Analytics: The longer-than-four-letter word that is on the mind of most PR professionals, especially those in the online world, on a daily basis. Despite the progress that the industry has made in the past decade, the Internet in general and blogs specifically are still considered largely a wild frontier as we define and redefine a standard set of metrics which determine success.
As many reading this post know, various metrics such as unique monthly views, page views, Twitter followers and Klout scores have been used to show that social media campaigns are worth their budget in eyeballs. Among these measurement tools, one metric that is consistently overlooked is the measurement of community.
Why is community important? An online community is no different than an offline community. Members talk, share stories, support and advise each other. According to this study by Nielsen, 90% of online consumers relay on opinions posted online.
Let’s take a moment let that sink-in. A brand may think that Twitter, Facebook and blogs are silly and a waste of ad-dollars, but that’s mistaken. Ninety percent of online consumers rely on those outlets for reviews, tips and advice on what to buy.
These relationships, these bonds, have formed some extremely strong and influential communities for virtually every niche imaginable from the general (Mom bloggers, fashion bloggers, tech bloggers) to the specific (bicycle race enthusiasts and ferret lovers).
This past month, a prominent member of the food blogging community, Jennifer Perillo, of In Jennie’s Kitchen suffered a heartbreaking loss when her husband of nearly 20 years, died very suddenly of a massive heart attack.
The food-blogger community response has been breathtaking. Condolence tweets, blog comments and Facebook posts aside, Jennie asked that her readers, followers, fans, family and friends alike make a Peanut Butter Cream Pie on Friday, August 12th in honor of her late husband – it was his favorite. The hashtag (#apieformikey) received over 1,500 mentions in a week. A Google search indicates that the hashtag has been mentioned nearly 25,000 times.
Even large outlets such as CNN and Food Network have mentioned the tribute. A local, NYC eatery has added it to their menu. Numerous prominent food, mom and other influencers have helped to drive the effort – an effort that crossed the barrier from the food blogger community to touch many other communities. As a result, what started as a tribute for a man who loved Peanut Butter Cream Pie, has turned into thousands of digital hugs so that Jennie feels a little less alone in her grief.
What does this mean for brands? It’s the community, silly!
Communities are the next frontier of influence for brands and bloggers alike. Remember that 90% of consumers who receive their product information online? There’s no doubt that they’re actively participating in communities and building relationships with other, equally influential community members. These communities are the sweet spot for brands, however, to properly tap into these communities it’s important for a brand to be genuinely interested and engaged in issues that are near and dear to the community.
Let’s talk about the what a genuine community interaction looks like: The NYC eatery who added Peanut Butter Cream Pie to their menu in honor of Jennie and her husband will definitely benefit from this in the form of good word-of-mouth, foot traffic and potentially, sales. At the very least, they will have the respect and admiration of a close-knit community that is their exact target.
However, there is no doubt that in offering to include the tribute on their menu that their interest was based in compassion and caring about something that is extremely important to a member of their community. So while their sales might not spike through the roof tomorrow, they have created a strong bond with a an important community, which is something that cannot be bought, paid for or otherwise gained by any means other than genuine community engagement.