Balancing a Brand & Community Members

logo_chevyLast week, the main focus of the #cmgrclass readings were focused on the role of community members and the art of enticing members who will benefit your brand.  In her post 5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Community Campaign, Deb Ng explores the delicate give-and-take relationship a community manager has to keep in balance between advancing the brand and doing right by community members. She identifies these five questions as the following:

  1. How will this benefit our community?
  2. How will our community react?
  3. Can our community afford this?
  4. What is the worst-case scenario?
  5. How much work will my community have to do?

From my experience, it’s the first two questions of the five that are most important in establishing whether a certain community campaign is one that should, in fact, be launched. By looking at two cases, one for each question, this may become more readily apparent.

The first question of “how will this benefit our community” ensures that the community manager considers that there is some incentive or reward for community advocates to take that extra step, or spur more conversation on social networks. While community campaigns are launched with the intent of bettering the brand and increasing sales, there should be another focus of what community members are getting in return for their efforts.

For example, geolocation service app Scvngr paired up with Chevy in 2011 to launch a car giveaway competition. The competition was run in 27 cities across the US, and in order to compete Scvngr users had to participate in as many of Scvngr’s location-based challenges in their cities as possible. This campaign, though primarily geared towards increasing brand awareness for the 2012 Chevy Sonic Sedan 2LT (the car that was giving to a prize to each winning team), it simultaneously drove brand awareness for Scvngr and offered a considerable prize to active participants. Little advertising was done to promote this campaign, and most of the hype and participation was driven by engaged community members. In this scenario, the brands found an ideal balance between a brand-centric and user-reward model, driving brand awareness while satisfying community members simultaneously.

The question of “how will our community react” takes into consideration how a campaign will be received by the members of community. Ill-founded campaigns can offend community members or just plain old annoy them. Campaigns that are intrusive and not well received by the community will fail because few community members will actually participate in them. One campaign that was successfully due to paying particular mind to question #5 (How much work will my community have to do?) but widely acknowledged as being intrusive is the e-mail campaign launched by Obama for America in the campaign for the 2012 presidential election.

The e-mail campaign, deployed to keep voters informed and solicit money, was effective in raising funds thanks to a very conveniently placed “Quick Donate $3” button on every fundraising e-mail. On a whole, however, the campaign was viewed as one half step above spamming. Sending e-mails with a subject line of “hey” or other non-specific lines numerous times a day was not taken favorably by those on the campaign’s e-mail list. Though this dynamite-fishing technique may have been effective in raising funds, it may also have alienated members of the community who may have otherwise been better and louder advocates.

Although I identify questions 1 and 2 as the most crucial in planning a community campaign, taking all five into consideration is of particular value. If a community manager can favorably answer each of the questions (as the managers of the Scvngr/Chevy campaign could) the endeavor will most likely lead to satisfied community members, more brand awareness, and subsequently, more sales.

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