4 Tips to Grow Your Community from the Ground Up
How exactly do you go about building an online community? What does it mean to have a successfully engaged community? For a brand, your community is the number one reason to be on social media.
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I am a huge advocate of treating online and offline relationships in exactly the same way. When you meet someone new in person, you introduce yourself. You find out what you have in common, and how you relate to him or her. You take an interest in them, and find out what they are interested in and passionate about.
There is no difference when you meet people online. If you manage social media channels for your business, you aren’t above or outside any of the community members, you are one of them, the same as everyone else.
Spend time listening to your community, and what they talk about. Creating meaningful relationships online means you will be doing a lot of listening in the beginning. You want to find out what is important to the other members and what they want to know, allowing you to begin crafting and sharing content that provides value to your followers and fellow community members.
Yes, your content will sometimes talk about your company and your product, but the focus needs to go far beyond that. You will focus more on the personal interactions, rather than broadcasting information or talking at people. You’re also responsible for responding to all comments and questions that come from members of the community, and not shying away from anything negative they might bring up. In fact, sometimes negative feedback is the best way to learn and grow.
So, what’s next? How do you keep your community interested and engaged? Here are three tips I encourage you to think more about:
1. High Quality, Personalized Content
You want to consistently provide the highest quality, most relevant content possible. Content can vary, and sometimes it takes the form of a how-to, an interview, an update, a quiz, or anything in between. Anything you create should have the goal of engaging your community, and starting a new conversation. Whether you’re providing informational value, or entertainment that makes them feel a certain way, the key is to listen first, and talk second.
2. Consistency and Setting Expectations
How often do you post? Do you disappear after posting an article, only to return until the next one comes out? You want to build trust and let people see that you are someone to rely on as their go-to for information. Consistency goes beyond posting schedules too. It means that you do what you say you are going to do, and always follow through. You want to be a credible source, and build trust through authenticity and exceeding expectations.
3. Honestly Care About Your Community
The people in your community are your brand’s life blood, and if you look at them that way, it is easy to be grateful for each and every one of them. So let them know! Respond to each comment or post, positive and negative ones. Keep in mind that people have millions of choices to make of which brands to support, and they’ve chosen yours (for now). We’re all busy, but they’ve taken the time to chat with you. Express gratitude, and perhaps that means sharing a blog post they published, or asking about their day. Again, this is no different than how you would treat a personal relationship with a friend. Give someone who shares your content a shout-out because simple acknowledgments can make someone’s entire day.
4. All Relationships Take Some Time
There is no overnight success when it comes to building, nurturing and growing an online community. There are ebbs and flows and sometimes people leave, but prepare to work really hard at these relationships, and know that the time spent will be worth it.
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