Building an online community around your brand is more important than ever thanks to social media. Having a community of brand advocates and happy customers provides many benefits to businesses of every size and niche. Some of these benefits include:
No need to hard-sell all the time: An active, loyal community will start their own discussions about your new product or service without waiting for a hard-sell prompt from you.
You can get valuable feedback: Community discussions and user-generated content are great sources of honest feedback about your products.
Better content distribution: A large community of active Twitter followers, bloggers, and Facebook fans can distribute your content to a wider audience.
Improved engagement and brand loyalty: Conversing and interacting with your online community is a great way to engage with your customers and develop a better relationship with them.
Developing a unified, active online community is simple if you know where to start. Here are the four building blocks of every successful community.
Mark Cameron, CEO of a social media strategy agency, says that the most important rule when engaging your audience is you must be relentlessly, almost obsessively, focused on them.” Your focus shouldn’t be on promoting yourself and your products. As Cameron says, “turning up to a party and only talking about yourself is pretty uncool.” Focus on what matters to your customers and what interests them, and go out of your way to know who they are. Spending more time on understanding your audience’s helps you communicate with them more effectively.
Communities are all about conversation. Your community will pay close attention to how you converse with them and react to their comments and opinions. The key to successful communication with your customers is to be responsive, open, and honest. Respond to their comments or questions immediately, be open to their opinions and suggestions, and supply genuine, honest answers.
You also need to learn when and how to initiate conversations with your community. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing an image or asking a question, but sometimes it’s difficult to get customers to respond. Find out what’s holding them back, but avoid forcing them into it.
Not getting responses from your community may be a sign that they don’t trust you just yet. You have to earn your customers’ trust before you can expect them to interact with you regularly. Honesty and transparency are the most important elements in building trust. Give your brand a personality, but make sure it ties in well with your company’s goals, culture, and industry. Customers relate to “humanized” brands better, and having an authentic brand persona encourages them to be themselves when interacting with you or other members of the community.
The main bulk of the value you provide customers comes from your products or services, but creating and sharing great content through online channels makes you even more valuable to them. Don’t just give them marketing materials like PRs or online ads. Share content that sparks their interest and triggers conversations, such as informative blog posts and videos, event photos, or even coupons.
Consistent updates are also important when it comes to delivering valuable content. Failing to update regularly might make customers lose interest and stop interacting with you.
Nurturing relationships with customers and building a community is an important part of online marketing. This will take a lot of time and effort, but the benefits of having a loyal network of customers and social media contacts is worth it.