How to build communities of interest that are actually interesting

Once upon a time there were a few ads on Facebook. Then there were many. And then there were too many. As respite from their branded newsfeeds, people started looking for places where like-minded people discussed similar ideas in a safe space, away from shouting brands. On Facebook, these spaces are known as Communities of Interest – and they’re growing quickly. Here’s why.

Who’s in the house?
Communities of Interest are generally non-branded pages or groups founded on a subject of interest. They’re often centred around topics like health, wellness, support, community or the environment. If you can imagine the Facebook version of 90s chat rooms, this is it. People gather, talk, share and probe to find answers to pressing questions and share information about their passions or concerns. They’re authentic, which means they create a greater sense of community for users.

Knock, knock
Communities of Interest present opportunities for certain brands. Although by definition, Communities of Interest shouldn’t be branded, brands can use them for two purposes. To create a space for discussion based on the lifestyle around their product, then introduce relevant product mentions when appropriate, if at all. Secondly, they can gain valuable insights at a fraction of the cost of traditional market research.

Before you open any new tabs, know this: not anyone can run a brand-backed Community of Interest. At their core, Communities of Interest should provide a public service. Whether to provide comfort and support, share new information or just provide a space for users to feel heard.

It’s not all about you
Communities of Interest can become living, breathing entities under the watchful eye of the right community manager – it starts and ends with being alert and tuning in. Build content around feedback from users. Encourage engagement by posing thought-provoking questions, then watch and wait. Comments become a stream, then a conversation, which is the ultimate prize for the brand. Not only does it signal users are interested in the subject, it offers critical information to inform future content.

It may be about your competitor
Be prepared for competitor brand mentions. Remember, it’s a Community of Interest, so users don’t associate the page with one brand and that’s a good thing. It’s not something you want to change or control. To successfully manage an interest-based page is to be authentic and open – or your savvy community will find out and call you out.

It’s about listening
To ignite conversation and make users feel welcome and valued, there has to be authentic interaction. Forget robotic brand responses – you have to talk to the community like they’re your friends.

When you’ve gained trust, it creates fertile soil for planting the seed of brand mentions or suggestion. They’re already on your side, so suggesting a product won’t be met with resistance or outrage. In fact, they’ll probably listen to more intently because people trust the advice of their friends, family and community (social included) much more than they do brands.

It may unchartered social territory and feel counter-intuitive to traditional marketing efforts, which is makes use of overt branding and calls to action. But when set up and managed correctly, Facebook Communities of Interest can be hugely beneficial for brands.

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