Don’t Send Your Customers Away:
The Case For Owned Social Media Communities
Elaine Feeney

Faced with the challenge of declining organic reach and low interaction on sites like Facebook and Twitter, many brands will revisit social media efforts in the year ahead. A recent Forrester report actually recommended that companies shift away from third-party social media sites and instead create owned social microsites or branded communities. The report argued that this allows brands to better control social media conversations and more effectively interact with customers. Forrester is onto something here.

Brands often go through the social media motions because they feel as though it’s required in order to gain credibility, but they still question the return on investment from these efforts. This doesn’t have to be the case. Social media marketing can be incredibly effective if done right. To improve upon social media efforts in 2015, brands should take Forrester’s suggestion to heart and focus on bringing their engaged audience onto their owned microsites or branded communities without shunning their third-party social media sites. Here’s why:

Drive the audience to your own soil

As marketers, we spend so much of our effort drawing customers to our websites and it is a key component of measuring our marketing success. We analyze where customers came from, how much time they spent there, what pages they viewed and if they made a purchase. So, ultimately we want to increase customer visits to our website.

There is value in engaging with our customers on third-party sites. Just as omnichannel retailing connects with customers via all available shopping channels, it’s important for brands to engage where our customers are to drive deeper connections and relationships and provide a more valuable experience on our own soil.

Marketers should take the desired messaging for their owned site, find the social interactions that align with that messaging, and combine them to create relevant and dynamic content in their owned property. This can be a microsite within your brand’s website or an entirely separate community through which your brand can engage your audience around a certain product, event or cause. These sites allow you to interact with the right audience and build a deeper connection while you keep them on your site at the same time.

Cut through the noise and inform

While sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are incredibly powerful, it’s often difficult for your message to break through the noise. Certain posts go viral while others get lost in the shuffle. It’s especially tough for brands—the Forrester report found that Facebook and Twitter posts only reach about 2 percent of your fans, and on average only .01 percent of those audiences actually engage with each post.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may be crowded, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon these platforms altogether. Bring the valuable, relevant conversations to a branded microsite that aggregates what you and your customers care about. That can include social content, trends, and analysis from industry experts, other companies, celebrities or other notable figures.

Build communities

Owned social media communities are a great opportunity for you to become a trusted source to inform and engage your audience in a way that they value. You can provide the relevant content in the proper context to quickly inform the audience in a visual way that is easy to understand.

This allows you to amplify the strength of your message. There’s a lot of chatter about your brand on social media sites, but these conversations are much more effective when you can bring them all together in one place and highlight the most credible content from other customers and notable sources.

For example, if you’re working to generate buzz for a new product on social media, your message will become exponentially more powerful if you aggregate what customers are saying about your product across platforms based on keywords or hashtags and bring it all together on one owned site. Microsites like this allow you to visually display what customers are saying about your brand, filter out irrelevant conversations and mix it with your own brand content to give you the power to control the message and context.

Elaine Feeney is the President and CEO of Wayin, an industry leading social intelligence technology company.  Elaine has more than 20 years of divers entrepreneurial experience and key leadership roles at Fortune 100 companies including Sun Microsystems, Citibank and MCI. In addition to leading high-tech software engineering, Elaine is an entrepreneur at heart and was recently recognized as a semi-finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year.