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Notebook

Thoughts & musings.

Social Media Ugly Ducklings: Can They Turn Into Swans?

Some interesting research here from the always interesting Hub. The data purports to debunk the very notion that brands can form consumer communities using social media. The survey of Hub readers shows that while 70% of respondents feel a sense of community as Apple customers, only 30% get the same feeling from Amazon. Similarly 71% of TOMS customers feel like they're part of a broader TOMS community whereas only 29% have the same feeling about Warby-Parker.

Hub's conclusion: "For most brands, the notion that they offer anything remotely like a sense of community is a nonstarter." Therefore — or so the reasoning goes here — if brands want to create true loyalty among their customer bases they're better off using tried-and-true tactics like competitive pricing and ad campaigns, not social media. 

There's a problem with this analysis. On the one hand it's true that some brands, like Starbuck's and Whole Foods, are disposed to creating communities simply by virtue of what they are: coffee shops where people are inclined to hang out and high-end grocery stores that draw like-minded consumers. Other types of brands like cable TV channels and online shoe sellers don't have the same natural attraction. 

And that's really the only thing this research is measuring: the degree to which some brands naturally inspire communities to coalesce around them. Some brands are born attractive, the data shows, others aren't. Does it mean you're out of luck if your company happens to sell marine insurance? Nope. Because a little effort can create a community of any kind. If there's a market for it you can educate consumers about it, and by extension create a community around it. That is, if you're willing and able to provide the flow of content, ideas and incentives it takes to attract and retain an audience. 

So you have to work to form your community. Is that such a bad thing? With a little creativity, time and attention a plain — even homely — brand can have the same shine as one that was born beautiful.