Branded Communities: The New Center Of Your Social Media Marketing Efforts

Brands used to build their social marketing ecosystem around big global social networks mainly Facebook and Twitter. So far brands could not ignore the huge reach, impression and engagement potential of these sites. However things started change. Since giant networks turned to be always on media spending channels, brands started to re-think if this is the right communication center for their social efforts.

And now there is an alternative approach in this context. We call it “branded communities”. It means brand’s owned digital assets, mainly interactive community websites where brands and its advocates get together. Branded community sites are a social hub for the brand where it curates original content with social content, create conversation and event get likes or subscribers. It also curate other contents from traditional social network channels like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

There is dialogue, feedback, customer experience within branded communities. And people will not be there for building friendship. If they are seeking to meet with their friends they can meet with their real friends on Facebook, Twitter or something. On the contrary, branded communities are based around brands not friends. They will be there to receive a basic value from the brand he/she likes, cares or wonders. That value may be a exclusive content, a solution, a promotion code, an information or a special experience.

Another important aspect of branded communities is the fact that you owned all user data, behavior and activations within the platform: A real oppurtunity to build relations with your community through re-marketing or loyalty programs. A chance to constantly optimize your engagement with the audience.

Realities: Building a platform is not easy! It is painful with lots of on the go learnings. However if you build it in rights hands then it is the next stage of online community management. It requires strong design perspective, user interface/experience solutions, right context and always-on editorial effort.

Some aspects of  such branded community sites are:

  • They are open to dialogue, feedback, customer experience and any user generated content.
  • Branded communities are build around the brand and its advocates.
  • It is based on the assumption that your advocates will search and find you on internet. Not necessarily on Facebook or Twitter.
  • It is not for social networking. And don’t try to create a one.
  • Branded community website requires dedication and commitment.
  • Exclusive and authentic content is the fuel of these community websites.
  • Digital media plans should be centered around this social hub since it is an always on owned media asset.
  • Not every brand necessarily have one, it depends on your brand’s advocacy power and its audience.

I want to give a strong example for such website. is the social hub of PS4 created by Playstation. Check it out to have a deeper understanding of branded community sites behaviors. According to Playstation this social hub gathers 4.5 million page views, 3.3 million pieces of content curated within site and 75,000 fans featured on the site. Amazing scores for a brand owned platform.

Here are some features of the platform:



Organic Reach Is Over. What About Now?

You thought you have fans and your earned media so far. Sorry but it is not working that way anymore. They are only reachable through advertising.

Marketers put effort and energy on social networks mainly for reach. But now organic reach is over. Paid posts are necessary for reach. Unpaid posts are out. Facebook already announced that organic reach will continue to significantly decrease.  As Facebook officially stated in June 2014, then in November 2014, newsfeed is a very competitive place. And right community management and robust ad planning is essential. According to Ogilvy report for instance, large pages has reached only 2% of their fans organically in February 2014.

This is so nature of Facebook business. As I always say; Facebook is a huge media company with a great consumer data to be sold to marketers.  Do brands really think they use these social networks for free and engage with their fans as they wish?  Or believe that Facebook is here only for building more open and transparent communication opportunity with the vision of more connected world. This was quite an utopia. Shareholders and investors put great pressure on Facebook executives for growth and ad revenues.

How to adapt to these changes?

So what to do now? Let me summarize how brands can utilize their strategies on Facebook under these new circumstances. I put down 7 watch-outs:

1- Organic reach is over, orient yourself. Adapt your relationship marketing efforts.

2- The fans you thought you have are not yours. Admit it. They are users of social networks with all user data. Look for alternatives.

3- It is not about “publishing” any more. Stop posting a lot of contents. Facebook doesn’t want to be a publisher. Do not think that people will always see what you post.

4- Focus on creativity. Avoid overwhelming and pointless ordinary content work. Content managers are overload to prepare hundreds of contents which are reaching 1% of your audience. This is not right. Give them space to craft less but more creative, quality and relevant content or various content projects.

5- Allocate “always on” media budget and optimize. Don’t make unpaid posts. It is waste of time, energy and effort. Use relevant Facebook ads and optimize them real-time. Observe community preferences and behaviors and adjust your contents & ad plan accordingly.

6- Brand advocates will find you. It is still very important to have your brand presence in Facebook. The real dynamo of your brand’s voice, the advocates, will remain to search you. Find you on Facebook. Make sure your page is always on and engaging.

7- Build customer services on Facebook. It is not about pointless publishing. But it is always about customer services, added value services and online presence. So prepare widgets, apps or functions on Facebook for your customers. Integrate your business needs into it. They will come and engage with it.

