Guest Post by Samantha Lake
Communities have been around for centuries, however online communities have only been around for a few decades. According to Computerworld the first “online community” came about in 1973 when Talkomatic for the PLATO time-sharing system released a text-based group chat. From there it evolved into email discussion lists (who remembers LISTSERV?), Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), finally leading us to modern day social networks.
One thing that all of these have in common is the notion of community building. So how can you, as a communications professional, leverage the power of community building for your brand? Well it’s simple, in order for a community to thrive it needs to be interwoven with relationships. Now the hard part, building those relationships to reach your prospects and build brand advocates (your fans who will share your messages on their own networks).
Building those relationships will take a lot of work, but you will be rewarded. According to Hubspot, “In a business climate where 92 percent of people trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising, these social media advocates are indispensable.”
Let’s get right to it, how to build your brand’s community. There are three main components to building a successful community: content, engagement and customer service.
Think about content as your bait. This is what you will put out into the digital world to attract and reel in followers. When developing your content strategy keep in mind that your community shares common interests, pain points and/or goals, your content should align with these.
The quickest way for your brand to establish its credibility and build trust is to create content that solves problems. Hubspot recommends creating, “blog posts, instructional videos, how-to guides, and showcasing practical examples from your customers. Invite your community to join in and give examples their own. When you make a video, it’s an advertisement. When your customer makes the video … it’s a gold strike.”
If content is the bait, then engagement is the hook. Content will only bring people to your community, but it’s the conversations and interactions that will help to build relationships with them. To do this you need to invest a significant amount of time into making those who engage with your brand feel acknowledged and valued.
To do this thank them when they share your content, reply to their questions, engage with their content, respond to comments and address negative comments. Let’s dive deeper into these. When engaging with your follower’s content, thanking them, responding to comments, and addressing negative feedback you have to sound like a person. Many organizations have voice and tone guidelines, which are great, but when it comes to one-to-one interactions it often comes off as inauthentic, which is the quickest way to kill any potential relationship with a new follower.
Also don’t skimp on Favorites or Likes, this is the easiest way to reward those who are engaging with your content and make them feel as if they are a part of your community. Here are two simple things you can do to engage with followers when you see they liked one of your posts:
- Go to their profile and like 3-7 of their posts (don’t just like the first things you see, scroll down and find content that is relevant or in alignment with your brand).
- If they have a post that you can comment on in an authentic way, do so.
If you notice that they are regularly liking and commenting on your posts follow them back and consider giving them a shout out.
Now that you have cultivated a community, it can be assumed that said community will become your customers (if they weren’t already). In order to keep your community strong and thriving in addition to great content and engagement, you must also focus on delivering great customer service.
According to Post Planner, “The better service you can deliver to your customers, the more you build trust and loyalty. Pleased and confident customers will tell others and drive word-of-mouth business for you. Unhappy customers will do the same (but in the wrong direction).”
If you need inspiration on how brands are providing great customer service on social media check out brands like JetBlue, Seemless, Hubspot and Spotify.
When it comes to communities it isn’t just about building the community, it is about nurturing it. Showing your appreciation to your community will pay off as others will see the recognition and attention that active members of your community are receiving.
This means, there will never be a point where you can simply focus to your product or service, you have to maintain those relationships and engagement or your community will disappear.
So when it comes to building your community remember content is your bait, engagement is the hook and customer service is how you keep your community happy.
Image by Tim Marshall via Unsplash, CC0
Samantha is a graduate of Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in media and public communication and a master’s degree in professional communication. She is an experienced marketing and communications expert. Through her role as vice president of marketing for Grow Socially, Samantha has been showing organizations how to improve their marketing and communications since 2012.