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April 30th, 2009

Supporting Communities takes on Other Forms

Robert Niles at OJR passes on a story about his experiences where companies have decided advertising on a particular niche-interest site is something they do not because they’re seeing huge sales or responses numbers from those efforts but simply because they need those interest-based communities to survive. By supporting these sites, whether their forums or blogs or whatever, they give people who are important to the survival of their industry – and by extension their specific company – a place to come together and indulge in their enthusiasm. The parallels he draws are between these influencer-catering watering holes and local news coverage.

It’s an interesting thought and one that I hadn’t really considered before. At what point do companies say “These publications/sites/communities get people excited for our product. Supporting them is very much worth the advertising spending even though we’re not going to see huge sales spikes from doing so.”

I suppose the line would come where the amount of perceived monetary loss resulting from people not being able to get their freak on about a particular subject is greater than the amount of money being spent on the ads themselves. As Niles says, there’s many an advocate for simply reducing advertising to math that’s based on ROI and shelving any efforts that don’t clear that hurdle sufficiently.

A lot of people – including myself – are always encouraging companies to “join their communities” but we too often limit our own thinking to tactics including commenting on blog posts, interacting on forums or making sure industry writers are included as press. But this sort of financial support is important too. It’s not anything close to “sponsored conversations” or anything like that. It’s just an ad buy that has long-term strategic value. This looks beyond pure monetary ROI or even specific corporate goals and embraces the notion that what’s good for the community is truly good for the industry as a whole by, through their support, giving enthusiasts an ongoing place to hang out.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

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Add Your Comment1 Response to “Supporting Communities takes on Other Forms”

Michele Nix on May 2nd, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I agree, Chris. There is an ROI to investments that don’t have a tangible return. An immediate sales spike isn’t the only goal to strive for to build a customer base. That’s limiting opportunity for positioning and building long-term customer relationships. That’s part of the PR job, too. Absolutely, being part of the communities brings familiarity, comfort…and at register time, a certain degree of increased brand trust. The thinking is: these companies are in the spaces and trenches customers inhabit; they’re working to know their customers better. The reputational advantages of online mingling does, as you say, have strategic value that shouldn’t be overlooked. Interesting post – thanks!