People go online to research certain products and services before making the final purchasing decision. They want to know what others think about your offer, how many people have bought particular products, and learn more about their overall experience.
This is why building an online community is important. It not only proves credibility but attracts a bigger audience and helps you build brand awareness. It is also key to launching your new product and educating consumers about your brand.
So, take the following steps to build an engaged community and ensure business success.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLATFORM
The only way to succeed is to know the platforms that your target audience prefers before building your community because choosing the wrong platform makes it difficult to get a return on investment from your marketing efforts.
So, identify and use the right social media platform to ensure success. Define your target audience and know where they spend most of their time. What sort of content do they interact with the most? Is it videos, images, or plain text? Do your research and give your audience what they want.
Consider your business goals as well. Why do you want to build a community? What do you want to achieve from it? Is it to raise brand awareness? Do you want to grow your target audience? Perhaps you want to connect with your customers and keep them up-to-date with new offers? Whatever your goal, make sure it’s clearly defined.
Doing this allows you to pick a platform that has high interaction levels and is key to meeting your goals.
It’s advisable to create business pages across different social media channels and be active on all of them. However, when it comes to building an engaged community, you have to choose one platform and stick to it.
If your audience prefers videos, consider YouTube or Facebook. If they interact best with both videos and images use Instagram or Facebook. The goal is to meet your audience’s needs and provide the type of content they are interested in.
Once you select the right platform, optimize your profile because people decide whether or not to follow you based on how you present your brand. So, use your company logo or a professional image of yourself as your profile picture. Choose a cover photo that makes it easy for people to identify your brand and one that represents your business right.
Complete all the important details such as the name and description of your group. Use descriptive language to make it easy for people to understand what the group is about.
MEASURE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
As a business professional, you should already have social media profiles for your brand. So, analyze and measure your current engagement to identify areas that need improvement. How many followers do you have on each account? Which platform has more followers and which group of people is most attracted to your content? Identify your fans based on age, interests, location, and profession.
Next, consider your engagement metrics. How many clicks per post do you have? How many likes, shares, and comments does each post have? What sort of content attracts attention and why? Do top-performing posts command attention because of the format used or the information shared? Are users attracted to your images, headlines, or overall content? Identify your KPIs and use the same methods to create posts that pique interest and boost community engagement.
Use the best social media analytics tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and BuzzSumo.
You can also analyze user behavior with built-in social media analytics if you prefer.
Look for ways to attract attention and increase interaction. Set clear engagement goals and come up with effective strategies to ensure success. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Defining your goals allows you to create effective content marketing and social media marketing strategies that command attention, increase traffic, and increase interaction. It provides a clear picture of where you are and where you need to be and outlines the steps to take to reach your aims.
PLAN YOUR CONTENT
Give your audience a reason to follow you and become community members. Come up with an effective content strategy to raise interest and attract the right people. Know the type of content that your followers are interested in and provide them with what they want.
Identify trending topics within your niche and use them to create your content. Share valuable and interesting information to get people talking. Look for creative ways to make your content stand out from the competition. Add extra value and give your audience easy, free access to on-demand information. For example, post about the latest industry trends and updates. Share useful resources and interesting tips and tricks on completing certain tasks. Teach your followers a new skill or write how-to guides, reference guides, and so on.
The goal is to provide content that your audience likes and finds valuable. The kind that keeps them hitting the like and share buttons.
If you run out of content ideas, use ubersuggest to generate ideas. Identify common keywords in your niche and use them to curate content that encourages clicks and gets people talking.
Another option is to reach out to your existing followers and ask them what they would like you to share next. Ask about their challenges or the information they wish they had access to. Encourage them to leave suggestions on your business pages, YouTube channel, or blog. Use the information you gather to produce content that converts.
You can also run a short survey with SurveyMonkey, SurveyPlanet, or QuickTapSurvey to understand what your audience wants.
Once you come up with an effective content strategy, be consistent in your posts and across all social media platforms. Make it easy for people to identify your brand and interact with your content. Have a content calendar and post at the right times. Find out when users are most active on different platforms and post during those hours.
Use different formats on different platforms for better engagement. Know which platform you are working with and what sort of content to post.
Add personality to your posts and find your unique voice to stand out from the crowd. Use a friendly tone that makes it easy for users to share their opinion. Incorporate video and imagery to attract attention. Use attention-grabbing images on your posts. Add calls to action to invite people to join your online community and become members.
Give them a reason to participate. Mention what the community is about and highlight what they’ll benefit from it. For example, if you are building a community of writers, invite new writers and professionals to join. Talk about the many benefits that come with becoming a member. For example, exposure, learning from experts, access to writing gigs, and the opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded people.
Once you get people to join, make sure you retain them. Start interesting discussions that encourage members to participate. Ask relevant questions and leave constructive comments on posts to keep the conversation going.
Reinforce culture and create a sense of belonging. Pay attention to the community language and use it when uploading posts and addressing members. Talk to your audience the way they talk to each other to increase interaction and make them feel understood.
Make members feel heard and appreciated. Interact with their content and reshare interesting posts. Identify noteworthy videos and stories and share them with the rest of the community. Mention their names and appreciate their posts. Encourage other members to talk about their experiences with your brand and post videos.
