Several years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Glenn Sparks, Ph.D., on the release of his co-authored book with Dr. Will Miller, Refrigerator Rights. The title is a term used to describe a level of extreme comfort and familiarity in a relationship. Meaning, folks with “refrigerator rights” can come into your house, and take what they want out of your fridge without asking. And vice versa.
These kinds of relationships were more common before America morphed into this fast-paced, highly mobile society. People used to stick around in a neighborhood long enough to share reciprocal refrigerator rights with their neighbors. Now, not as many do, and fewer “rights” are granted as a result. Community takes time.
I bring all this up because that word – community – is a buzz word du jour in marketing and PR circles. Often I see it used in some sort of squishy, ambiguous way by folks trying to sound hip while talking about brand loyalty, especially in the social media space. What they’re really talking about is getting people to grant your brand refrigerator rights. What I don’t see enough is people acknowledging that building brand communities, like building real communities, takes time.
That’s why it is unwise to measure your brand’s “community” solely by actions that take little time at all. For example, clicking “Like” on your brand’s Facebook page takes roughly one second. While people who take that step have indicated an interest in your brand, a community is built when people take steps to interact with, and advocate for your brand. Communities are based on relationships, not mere interest.
And the level of relationship is directly proportional to the level of time invested. Look for ways to measure time involved in interactions with your brand, and put more weight behind the actions that take more time. Are they responding to you? Are they offering feedback? Are they telling their friends about you? These are actions that take much more time and effort than a click of the mouse, and therefore the value to your brand is much higher.
The implication, of course, is that a good deal of time is invested on your end as well. In fact, in comparison with real-world relationships, you will spend a vastly disproportionate amount of time. Don’t expect a community to develop at the flip of a switch, or for people to come running simply based on your brand’s name. If you want to get people to grant your brand refrigerator rights, you better plan on sticking around the neighborhood for a while.