Why Communities Matter

For those of you completely saturated by talk of facebook, rest assured I have no intention of debating facebooks relative value, longevity, IPO strategy or future in mobile.  Having done my sums and worked out how I would spend the $19,000,000,000 or so ‘The Zuck’ woke up with on Saturday 20th May, I moved on to thinking about the impact that facebook has made on the promotional staffing industry.

Facebook has given us a platform to embrace our community of staff like never before; a place to air our opinions, upcoming news, job opportunities (we don’t do this as we keep our job market exclusive to those who are registered with us) and for the courageous, deal with complaints or issues.  Note to agencies, if you delete poor staff feedback, you delete the goodwill staff have with your page.  Curated pages suck.  The wall should be about the good, the bad and the ugly, it makes us accountable, transparent, honest…and on our game.

It seems to me that although most agencies have achieved the quick wins, setting up pages and building a large grouping of ‘followers’, many seem to be barely leveraging the true opportunity.  With few exceptions, close inspection of the plethora of agency pages reveals a steady stream of one way communication.  Agencies need to reset the default, and move the goal posts.  The opportunity facebook offers us is not marketing, it’s engagement.  Value add, relationship driving engagement.  The real question agencies should be asking themselves is not ‘How many people are on our page?’ BUT ‘How many people are actively interacting and talking to us on our page?

Presence doesn’t equal community,  doesn’t deliver results.  Results in this instance being a value add relationship between agency and staffer that focusses on making the staffer feel valued, listened to and supported throughout their relationship with your business.   The key is to understand that these platforms are merely that.  Platforms.  True engagement and the seeds of real relationships, are driven by interesting content, transparency (the good and the bad) and relevance.  Get these right, and you”ll have an engaged audience.

The breadth of this subject means that today I’m going to focus on one element of this engagement strategy, a strategy that is used in both market research and change consultancies called ‘Change Agents’.  The technique is based on Dunbar’s number, the theory that 150 is the cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.  The larger the community, the harder it is to engage, especially after you get above 300 people.

If you’re going to build your engagement numbers, you have to recognise your boundaries and create strategy to counter this behaviour.  One way is to appoint ‘Change Agents’, active community members who live by the values of your business, working with them to propagate best practise and promoting them within the  community to build role models.  Successful strategy is highly valued in a space where few opportunities to create added value to change agents exists.  Through trial and error we’ve identified ones that work in promotional staffing, and we work tirelessly to keep our engagement ideas fresh.  We’re at the early stages of an exciting learning curve that we believe will drive unprecedented engagement levels for our industry, and further our ‘excellence in staffing’ ambition.

This is the first of a number of blog articles I will be writing around the power of communities. Over a series of entries I will be looking at how community is built and then how you can leverage the goodwill within that community.

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Phil Edelston