It’s not a secret that brands and businesses have invested a lot in increasing followers on their social media accounts in the past few years. It’s a trend that has become a norm when Facebook and Twitter were experiencing tremendous growth.

But it’s 2012 and the phase where a brand’s Facebook page should have 10k fans is already passe. It’s about time to focus on areas like user engagement, sentiment analytics, and user-generated content. Most businesses are still trying to decipher how social media marketing can increase ROI while some of them are completely missing a crucial point – community management.

As brands rely more on social media strategies to capture target niches, the evolving concept of online community management becomes more essential to the overall marketing plan. The age of social business is more apparent, brands are now realizing that they can actually make improve their products through customer-company collaboration. The challenge would be how to squeeze some UGC juice from your community. But how do you encourage customers to produce user-generated content?

One of the most effective ways to entice users share their content is through offline engagement. Sure meet-ups aren’t new, but letting the world know that your brand’s Facebook fans are an actual community is proof that your involving yourself to customers in a more tangible approach. A brand’s online presence is just a catalyst to transform online relationships into offline activities. It’s what Instagram has done so far, their worldwide meet-ups called instameets have been a success. While Pinterest is growing in popularity, Instagram is about to conquer mobile. If your brand or service is mobile-friendly, you’re actually enhancing community management efforts because fans tend to access their social accounts online. It’s a great way to reach out to users while they’re not infront of their laptops.

Brands should also understand that effective community management is not all Likes and Retweets at all. They should remind people that they’ve created social media accounts for them so they can have a voice. It’s a way of telling that the product or service is about them and wouldn’t be around if not for them. This is how you build a community before you actually manage it, as a community manager you should a always keep in mind that a brand’s Facebook page is really “brandless” if it doesn’t contain user-generated content.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and what I’ve seen from people whenever they celebrate this holiday is how a community can come together and share a common interest. It only shows that offline user engagement plays a key role in community management. Social media is simply a linchpin that paves the way for real-world collaborations.