This is the final post on a four part series on building a social media strategy through community development.  In the first blog I introduced the 5 P’s of community, the second explored the concept of the motivated community member and the third community participation.  Essentially, I feel that branded social spaces should pursue a value creation strategy to engage and entice consumers.  In this post, I introduce the three levels of value creation.

Why is value creation important to social media success?

I see so many companies dipping their toes into social media but they really don’t seem to be getting the ‘social’ part.  Social media is not just another broadcast media.  As I always say, think of social media as a medium to build relationships.  Relationships are based on two-way communication and in business we build relationships based on value.

Other than those who friend your brand for status, consumers will follow because of the value you create for them.  Simply posting out links to purchase is not creating value for those who have taken the time to follow you.  Yes, make these people feel special by offering them ‘social discounts’ or ‘social offers’ but think about how you can create value and expertise in your area of industry.

I have a friend who is a jewellery designer.  She was sceptical of social media but we have designed a social strategy that will create value to customers who are interested in her designs as well as jewellery designing.  This way she can emerge as an expert in the area and can back up her own style with usable substance.  She also uses her expertise to join in conversations and answer any communication directed to her.

In early planning of this strategy I used a three prong approach to identify the content, the medium and the social nature of the communication.  Essentially, I see three levels of social content value creation. 

Three levels of social content value creation

I have developed a value creation model based on three levels of value: content value, technology value and social value.  The model is more geared towards to content you wish to broadcast to begin dialogue with others, as you have more time to think about the value you wish to create.  However you should not ignore posts directed to you and I encourage you to join in conversations that are related to your area of business. 

While many brands wish to gain customer followers you could also build supplier and other business relationships with social media.  I would suspect that taking a value creation approach will highlight your business as ‘one to watch’ and you may gain attention from other businesses.  After all we want to align with experts and leaders.

So to the model…

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Content Value

The first element of value is the information type.  In traditional communications literature we think of marketing communication strategies.  This is no different in social media, although in some situations the depth of information is restricted.  Everyone says content is king.  Yes, content is king.  It must be appropriate and engaging.  From what I see just now, the most predominant information type is persuasive – all the spam sales pitches.  I do not want to see this ten times a day, boring…

It is also a fast way to be un-followed.   Which leads onto the second level of content value: volume. 

Volume can be how many times to post or the depth of the content.  Volume is dependent on the media you are using.  A tweet, for instance, has a very short life and restricted character content.  A blog or a Facebook post has a longer shelf life and depth potential.  You need to know your media to understand the volume and depth of the content.  It’s not a one size fits all approach to social media, tailor your content for the specific media – you can then interlink through the various media (remember integrated marketing communications) but the post or comment on each media should be unique to that media.  Moving onto the final element, presentation. 

Make the most of the features present on social media platforms to help present your content.  In my own academic work, I look at vivid information.  Because of the lack of social cues in social media (and all computer mediated communication) we like to see pictures, video and well-presented content, to increase vividness.  The flow of a post and the writing style is also important, try and evoke emotion in what you are writing.  Transport the consumer into your world.  Transportation may be why consumer to consumer posts are influential, their experience is personal and write about it as such, they transport others into their consumption experiences.  Where brand generated content appears more objective.    

Technology Value

Social media is more than Facebook and Twitter, please consider this when developing social content.  Consider the usability value of the media: can you achieve what you want in the content and with the media chosen?  All social media platforms have nuances, use them to your advantage and offer exclusive content shaped to the platform, it’s not a one fits all approach.  Related is the second element of interactivity.  Social media is a two-way interactive media, some platforms offer more interactivity than others.  Essentially you need to decide on how interactive you want to be, tweets are different to Facebook posts which are different to blogs and to Foursquare check-ins.  You manage and handle each in a different manner, respect the medium. 

Please no simple broadcasting – social media is not a one to many platform but a responsive platform.  The whole point of social media is to reach and build relationships with consumers and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. suppliers or employees) if people take the time to mention you, you should reply.  Brand equity will not increase if you have branded social spaces and do nothing but broadcast over them.  Think about how asymmetric or symmetric the media is – symmetric is the richest form of communication but that communication cannot be rich if you are not adequately responding.   Interactivity then leads onto the final level of value, social value.    

Social Value

Are you being social?  Can your brand advocates easily interact with each other?  I wrote before that a strong community will have interlinked interactions.  It is up to you to create a branded social space that facilitates this interaction, after time motivated community members may take the lead on this.  The social engagement level may depend on what resources you can give to social media, please don’t have the Saturday guy tweeting for you.  If you would not send the person(s) who are responsible for social to a cocktail party to represent your brand don’t use them for social.  Spend time joining in conversations and filtering out the noise in social media to find those ones that matter.  When broadcasting your own posts, think about the three value levels of social content.  Broadcasting means nothing, you want people to respond, and that way you know they are listening.  A response or ‘share’ in social media means you are doing something right.  What posts are your stakeholders most interested in?  You can capture what they are looking for from responses and shares, you know this content has been valuable to them.

On a personal note, I love social media because you can see the interactions among users.  You customers and other stakeholders are traceable, you can openly see what your competitors are doing and the response they are receiving in the market place.  Social media is not a one stop shop to fix your brand, it’s going to take time to develop strong communities.  I think the best way to do this is by value creation and not by buying fans and followers.  Remember you can see the value you create through the responses you receive, and these are the people who are most open to building a relationship with you.