To conclude, online community management efforts are not about posting any more. It is more complicated. Get used to the new dynamics of social networking sites and adapt your social strategies.

What is next?

Lots of brands put these social networks, mainly Facebook, as the center of their online community efforts. However I must say this is going to change. Brands need to put efforts to create a value around relationship marketing in a way it can control data, behavior, reach and experience. And this is only possible to move to the stage of brand owned platforms: branded communities.

This is an alternative approach for building online communites comparing to social networking sites. I will write about it in a next blog post. 

Take care.

A Productivity Challenge: FOCUS

Focus: The only way of creating good stuff.

But it is a challenge in digital era. Our lives are interrupted. We are always on. Both personally and professionally. We are exhausted to concentrate and involve what we do mentally and emotionally.

We are in a state of not being able to stay unconnected. Social media flow, mobile notifications, alerts, reminders, etc.. We have an aimless and uncontrollable wish to follow things and people. We check our e-mails pointlessly in every minute. We stream our Twitter account as if we are hypnotized. Continuously looking at Instagram, checking any news on Facebook, refresh our reader, and so on. This is a very exhausting loop.


We need to break this everlasting loop to focus on something or achieve a goal in our daily routine. It is time to manage it now. And I know it is a true challenge. You can start with doing these:

-Do little practices on concentration

-Set up some rules for yourself while you need to work in focus

-And no, you won’t die not looking Twitter for an hour..

-Close as many distractions as possible (digital, social, physical)

-Leave your table empty

-Write down notes and reminders for yourself

-Have an agenda for the day

-Be where you are

Give it a try. This productivity move will help you get truely involved. At least I hope so :)

Idea Writers!

Copywriters do not only write copy. They find ideas, craft them and extend accordingly. Besides they have to consider relevant connections for the right idea. So it would be right to call them “Idea Writers” instead.

And it is not just a headline and body copy! Or a slogan, tagline, radio spot script.  It is much more complicated and diversified. There are social contents, conversations, mobile apps, advergame contents, songs, retail experinces, microsite copies, video scripts, banner scripts, a tweet, anything.. It is complex.

I have a more important question on this subject. Do only copywriters write by the way? Of course Not!

 The agency people regardless of their departments or titles, are supposed to craft ideas and write them in our daily routine. A strategist, a copywriter, an account person, a content specialist and also executives: We are all idea writers!  This is what we do and meant to. It might be in hundreds of different forms: idea presentation, scenario, social media content, client presentation, scatch on board, headline in Evernote, mechanism on your notebook, meeting note, or even an e-mail sent to colleagues or clients.

 We keep up writing, inspiring and collaborating. That is why I prefer to call all creatives as idea writers.

 Since creative industry is evolving, creatives should extend their playgrounds. Recently I found a good read, with a focus on new realities of brand creativity business. The Idea Writers by  Teressa Iezzi, editor of Advertising Age’s Creativity made me think on this subject.. Check it out

Consumers Don’t Only Consume!

Why do we keep saying “consumers”? Consumption is only a part of what consumers do! Now, they don’t only consume but they create, participate, curate. So I would prefer saying “people” or even “human” instead.

Drivers of User Generated Content

What we all know about new marketing landscape is people took over the control. And everybody is talking about the content and contribution which consumers create: User Generated Content. My question is; for an average user, what is the motivation to create a brand relevant content?

Lately I read the book “Advertising Transformed” of Fons Van Dyck, also the founder of Think BBDO. He mentioned a research which identifies the 4 main drives of UGC. They are;

1. Co-creation

2. Empowerment

3. Community

4. Self-concept

Co-creation:  This is more about feeling attached to the brand so you want to be a part of it via your contribution. It states all situations where consumers collaborate with company or brand. They are interested in because consumers regard themselves as a valuable and integral part of the brand.

Empowerment: Now consumers are in charge! Many consumers no longer want to be influenced by marketing and advertising, preferring instead to take control of decision making process. They use the internet and their own content as weapons to put pressure on the marketer and advertisers to take account of their wishes.

Community: This is more about belonging  and socializing. UGC offers consumers the possibility to express themselves through sharing idea and experiences with the other community members.

Self-concept: People try to express themselves and distinguish themselves from others by the choice of brands they make. As Fons Van Dyck states in his book, “Self-concept builds a bridge between the imperfect ‘me’ of the present and the perfect ‘me’ of the future.”

Since marketers and advertisers run after UGC, it is important to analyze and build a road map to generate a positive process from consumer’s creative contributions and energy. It is great for a brand to team up with their consumers while creating engaging brand stuff. However it is also a ticking bomb which the brand has no control ever.

