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From Followers to Advocates: How to Build a Loyal Social Media Community

 Belonging is one of the five human needs according to Abraham Maslow, and is a major source of overall human motivation. So it’s no surprise that the need for wanting to be accepted by a group of people, and to feel seen and heard, is what humans seek in most interactions. 

This, at its core, can easily translate to how and why we use social media the way we do, and why it’s the closest touchpoint to our audience in our marketing efforts.

That is why building an engaged community is a critical part of a successful social media strategy, and why it’s crucial to measure it as more than just a vanity metric or follower count. 

The way brands engage with their community is what makes them stand out and become memorable, and can even spark headlines across traditional media (more on that later).

However, we live in a tech-first, fast-paced world of social media where instant gratification is expected. Genuine connections can get lost in the shuffle of new innovations. 

As with anything sustainable and long-term, building takes time. Building an authentic and engaging social media community is the same.

Social media managers know that community management gives marketers an inside look under the hood of what your audience thinks of your brand. You can gain so many insights just from the comments section (a secret weapon, if you will). Implementing social media community management guardrails will help to improve your ability to respond to comments you find there. 

Over the years, community management and community manager roles have become increasingly more important with the rise of big social media players like TikTok which advanced the focus to be, at times, more on the comments section than the piece of content posted. Personally, I will sometimes go out of my way to dive into the comments section first to see what’s been said as a form of entertainment.

However, fellow marketers know that YouTube was the first of the platforms who paved the way for building community-first strategies around its creators. This was a huge factor in their channel’s growth on the platform and led to offline marketing efforts such as live, in-person meet-and-greets, influencer events such as VidCon, and brand deals with merchandise. 

Building community is important because your fans want to be more than just followers. They want you to acknowledge them, reward them, listen to them, and make them feel seen and heard. These are the steps towards having a life-long consumer and advocate for your brand. They will, in turn, advocate for you in the comments section of different social platforms. 

Brand affinity (also known as brand love) is the core of any organic social media team’s success. You want to be remembered for how you made your audience feel the next time they’re choosing between your brand or your competitor.

Example: Lyft’s Community Speaks Up on TikTok

The following is a real-life example that took place during my time at Lyft.

When TikTok became prioritized as one of Lyft’s main social media channels for reaching a Genz Z audience, we knew that we had to dedicate resources and a full-time role to solely community management. This is needed for success on any social media platform, but we put priority on TikTok as the primary platform used by our target audience.

The Lyft social media team hired a community manager to ensure that the brand was engaging in its own comment sections, as well as other relevant conversations and accounts on the platform. This allowed our brand persona to shine through as we listened in and joined in on conversations.

Although brand awareness is usually measured by metrics such as impressions and reach of content, we measured brand love by the quality of comments, the engagement rate on our own posts based on our own followers, and the engagement rate of brand comments as well. We prioritized the heavier-lift, more meaningful engagements such as mentions, shares, reposts, and of course, comments.

Lyft and Uber have always had a playful relationship on social media. It wasn’t until an influential Gen-Z TikTok influencer (@GirlBoss) created a plan for an Uber Superbowl ad that the Lyft community took things up to another level. A handful of Lyft fans jumped in her comment section on that video and tagged @Lyft to chime into the conversation (at the time of the video, Uber was not active on the platform). 

Comments about Lyft from TikTok on @girlboss video

Our team took this as an opportunity to lean on our followers and engage in some fun banter, which then resulted in tons of earned media coverage, and ultimately led to making headlines all from this engagement by playing along with our own followers who invited us into the conversation.

This led to free brand love for Lyft on TikTok

+ 329 positive comments
+ 700+ new followers

Your brand community will be the first to shout from the rooftops how amazing your product or service is, but they can easily share their not-so-great reviews as well. You want to ensure you’re listening to them, engaging with them, surprising and delighting them, making them feel valued as a consumer. 

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