When social media and online communities first started to explode a decade ago, companies often decided they had to have a social presence, but they didn’t decide why. They didn’t put any money into it either.
Now, brands understand it is not just about building your own brand, but also leveraging other communities and influencer brands to support them. There are budgets now, too, but even now, many are still underestimating exactly what it takes to build and maintain a community.
Community and channel building is more expensive than you think
“I think sometimes you can really underemphasize how much the cost is and the time investment required to build something that resembles an authentic community,” said ICS Digital Marketing Director Martin Calvert on Wednesday at SBC Summit Barcelona. “Then there’s that contrast between the authenticity of a real community with real people who are engaged because they’re passionate and the commercial incentives where you’re trying to use this community to make money. The more you push on this, the less authentic it becomes, then more people pushing good money after bad”
Calvert and others discussed the push and pull of commerce and authenticity at a panel entitled “Building a Community“. The title alone was ripe for discussion, as building a community encompasses a broad range of options that really depends on what the brand is trying to accomplish. As Calvert noted, it is an expensive undertaking. Expensive does not necessarily mean unsuccessful though. Moreover, success in brand building should not be measured in dollars.
Parimatch and Chelsea FC a good case study
“It’s a journey. It’s not just about money. It’s about engaging your audience, keeping them, and taking them away. You want to take them on a journey that they’re happy to explore,” explained Alona Kobozieva, Head of Communication and Sponsorship for Parimatch Ukraine. “It’s not just a one-off thing. How do you break out this content from multiple channels for multiple purposes? You know, from a communication perspective, a branding perspective, and all of this, and that’s where you get the most value for your money.”
Kobozieva cited Parimatch’s partnership with the soccer team Chelsea FC as a great example. From exclusive content to in-person events, Parimatch is able to incorporate the DNA and spirit of the team alongside its own brand, building up a loyal audience in the process.
For those thinking in the short-term, there are options as well. Not everything has to be a well-planned match between two like-minded brands. As Calvert pointed out, even someone who can be paid to do, say, or promote almost anything like Floyd Mayweather does come with value, especially if you are looking for new eyeballs versus an existing gambling audience.
Even then, brands need to take care that some of the more obvious cash-grab plugs could have adverse effects.
“You need to think about whether you’re going to reflect the authenticity of the person that you’re putting this upon. And you also need to think about what your expectation is,” said Hideous Slots co-founder William Barnes. “Are the expectations realistic? And are you going to ask someone to do something which is actually going to turn them against your brand?”
What gambling brands can learn from Batman
Calvert likened this to Batman. Movie audiences are happy to watch Batman pull off superhuman stunts and suspend disbelief, but if he were to do something that goes against who Batman is, that is what throws people out of the narrative. With Mayweather, it is clear what his level of commitment is. With someone who is, say, an influencer from within the gambling community, that calculus is much more complex.
Even when someone does carefully toe that line and succeeds, the rapid advancements in technology and culture mean it could be gone in a flash, hence people need to be prepared to pivot.
The latest news about Twitch limiting gambling streaming on the platform made it into the discussion, as did the complexities which come with the news. As Barnes noted, the upside is the removal of unregulated crypto casino streamers who were starting to create a toxic space in the ecosystem. On the flip side, it also starts to set a new precedent where responsible, regulated streaming could be next.
If streamers are to lose their audience, it is a tremendous amount of work to build them back up. This is why mainstream influencers like Logan Paul, Gary Vee, and others are trying to at least establish ownership over something arguably more valuable than the platform–the data of their audience.
Even with that information and a means to communicate, like a newsletter, there is no guarantee someone can go from Twitch to Tik Tok or YouTube to mainstream TV. Like Batman, if it is just too far removed from its brand and personality, people will tune out. And even more disheartening than spending on building an audience that never comes is to build an audience, lose your platform, and find that the audience won’t follow you anymore.