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Why you should integrate a closed media channel into your communication strategy
Social media changes rapidly. New applications come up every day, with communication professionals questioning whether or not to integrate those often-praised new tools. At the same time, closed media channels or closed communication channels have been discussed as arenas through which communication will happen in the future. As stated in the Communications Trend Radar 2022, many individuals prefer to switch to more private environments, where newsfeeds are replaced by one-to-one communication or communication in small groups.
We define closed media channels as communication arenas with restricted access or barriers to entry. On such closed channels, e.g., LinkedIn or Facebook, you are granted access by an admin.
Restricted access creates an intimate space for communication. It helps keep out users who seek trouble and attracts a highly involved audience. Thus, there are three major advantages that companies gain by integrating a closed media channel into their communication strategy:
Closed media channels are perfect for creating new ideas or improving old ones by integrating customers into the innovation process. To create innovation, it is best to apply some kind of open innovation that exceeds organizational boundaries. Integrating stakeholders into the innovation process will open new ways to evaluate the organizations’ own products.
On closed media channels, users tend to be more involved with the company hosting the channel than on traditional social media. Additionally, highly involved users get the opportunity to discuss their ideas with other highly involved users, which may lead to innovative ideas, and companies get to observe those discussions as well, given that the communication is visible. This pursuit for innovation is also reflected in the names of some closed media channels run by German companies, like Republic of Innovators by E.ON, Future Shaper [Zukunftsgestalter] by Allianz, or Idea Factory [Ideenschmiede] by Telekom.
Doing market research
As closed media channels attract a particular audience, they offer a way to test new products or communication strategies. Closed media channels create a way to get unfiltered, emotional, and continuous feedback by “listening” to the ongoing communication. Owing to the reduced number of users and the private communication atmosphere, users on closed media channels feel that they are less observed, which increases the frequency of posts and comments by the users. This may be due to the fact that they feel less pressure from their peers, who are absent on those channels.
Of course, traditional social media also offers ways to gain insight. However, on traditional social media, one can often experience less interaction, which limits the ways to gain insights. Users on closed media channels identify more with the company, so they are more willing to fill in questionnaires or give feedback. However, closed groups also involve specific feedback that cannot be easily generalized.
Decreasing (opportunity) costs
Social media is known for trolling, hate speech, and exaggerated criticism. This often makes it difficult for communication professionals to manage sustainable relationships on social media. A lot of time is wasted dealing with inappropriate remarks by users and responding adequately to all comments.
These problems are less relevant in closed groups. It is unlikely that someone who just wants to put out their frustration by expressing hate speech or exaggerated criticism will take the time to pass the access restriction. Moreover, communication professionals can reject users who appear to be trolls. The absence of negative communication contributes to a positive atmosphere, which eases the way for users to engage in a positive manner.
Furthermore, active users are likely to help each other if they face problems with a product. A tech company reported that significant costs could be saved through the feedback of users within their Facebook group. They used to deal with thousands of questions and concerns regarding their products. Nowadays, these questions and concerns are stated in their closed Facebook group and are solved by other users.In general, closed media channels run by companies ease the way to positive communication, motivate highly engaged users, and create a supportive atmosphere, which differs from traditional social media.
„Firstly, discussions on closed media channels are limited to a specific topic. So, already, there is a sort of very specific focus segment. This alone attracts a particular audience.
And the audiences that feel engaged in a topic are generally found to be a bit more respectful, a bit more curious, or a bit more willing to share. I see some basic differences in WHO is part of these communities, HOW they communicate, and what value they take from them. Yes, there is definitely a difference to traditional social media.“
Clyde Araujo, Head of Global eCRM, Henkel
About the study
These insights are based on a one-year research project conducted by Prof. Ulrike Röttger and Lennart Rettler at the University of Münster. The project explored how closed media channels help to improve relations to stakeholders, thus generating value for companies. More information can be found in the Communication Insights issue “Being Close(d). How community management on closed media channels contributes to social capital”.