Building a community of any kind is no easy task and it’s no easier to do when you’re trying to build a community around your brand. Self promotion makes people feel weird and they will often make a run for it at the first sign that someone is trying to sell them something.
Building a community around your brand takes a special kind of care and attention that not everyone is up for and that’s okay, but if you really want to connect with your audience, it’s worth it.
People naturally want to make authentic, meaningful connections with one another and we all do it in different ways. It could be through humour, study, passion or a variety of methods, but these all have a simple common thread weaving through them – interest.
Community can mean different things for different people, but essentially it’s defined as ‘a unified body of individuals with common interests in a particular area.’
So it is extremely important to determine what your community’s ‘interests’ are first and foremost. To do this, you need to know what it is that your brand stands for and what it does not, so you attract the right people to your community to begin with.
Define what your brand is (and is not) and make it clear
You need to be able to clearly and immediately show people why they should be interested (or not) in your brand. This can be a difficult thing for some people to work out, but it’s quite simple, so don’t overthink it. Be decisive and don’t try to include everyone or make everybody happy, because it will just exhaust you.
Ask yourself these questions:
What do you do or stand for that nobody else does? What makes your brand completely unique? Are you more ethical, more approachable, cheaper, do you have a social cause?
Who do you want in your community?
Who don’t you want in your community?
How can you interact with the people you do want? Where do they hang out?
Build respect by teaching people and having a voice
Be the authority in your field by giving away free advice, tips and suggestions. People love free information and often they don’t even care what the source is of that information is. So, although you don’t have to have a PHD to have a say these days, if your community wants to know more about you and why they should listen to your wise self — tell them. Have a section on your website that tells people what you stand for, what your values are and what makes you tick.
Some people get really lost in what it means to ‘have a voice’ or they worry that ‘voicing’ their opinion too loud could have a negative impact on their brand. This isn’t always true and generally it’s better to speak up then to sit in the shadows unnoticed. Of course I recommend keeping it professional, but there’s no reason you can’t share your thoughts on a subject if you want to. Start a conversation, get people involved in your story telling and it will pay off.
Connect with your ideal community members
Finding your ideal members can take a little bit of brain power, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. You can work it out with our easy cheat sheet to figure out who your ideal target audience is.
It will help you answer some of the questions you need to know like these:
- Where and how do they like to do things online?
- Do they interact more on one social media channel than another?
- Are they part of other groups that you know of?
Try some of these tips to start a conversation with your audience
Personalise your topics – talk about things that actually happen to you and keep the conversation real.
Ask people questions and respond to them when they answer.
Be genuine – talk to them like they’re sitting in your lounge room.
Use humour – you don’t have to be a smart ass, but you’ll get more comments if you are.
Let people have their say – This is really important. No one likes to be ignored if they’re bold enough to speak up, so make sure you let them have their moment, but keep the conversation flowing.
Interact with other brands – share the love
This isn’t for everyone, but it does work for almost anyone that has done it. People trust and engage more with brands that are backed by another’s voice. Nobody likes a know it all, so don’t try to be one. Share the love with other brands that will in turn want to share back.
Highlight people that are doing it right, show that you’re not only in it for the glory and benefit of yourself and people will be more open to your thoughts and come back for more. A great way to interact with other brands is to connect with them by saying that you love what they represent and want to partner up.
Here are some ways you can share the love with other brands:
- Offer to run a competition together
- Comment on their blogs
- Share your thoughts on their social media posts
- Share their social media posts or blogs on your page
- Link to their blog from yours
Choose where you want your community to be
Once you know who you want to have in your group and you’ve actively engaged with them, you need to decide where you want to continue growing your community. If you’ve made a solid connection with a few people on social media, why not reach out to them in a message and see if their interested in joining?
If you’re just starting out you may want a small Facebook group or members area on your website. If you’re scaling big, an online forum type environment might be better. There are a number of awesome tools out there that can host your community and no one platform is best for all.
Make your members feel valuable
If you’ve enticed people to join your community, you should make them feel valuable even after they’ve joined. Keep the conversation going. Get to know them, ask them their opinions regularly. Add moderators that can keep an eye on the group and add value for you.
This is where people come together and it’s what you’ve worked hard to attain, so make sure you keep up the momentum.