Does the future of community management lie in transactions?

In our last post, we explored Pinterest’s potential for social media marketing and community management efforts. As the network continues to grow, however, some brands are leveraging the social network in a different manner. Most notable of these instances comes from Gilt’s “unlockable pins” campaign. According to TechCrunch, this new feature allows pinners to access a hidden link once a pin has been repinned at least 50 times. This promotional link remains exclusive to Pinterest followers and cannot be accessed anywhere else on the Gilt’s site.

Sephora provides us with a clear example of the “like-gating” banner (courtesy of Hubspot). 

As we consider the future of social media marketing, these approaches to community management will continually be called into question. Sure, there are undoubtedly short term benefits of these campaigns for brands. Social media managers can pinpoint the ROI of such promotions based on increased (albeit artificial) engagement. But is this transaction-based engagement truly where we want to steer the social media marketing industry? After all, it seems these transactions cheapen the community’s experience. 

Why can’t we focus on the long-term advantages and power of an engaged community? Brands need to be constantly reminded that social media isn’t a simple task. There can be a place for easy to execute promotional campaigns, but true online engagement stems from hours of immersion within your own community. As Ekaterina Walter, social strategist at Intel, writes on MarketingProfs, brands should provide compelling and interactive content. This varies from industry to industry and network to network, but it’s increasingly clear that social media is valid force in marketing. As the industry flourishes, we’ll learn to measure and appreciate the long-term benefits of sustained community engagement. What do you think? Have you tried to justify time spent truly interacting and relating to the community? How difficult was that?