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The risks of fragmentation in building social communities

ATLANTA -- There's more than one way to build communities of interest. At the Ritz-Carlton, it's about cultivating individual social media communities rather than trying to merge them on a company site, blog or individual social channel.

It makes more sense for the Ritz-Carlton's consumers to interact where they gravitate -- whether that's on Facebook,Twitter or Pinterest, said Allison Sitch, vice president of public relations at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. But, even with consumers and others communicating on various channels, Sitch isn't worried about fragmentation of her audience. She talked with SearchContentManagement at the Social Shake-Up, which took place in Atlanta Sept. 16-17.

Building and sustaining community works best by cultivating audiences where they naturally live, she said.

"We have 12 social media channels, which is where our communities form," Sitch said. "On Facebook, we have real-time consumers [that have] interactions with the brand. Our strategy on that platform is unique and different to our strategy on Twitter, where we know our audience is essentially B2B [business-to-business]: the planners, travel agents, media."

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"We actually want them to be unique and different, because a lot of the research we do on luxury consumers – [and] certainly [on] global travelers -- broadly says that they are connected by passion points to one another. … They're not necessarily connected by walks of life, geography, culture, religion."

"To try and thrust those groups together doesn't make sense."

But it can be difficult to corral communities when audiences interact in such a variety of virtual spaces.

For more on Stich's approach, check out the video.

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Good points made by Allison Sitch; too often I think all of "social media" is painted with the same brush, especially when it comes to driving business. These channels all have differences and require different strategies (and may attract different customer segments). What's most important is understanding why you're there in the first place, and how you can make the most out of that particular channel and the interactions on it.