There are a few terms that have become popularized with the increased use of social media: engagement, authenticity and community. The trouble is half of the people who use these terms have no idea what they mean. One of my venerable mentors once shared with me that everything starts with a definition. Until we agree on what "community" means we’re probably going to have a pretty rocky conversation.Part of the challenge of social media is the definitions of many words are not only vague, but most also have two or three different nuances and meanings.
Community is used to describe a Web-based center that people can become paid or unpaid members of. It is also used to describe the fabric of energy, conversation and attention around a specific brand.
You can have the latter without the former, but you can’t have a successful version of the former without the latter. You can have energy around your brand online without a private website, but in order to have a successful log-in based community, you need constant and consistent traffic to survive.
Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing both in action at Mount Gay Rum's manufacturer Rémy Cointreau's corporate office in New York City.
That evening we met SailingSpokenHere.com, the premiere online community for sailors to congregate on shore. We learned about how Sailing Spoken Here got it’s start and what keeps it going well past 8,000 members.
Mount Gay has longstanding ties and legitimacy in the sailing community, forged through years of sponsorship of regattas and the unique history of the brand. So, when they developed Sailing Spoken Here they knew they enjoyed the benefit of a meaningful relationship with the sailing community—and their challenge was to integrate that relationship to an online community that best serves the unique needs of sailors. Here's how they did it.
1. They listened
The team at Mount Gay Rum could have built any thing they wanted. Instead, they patiently listened to what sailors told them they wanted in an online network. They realized there was no need to rush to the finish line.
2. They kept it real
“If the content is not authentic, people won't respond to it. Sailing Spoken Here was developed with sailors, for sailors. The initial response has been very positive because of this, and we're primed for the summer sailing season to generate even more momentum," says Nicolas Heriard Dubreuil, Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media for Rémy Cointreau USA, Inc.
The more you can get your audience involved in the creation of the community, the more they will feel pride of ownership and you really can’t replace or buy that type and level of engagement.
3. They made it practical
Sailing Spoken Here allows people to focus on their passion for the sport, and provides new and exciting functionality such as the “Crew Finder”, which helps sailors find crew members around the world. This integrated practicality promotes richer communications and connections between sailors of all levels, no matter where they live.
What I love the most is that Mount Gay isn’t trying to force the site into a return-on-investment-what-does-this-mean-for-the-bottomline coffin. Instead they recognize that social media is a dynamic, ever-changing platform, and they made the appropriate investment. As a brand-builder Sailing Spoken Here gives Mount Gay the flexibility to quickly respond to their sailing loyalists and in today’s microwave time spans, being responsive is a sea-worthy trait indeed.