Should I meet you here or there?

6 04 2009

communityI have had a lot of discussions of late about the validity of “destination” communities. In Australia, most social media campaigns utilise pre-existing social networking platforms like Facebook, to engage with their audience.

My line of work deals predominantly with destination communities, that is online-communites which are built specifically for a brand or a topic. These sites will typically include functions ranging from a blog, a discussion board, surveys, member profiles, to an idea exchange, and voting.

At the recent Ad:Tech several speakers talked about social media being all about “going to where your consumers are”. So if your target market is 16 – 21 year old males, then setting up shop in youtube, Facebook and Myspace is where you need to consider.

But I don’t think that this is necessarily the case. How many brands have arrived at Facebook just to set up an unseen and unvisited group/profile, or created an application that quickly became hidden amongst the other millions of applications that exist on Facebook?

The US has numerous (hundreds and hundreds) examples of successful destination communities, that engage a large audience, have a high percentage of return visitors, and exist completely removed from any of the well established social networking platforms.

For most in agency land I can imagine that setting up a campaign in a pre-populated network makes a lot of sense, takes less time/money/effort to set up, and when the campaign finishes, users are left to communicate on the site.

Destination communities are set up for the long term – used to establish relationships and loyalty with their customers.

Which do you think works better in today’s digital age?

Is it a good idea for companies to be entering people’s social networking space to try and involve them in a brand – or do consumers feel like these sites should be left solely for interaction with their friends and family?

Should they be used to complement each other?

Examples of these destination online-communities:

And the list goes on…

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