Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Here Lieth the Online Community

Last month, The Co-op announced that they were to close their online community, Hive. The reason given for the sacrifice was that they believed the majority of their customers preferred to join them on Facebook and Twitter instead, and that current Hive members would benefit from a “more established network”.

Initially this may have sounded like a rather sweeping, and alienating statement. What about all those surfers out there who believe Facebook to be the work of the devil? Or those that didn’t know their RTs from their RSS feed? However, with an impressive 20,000 Facebook likes and well on their way to 6,000 Twitter followers, one could argue The Co-op hit the nail on the head.

Whilst they have wisely chosen to keep the discussion boards on their website, The Co-op are actively encouraging users to seek out their Facebook and Twitter accounts, apparently fully aware of where their target audience are hanging out.

The Co-op are not the only ones who have embraced the power of the social network, in fact, in today’s digitally-led world, it often results in a raised eyebrow when a brand or organisation doesn’t have some sort of social network presence - I for one will usually consult Facebook or Twitter when seeking out information on a brand, (usually in between frantically un-tagging unflattering photos ), rather than heading to their official website.

Social networking has become engrained in our culture so much so that we seem to incorporate it into our lives as naturally as brushing your teeth (a study by Oxygen Media and Lightspeed research concluded that 34% of young women (18-34) check Facebook as soon as they wake up), so it is unsurprising more and more brands are turning to social networking – everyone from Primark to Porsche is in on the action.

By making the decision to put themselves out there on social networking sites, brands such as The Co-op are putting themselves right in the heart their audience’s lives. The modern man (or woman) is a busy one and anything that is going to save them time is going to be received well.

Of course there will be those that will choose to stand firm against social networks, but I will be interested to see if other brands follow suit and abandon their bespoke online communities in favour of other typical social networks.


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