An online community is the digital jackpot for any brand.
An online audience is important but you’re effectively taking part in a one-way dialogue. It’s very easy to talk to, or even at, your potential customers. Whereas a community allows you to engage with your brand. A community bridges the gap between your business and your customers. It develops relationships, encourages referrals, generates awareness, builds your online identity and recognises your customers for their investment in your brand.
Here’s 9 ways your business can begin growing an online community:
Unique content is vital
Start creating and sharing unique content. Post content that will keep your customers coming back to interact with your business. Be creative but keep it relevant, valuable and appealing. Regularly sharing content is great, but, ultimately, it needs to be useful and interesting for your community so that they are compelled to comment and engage with it.
How shareable is your content?
Is it likely that someone would share this content? Think past the point of clicking ‘post’ on a video, image or blog post and consider how people are going to engage with it. Does this content encourage your community to respond, comment, share ideas or share on their own platforms? Consider the usability and function of your content and you can start producing things that will really engage the community and create conversations.
Social media provides an easy method for sharing content but it’s also a great platform to track conversations and maintain a focus point for your community. Using a specific hashtag can be a great way to follow what’s going on and who’s saying what about your business. A specific hashtag or profile for your community offers a clear way for customers to start getting involved in the conversations. However, social media is not just for monitoring! You need to be active: share, ask questions and communicate with followers.
Share user-generated content
Make customers feel like part of your brand by interacting with user-generated content. If a customer takes a photo with your product or shares a blog post reviewing your service, you could re-post it on your own platforms. Your customers will feel appreciated and recognised for their engagement. This will also provide you with a variety of content for your digital platforms. Remember your community is a two-way street so take steps to make your customers feel like an integral part of your business.
Your community must believe that they are engaging with real people and an authentic personality. If you are genuine, caring and sincere, your community will respond to this by developing real relationships with your brand. Customers are becoming increasingly savvy and will easily recognise businesses who are superficially feigning interest in the name of sales.
Let’s get personal
Develop your brand’s personality and let your community know more about your business by getting personal. This could be in the form of staff interviews, team photos or regular team takeovers of the social media. The saying goes “people buy from people” so it’s important that your community know you’re not just a logo but a great team of people.
Make it easy for others to share
Although you shouldn’t pester your community to share your content, you can make it easy for them to do so. Start by including your social buttons on your website, highlighting your hashtags, including sharing buttons on your content, and providing clear links.
As people engage more frequently with your business they will come to have expectations of your brand. For example, they will recognise your tone and expect a certain level of communication whilst anticipating the frequency of your interactions and the type of content you share.
Value your community
Above all, you must value your community. If your customers are taking the time to talk about and engage with your brand, it’s crucial you show them respect and appreciation for their efforts. Respond, interact and start developing your relationships with your most important asset!
The growth of digital platforms has made it easier than ever to grow your audience at an exponential rate but it’s important that you’re taking steps to turn these customers into a loyal community that become advocates of your brand.