(Note: This article was originally featured on Convince & Convert)
Recently, I was lucky enough to give a talk at Syracuse University during their #140cuse conference on building cause-passionate armies. The talk was well received and mainly focused on how we can utilize the communication tools we have today to inspire change and social good around the world. Since that talk though, I’ve started thinking about rooting that back to general community/social media management.
From there, I’ve realized that we continuously read articles with tips for community management, rather than community building. However, most of us are tasked with being the architects for a brand’s online presence and community rather than managing big brands and pages.
Here are some of my tips on building a community from the ground up:
Pull on their heartstrings
This may be a little sappy, but it’s true. You have to create content and a message that resonates with your potential community members. When you’re Coca-Cola, it’s easy to get Likes on your posts because you have over 40 million fans. When you just launched your product/page you don’t have the luxury of automatic interaction. Thus, you have to create content that will inspire a human emotion and ultimately, an action.
Facebook Analytics documents the actions taken on your page as “Stories.” This is fitting because when creating content, you want to create a story that your community can be a part of and share with their communities.
Find and communicate your focus
A common mistake that social media managers and coordinators fall into is trying to be everything to their community in order to satisfy their buzzword quota (i.e. engaging, authentic, create a two-way dialogue) without focusing on one message or approach.
To build a community, you have to find a focus in your messaging and then communicate that message effectively to your community. It is a lot easier for people to gather around one core idea rather than trying to interact with a million different ideas and approaches.
Empower your members
When building your online presence, you are creating a new story. To keep it growing, you are going to need the help of your community. In the end, your greatest marketing voice is your consumer base. If you provide them the tools to create conversations around brands, they will respond because everyone wants to be associated with their favorite products in addition to being heard.
It can be through a specific campaign or you can make it clear that you will reward/acknowledge your community members when they share your story with one of their own.
Be a resource
People will follow your pages because they want to hear from you and get useful information. Thus, being a valuable resource is extremely important in the information age. Being a resource can mean that you focus on sharing relevant content from your industry (this is a great tactic for a new blog or website) or sharing information about your product.
This all comes down to listening to your community and offering the information that they want to hear from you. But be aware that your community’s wants and needs vary from platform to platform. On Twitter, the goal is to be a part of a much larger, on-going conversation, while your fans on Facebook will almost always “Like” your page because they are interested in YOU, not news about other topics.
Ask not what your community can do for you…
It may sound cliché, but this extremely important for new brands to understand – after everything you do, you have to realize that your community will dictate your success and you have to make it clear that they are your number one focus. Promoting every bit of information you produce may fill your resource quota, but you have to think, “Who is benefiting more from this?”
When you’re a larger brand, its easy to be there for the consumer because there’s already a base to communicate with – but to do this with a new community requires discipline and a clear understanding that your community members come first and you have to give them what they want early-on because that will create a culture that resonates much further than your Facebook page. Just ask Tony Hsieh and Zappos.
What have you done to build your community? Do you have any tips to add?