Creating Brand Communities on Social Media: Takeaways from Social Media Strategies Summit

Social Media Strategies Summit (SMSS) is a virtual social media conference that took place Oct. 26-27, 2022. I attended the conference and was inspired by the sessions, specifically the panel “Building Brand Communities on Social.” This panel featured the following professionals:

This panel was extremely exciting for me because I’ve admired Zaria’s work at Duolingo and how she’s elevated Duolingo’s social media channels.

The entire panel was excellent and addressed some big issues and trends in social media community building.

Quality over quantity

One big topic that came out of the panel discussion was the idea of quality over quantity when it comes to posting on social media. The panelists emphasized the importance of thinking of social media as a place to entertain your audience and connect with them in a more lighthearted way, which will turn into building up community.

For Zaria at Duolingo, she’s helped create an amazing digital community around Duo, the Duolingo owl and mascot. Duolingo’s TikTok is filled with videos of their mascot owl in silly skits, participating in relevant trends.

Zaria mentioned that if your brand is trying too hard, people will be able to sniff it out and your content won’t be received as well. It’s a fine line social media creators have to walk where you’re emulating your brand ethos and core values in a fun, entertaining and authentic way.

Overall, the panelists agreed that using your content to engage your audience in fun, unique ways while telling the story of your brand is important when it comes to content creation and social strategy. It’s a lot to roll into social media, but it’s a great way to promote success and to really start connecting with your audience.

Listen to your audience

The comment section

At the risk of talking too much about Zaria, I’ll mention one big tip of hers that really stood out to me: use your comment section as your social brief.

The entire panel agreed that you need to be using your comment section to inform the content you create and your entire social strategy. Your audience will tell you exactly what they’re thinking in the comment section. They mentioned that plenty of content ideas come from the comments; don’t underestimate the amount of information you can draw from there.

[Read More: Humanizing Your Brand on Social Media]

Beyond your comment section, listening to your audience and learning from them through social listening is a great way to understand where your audience is and how they’re consuming content.

Partnering to build equity

Alex Kalbli of T-Mobile added that to really build up your brand equity and grow your customer base, it’s important to partner with other brands and to tell authentic stories that way. She mentions that T-Mobile has worked hard to create lasting partnerships so that they’re affiliated with brands that have strong equity among consumers. They’ll then have different communities from those partnerships, like people who are into video games and tech or people who enjoy sports. She also added that her audience isn’t looking to consume T-Mobile’s story, so telling stories that their audience cares about is their focus.

Know your audience to grow your audience

Chelsea, the moderator of this panel, asked Angela of American Girl how they determine who to market to since American Girl is primarily a toy company. This question was interesting to me because as a B2B company, I haven’t had to consider the complexities of marketing to a younger audience.

Angela was quick to say that their true audience is moms who grew up with American Girl. She said they’ve figured out that nostalgia is a huge aspect of American Girl for this consumer group, so learning how to reach them on different channels has been crucial. She also mentioned that they’ve found doll collectors are so important to the overall American Girl community and have become a large sub-community that creates lots of UGC.

All in all, knowing who your audience is and encouraging that audience to develop organically into segments is a great way to foster community. These audiences live on different social channels, so knowing how to change your tone and content type is important, too.

Generational content consumption

An important topic that came up was that generations consume media differently and we need to adapt to those generations to really reach them. If you know you’re reaching Gen Z on TikTok but have an entirely different generation on Facebook, you can’t use the same messaging for both.

The panelists brought up that Gen Z consumes media much differently than all previous generations in that they take things that aren’t naturally mainstream and make them into trends or give them relevancy. They have a power, especially on TikTok, to make things fit into their stages of life rather than feeling like they need to fit into a mold. It will be interesting to see how that continues to play out on social media.

Measuring brand community success

A question that got brought up from the session audience was how can we measure the success of brand communities and get buy-in from corporate executives who don’t necessarily see the value due to an indirect ROI or monetary gain.

This is a great question and one that the panelists said they’re constantly addressing with their own executives. They said social media managers need to make it known that communities are building the long-term relationship between audience and brand rather than directly selling something. While it doesn’t lead to a direct sale, it’s extremely important in keeping up public perceptions, appearing relatable and down to earth.

Social media is also a great way to reach people you might not have reached otherwise. With this comes the advantage of building out a bigger audience for paid social advertising targeting. If you can grow organically, you can grow your paid social reach as well.

Another tangible Zaria mentioned is taking comments about the product and elevating those to leadership. She said she gets plenty of comments on Duolingo’s TikTok from users who say the video reminded them to log into the Duolingo app to get their language lesson done for the day. Feedback like that proves that social content has a direct effect on product use.

Ultimately, the panelists agreed that they measure brand community through sentiment. Track what the brand sentiment was when you first started monitoring it versus how it changes with social media listening and community management.

This topic is hard because it’s unique to every single brand on social media, and learning your audience takes time. It’s not easy, but one final thought I’ll add from the panel is that you can let go a little on social. Just because you have a serious product offering doesn’t mean you can’t let loose, take a comedic approach and interact in creative ways. Experiment with your brand social channels, figure out what resonates and what doesn’t, and then narrow in on your brand’s communities.

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