A little over a month ago, I declared that “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Having community members validates that you deliver value to a group. That group often serves to be your brand’s best costumers and advocates.
By the time you read this, I will have started a new chapter in my marketing career. I am responsible for social marketing and audience development for a company that is providing support, resources, and great information for a particular need, while also serving as a platform for individuals to help/support one another. I am responsible for building a community. As I prepare to build a most engaged community, I thought it would be worthwhile to share with you my strategy and approach for building a community.
To start, I borrow a simple, but profound methodology from Simon Sinek.
Most people start with a definition of what they are doing. As Sinek points out, this is premature. Start with “WHY.” Why are you building a community? Why is there a need? Why will people value participation in your community?
Once you define “why,” then you should define “how.” How are you going to get people aware and interested in your community? It is not initially about getting 10,000 to join the community. It is more about getting 100 influencers on board that will help you market your community.
A word about influencers here … Many people think they will reach out to influencers and get them to advocate on behalf of your community. Wrong. What is in it for the influencer? If you want an influencer to advocate on behalf of your community, you must deliver an opportunity for them to further develop their audience. You must give them an opportunity to shine and receive accolades within your community. Think about their perspective. Why would they want to “partner” with your community? What is in it for them? Make sure you have this well defined before you reach out to influencers.
Now comes the what … what is your community offering? What channels will you use? What will members get? What will they receive and what will they give?
Once you have the Why, How, and What defined here are a handful of rules you should follow:
1) Define the personality, tone, and persona for the community. This personality should prevail independent of which staff member is conversing. Make sure all communication and engagement feels cohesive to the community you serve.
2) Build your own community. Do not assume Facebook or any other platform is your community. But use social platforms such as Facebook and others as an extension of your owned community. Use the social channels to drive people to your owned community. (I touched on this issue three years ago in an article “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.”)
3) Produce and curate content that is valued information. Produce and curate content that motivates discussions and debates.
4) Let everyone participate and share.
5) Inspire. Challenge.
6) Highlight contributors and give credit to others.
7) Identify power users and build one-to-one relationships.
8) Allow criticism and opposing views.
9) Find ways for members to engage with one another. This is more important and valuable than you being the only one to converse with the members.
10) Create sub-groups for niche discussions.
11) Think offline as well as online. Host online and offline discussions and get- togethers. Motivate your community to connect locally in person. Give them tools to do so.
12) Experiment and capture empirical data to know exactly what your community reacts strongly and weakly to.
13) Have patience. It takes time to build a strong community. Strong in engagement. Strong in numbers.
I hope this helps. I am very excited to put these steps and guidelines to work in my new endeavor. The best part about digital marketing goes beyond selling. It allows you to connect with like-minded people to build meaningful and valuable relationships.
Make It Happen!