions rather than try and position themselves as an expert.

Finally the advertiser needs to collaborate with the Group Leader and listen to what group members have to say. Ultimately, everyone involved in an online group endeavour to foster the natural ebb and flow of human engagement.

From the 1.7 billion people online, 4.4% of time is spent searching and 27.8% is spent in online communities. What’s astonishing about these figures, is that where people spend time online, with the exception of online communities, is decreasing rapidly. And yet, the billions of advertising dollars are injected into search.

Mark Zuckerberg put his finger on it. He recently said “Communities already exist. Instead, think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do.”

So what exactly does a community want to do? Simple. Every community wants to maximise the quality of experience of as many members as possible. This could be achieved through vibrant, active discussions, compelling and engaging content, sponsorships and partnerships with access to exclusive offerings, opportunities to get to know other members. The list goes on.

Recently at the Lift2010 conference in Geneva, 37 curious people gained insights into how brands can successfully participate in multiple online communities that may not necessarily be their own. This is virgin territory and whilst brands are sold on the concept, they lack the ‘how’.

The presentation and video explore:
• Evolution of online communities
• Approaches brands have taken to engage with online communities
• Opportunities and challenges brands face when engaging with online communities

Online Communities: How brands are edging their way into the heart of the conversation 

View more presentations from Maria Sipka.Lift10 brands and communities from netinfluenceChannel on Vimeo.Thanks to Nicolas Fermont from NetInfluence who whipped this video together in 10 minutes.