The usual three-step process for companies entering the realm of social media is to listen, engage and create content. These discussions include your company, industry and competitors. Many brands have been very successful in creating communities that congregate fans around Company X. These fan communities work well for companies with an established loyal customer base. Our client, Cumberland Farms Chill Zone, has Facebook Fan Page whose community becomes exponentially larger and more active by the hour. Some companies just attract a large, loyal fan base.
There are many companies that are part of my everyday life for which I simply don't feel any particular loyalty. My laptop and credit card, for example, are two objects I use on a daily basis, but they only get my attention and get me talking when they are broken. So how exactly is a credit card company or computer manufacturer supposed to create a community that doesn't devolve into a complaint forum?
Instead of congregating customers whose loyalty is questionable, they can aggregate a group of knowledgeable professionals who may be useful to their customer base. In this way, the brand becomes a destination for customers and non-customers alike. If I owned a small business that used only Apple products, I would have no use for Dell Support. I may, however; look to Dell for their social media expertise. If I never plan on buying a Dell computer than how does this actually help Dell? Dell has become an important resource for me and thus I am now invested in the future of the company. Similarly, if I'm a stay-at-home mom trying to start a catering business out of my kitchen I probably don't have a permit to operate, much less an American Express business account. I would want to hear what Tom Colicchio has to say about "When to Fire a Customer" on the Inside the Entrepreneurs Mind Series on American Express Open Forum. When I grow my business American Express is likely top of mind for opening a small business account. The ultimate goal for a company's social media efforts is to become not only a resource for their customers, but also an online destination for customers and non-customers alike.