Make Your Brief Inspiring!

Brief should be brief.

A good brief is the key factor to get a good creative. Everybody agree with that, right? However a few really gives that importance in brands and agencies. What I often see is, briefs are written just for being written. Some people see it a boring procedure, or just a paperwork to fill in the blanks. Sorry for that.

Normally, a brief is a thought exercise. A reflection of the business problem, insights and understanding of the necessity. It requires a strong strategic approach and inputs for right communication path. Brief should be inspiring! Strong brands know this process and puts huge amount of energy to create the right brief together with their agencies. And they get the great creative accordingly, not a surprise.

Each brand and agency has its own brief formats, more or less the same. But approach is more important than the formats. Because formats don’t inspire great communication. Formats don’t inspire great briefs too. At the end of the day you need more or less these basics with insightful inputs;

  • Key fact
  • Business/Marketing Problem
  • Objective
  • Key Benefit
  • Support
  • Audience/Tone
  • Competition
  • Mandatories

However, this shouldn’t be an information overload. Brief should contain insight rather than lots of unnecessary information. Information should be filtered carefully. So distinguish the difference between orientation and brief! Most of time a paperwork comes as a brief, which is actually a detailed orientation to the brand with lack of simplicity, insights and direction.

A brief should really be brief. It is all about the famous saying; “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”

This is the golden rule of creative process.

For conclusion I also listed some of basic questions from different brief approach of agencies, just to give an idea;

  • What key business challenge dose the brand face?
  • Describe the audience
  • Why aren’t they doing what we want them to do?
  • Why should they?
  • Describe the brand character that we want?
  • What must the solutions include?
  • What is the question we need to answer to complete this assignment?
  • What is the most relevant & differentiating idea that will surprise consumers or challenge their current thinking of the brand?

New Currency In Communication: TOPICALITY

Topicality” means up-to-dateness. Listening, realizing and adapting your communication accordingly. This requires a dynamic process and more flexible way of doing business, which is absolutely a big challenge for offline agencies where there is often long term plans, slower strategies and proven tactics. However clients, more than that brands, need agility and adaptiveness in new super fast media landscape.

So the offline models had to acquire digital skill sets to have “topicality”. But it is not enough. They need to shift the way they produce creative. I mean the creative process also needs to evolve to meet the new needs. It should be faster, flexible, out of box and always on.

People engage with people, not brands. They engage around particular mostly current  topics. The internet has its own agenda. What brands should do is being a part of the conversation. That is why brands need to be “topical”. This is the only way to create an organic interaction with users.

Another important note, topical is currently of interest, the quality of being topical. So it is contemporary. But it is not a long-term reaction or positioning. Brands still need comprehensive, long-term and strategic communication paths. Topicality should be a reflex to be part of the ongoing conversation in line with the long-term positioning.

Digital Is Coming In Many Different Forms

This year there are 41 different sub-categories under digital in Cannes Lions. Only this by itself, is a great evidence of how digital landscape is diversed and extended. As I always mention, creativity comes in many different forms and shapes in today’s advertising world. Be it an illustration, a motion graphic, a social platform, an integrated campaing, storytelling, use of video or a branded game. There are countless oppurtunities and connections. Below you can see the Cyber sub-categories.

Cannes Lions 2014 – My favorites

Cannes Lions 2014 is over. My main interest is Cyber Lions of course :) This year there are about 41 different sub-categories under 9 different Cyber main categories. The most-crowded categories are Craft and Social, as you may guess.

I will share the outstanding projects of this year briefly, here we go:

Pharrell Williams – 24 Hours of Happy collected many Cyber Lions in different sub-categories such as user experience, interface & navigation, use of video, microsite, interactive video and overall aesthetic design. It deserved anyway.

The Scarecrow, digital campaign of Chipotle Mexican Grill, was another star of this year in Cannes Lions. The overall campaign got Cybers in Integrated multi-platform campaign, storytelling, animation & motion graphics and use of video. This campaign really showed again, how different moving parts a big idea can have, mainly digital components.

Live Test Series from Volvo Trucks of course was another hit of this year. The epic split, one of the series, quickly became an internet phenomenon. Te campaign got Cyber Lions in engagement platform, webisodes/series, integrated multi-platform campaign.

Check them out here:

A couple of my other favorite award winner projects are;

If We Made It from Heineken,

Speaking Exchange from CNA,

Melbourne Remote Control Tourist from Tourism Victoria,

Sweetie from International Childs Aid Organization.

Check all the winners;

Adopt a digital state of mind.