Add humor to some of your posts to create a friendly environment that everyone is comfortable with. Share an interesting, relevant joke to start conversations and keep them going.
Share a behind-the-scenes video to pique interest and attract attention.
Use relevant hashtags on your posts for visibility and to reach more people. Identify popular phrases or keywords and use them in your content.
Ask your followers to tag friends who may benefit from your post and other people who may be interested in your content.
CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
Connect with your audience at a personal level and focus on forming meaningful and strong relations. Share motivational words here and there to show you care about their success. Encourage them to reach for their dreams and continue working on their goals despite what they go through.
Share your experiences and goals. Talk about your successes and failures. Mention some of the obstacles you encountered in your journey and how you overcame them. Share tips on how to deal with common challenges and failures. Post inspirational quotes time and again to keep them motivated and interested in your content.
Monitor comments to send timely responses to questions. Make sure you respond to every question you get and appreciate every comment. Recognize loyal fans and thank them for their retweets, reshares, mentions, and overall participation. This is key to getting your followers talking about your brand and turning them into loyal brand ambassadors. So, prioritize it.
Pause questions, ask for feedback and encourage members to share their experiences. For example, if you have recently launched a new product, ask your followers to share their thoughts. Say, “Thank you for being a part of this lively community. Some of our users have spoken to us about their experiences with our new product and we’d like to know about yours.”
Ask for feedback and find out how you can give users the ultimate experience. Ask them about some of the things they would like you to improve especially where your content is concerned. For example, do they want more video uploads or do they prefer images and text?
Know what they want to continuously improve your content strategy and succeed.
Keeping up with requests, sending timely responses to inquiries, and managing your community as it grows can be demanding. So, hire a community manager to ensure you reach your goals. Assign the role to someone in your marketing team and choose someone who enjoys working with people and has great communication and people skills.
Make sure your community manager understands and maintains your business voice and image across all platforms.
Some of the responsibilities of a community manager are developing the community, building a brand’s community, creating content, participating in discussions, finding new customers, interacting with existing ones, as well as analyzing and improving engagement metrics.
People love participating in contests and winning prizes. So, hold interesting contests to attract attention and get your audience interested. Experiment with different types of competitions to determine which ones command more attention.
Some great examples include caption contests, video contests, tag a friend, play-to-win, comment to win, vote to win, and design contests.
Upload an interesting image, add “caption this” prompts and ask your followers to leave their comments. The photo can be anything you choose but be creative. Pick something fun and attention-grabbing.
State the prize and say when the winner will be announced. Decide how you are going to select a winner. In this case, the caption with the most likes or the one you and your team chooses wins.
Run photo and video competitions to get more people to join. Ask users to share videos of themselves doing something remarkable. For example, they can share poems, interesting food recipes, or interesting designs. The video that attracts more attention and has the most likes or comments wins.
Pick interesting rewards to convince people to join. Make sure the reward has some sort of connection to your brand. For example, if you include money prizes, add a branded t-shirt or mug to the package.
Feature the winner on your chosen platform and other relevant social media profiles. Send thank-you notes to everyone who participated to make them feel appreciated and encourage them to join the next contest.
Understand your audience and create challenges they are interested in joining. Consider your brand as well as what you want to achieve from the competition to ensure success. A few questions to bear in mind when generating ideas are; “why are we having this contest?” “How can we connect it to our brand or new product launch?” “What sort of content do users engage with the most. Do they prefer photos or videos?” and “What types of rewards will pique interest?”
PROMOTE YOUR COMMUNITY
Promote your community to attract new community members and grow your audience. Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about it. Find out how they will benefit from it and persuade them to join. Mention why you started the group, the kind of people that can join, and what’s expected from them. Explain acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Ask current members to invite their friends and offer incentives or rewards to everyone who invites 5 or more people.
Go through your contact list and reach out to your existing customers. Ask them to become members and give them a reason to do so. Offer discounts, coupons, or vouchers to everyone who joins but only for a short period. This is a great way to speed up the decision-making process and raise interest.
Become an active member of the business community and attend networking events. Connect with other business owners and show interest in their work. Ask about the type of work they do and the kind of people they influence. Ask how you can connect with them online. Follow their blogs, subscribe to monthly newsletters, and join their social media groups. Mention your social media community and get them to join.
Partner up with influencers and reach out to their audiences. Identify at least two influential people within your niche and approach them. Send a short descriptive email. Introduce yourself and explain what your business stands for, what you do, and why you are writing.
Talk about your community, how long it’s been active, the number of people who have joined, their interests, your goals, and most importantly the influencer’s role in helping you attract more people.
Mention three or more things that he or she will benefit from working with you. Aim to create a win-win situation for both of you. Don’t just focus on what you will gain from the relationship.
Influencers value their work and audiences. Therefore, they will only work with you if they believe in what you are doing or at least have proof that you know what you are doing. So, prove your expertise and passion. Share links to your high-quality content, website, blog, and other relevant pages.
If you have a strong online presence and show a certain level of commitment to your work, they will be more than happy to work with you and mention you to their followers.
Connect and build relations with online brands and communities related to your community. Join relevant social media groups and engage with their content. Talk about your brand and ask them to become members of your group.