When we talk about increasing a business’s scalability, lead generation, brand visibility, digital marketing, customer retention and satisfaction, and content creation are given foremost importance. There is no denying the significance of these activities in relation to a company’s growth and revenue generation, but all of this effort still won’t generate the kind of results companies need unless they focus on another key element; community building.
The power of building an online community that revolves around your business is immense. It helps businesses gather enthusiasts and diehard fans on a single platform and opens channels of communication between businesses and their customers. Unfortunately, not many entrepreneurs are focusing on building a loyal community, and are therefore losing out on profits in the long run.
What is a community?
In its simplest form, community is a group of people who share a common interest. An online community formed around a particular business consists of customers, both existing and potential, who are devoted to the brand’s vision and are interested in the product or service that is offered. Community building is a great way to expand a business’s outreach and exposure and to interact with its consumer base.
Advantages of building a community
Community building can trigger a chain of events that can provide your business with great advantages, such as elevated ROI. Becoming a part of a community creates the feeling of being in an exclusive group therefore many users can jump on the bandwagon of your online community. Once a user is part of your community, you can interact with them on an interpersonal level and foster close bonds. You can add value to their lives by offering solutions to problems that are relevant to your industry.
All of this can increase the chances of eventually converting them into customers. Furthermore, your customers can approach you with their queries, apprehensions and complaints about your product quite easily. If you handle these issues correctly, you can gain their trust and the feedback can help you improve your products.
According to a CMX research conducted in 2016, 85% of marketers agreed that creating an online community not only improves the customer’s journey but also increases trust.
Widespread adoption of social media makes it an ideal platform for cultivating a community as it hosts approximately 97% of adults, aged 16 to 64, on a single platform, all of whom are within your reach. A social media community can play a crucial role in promoting your brand’s image and the most active members of the group can become your most loyal brand ambassadors. Here is how you can harness the power of social media when building your business’s community:
- Understand your target audience
Before you commence with community building, you need to perform extensive research to find out Which platform your target audience uses?
Deciding on the right social media platform should be your first priority. Your preferred social medium should constitute of the majority of your target demographics. Most often, developing a Facebook group is an ideal beginning as its 2.01 billion active daily users can provide you with maximum exposure. Moreover, Facebook users have a diverse range of age brackets therefore, whether your product targets women under twenty or men over forty, you will be able to cultivate ample members.
What are their interests?
By identifying the interests of your prospective members, you will be able to generate quality content that influences them to become and remain an essential part of your community.
Why do they need to join your community?
There are millions of Facebook groups covering almost all topics imaginable. Therefore, you need to identify a unique characteristic of your group that attracts users while remaining relevant to your product.
- Create awesome content
This is one advice that is employed by every successful media marketing campaign. When creating content for a community, you need to craft posts that are purposeful and can provide value to your audience. It could touch upon their pain points, focus on providing solutions, sharing how-to’s etc. The content should also be pertinent to your product but should also be entertaining and informative.
Great content is a potent combination of different mediums including blogs, infographics, videos, webinars etc. that is easy to share with just a few clicks. Engaging content promotes dialogue between the buyers and the sellers which gives rise to mutual understanding and trust.
You need to post regularly to keep your members active because a community needs constant nurturing to retain its members. Facebook’s new algorithm only shows selective posts on the users’ newsfeed depending on the users’ interactions and what she deems interesting. Hence it becomes even more important to be active and consistent with your posting so more and more people are compelled to interact with your content.
- Engage customers
To garner a loyal community, you need to interact with customers and listen to what they are saying. Social media communities provide ideal opportunities to your target audience to reach out to you on a personal level and share valuable feedback about your products or services. Their suggestions can help you improve your product or service to be the way your customers will absolutely love it. In addition, when brands go the extra mile to respond to these comments, customers feel cherished and important.
The close proximity offered by social media is great for your brand’s image too since continuous positive responses from your side can transform your image from a faceless distant entity and give it a more human form. This makes your brand more approachable and promotes positive vibes. All these factors help grow your community.
Leading athletic wear manufacturer, Nike, has created a separate Twitter account for the sole purpose of providing customer support and care. As a startup company owner, you may not have the time or resources to manage a separate social media presence; however, you can take inspiration from and emulate Nike representatives who reply considerately and swiftly.
- Narrate stories
A brand’s evolution needs to be shared with its target audience because people love stories. And your company’s story is what makes it unique. When shared in the right way, it can impact the audience deeply, and make it easier for them to remember you.
According to a research published in the Harvard Business Review, listening to a positive story prompts the body to produce a hormone called oxytocin that makes you feel good. When your story evokes empathy in your users, they immediately become compassionate about your brand which is the secret to a prosperous community.
Your featured stories can also narrate your brand’s vision, your aspirations for its future and how it can benefit consumers. Since community building is all about sharing and caring, you can also invite your members to share their stories about their experience with your products and how it affected/ improved their lives.
- Contests and games
Communities don’t necessarily have to be all about the serious stuff. You should also make yours entertaining to attract a larger fan base. Design exciting contests and fun games for your community to inject aliveness and joy. Make sure to reward customer participation with worthwhile gifts or amazing discounts.
These activities can help promote your brand in numerous ways:
- Contests may involve users who like and share your posts on social media to expand your business’s reach
- Create offline events like meets and greets and invite all your community to be a part of it. If you have thousands of followers on social media, maybe ask them to buy tickets that cover the cost of the event. The excitement generated by these events can drive more people to join your community.
- Every now and again, give away your products as gifts to your customers. You’ll compel them to refer your brand to friends and family.
- Host private events
What drives a multitude of social media users in hordes to a group or community is the allure of its exclusivity. You can employ this technique to the benefit of your organization by hosting private events. The events can be anything from the launch of a new service, book signing, unveiling of a new product idea or simple meet and greet for like-minded people.
Users who score an invitation could be ones who have liked your social media page, downloaded your app, purchased certain products shared your post or converted a few of their friends into customers.
Live events also provide you with the perfect opportunity to meet your consumers in person, listen to their concerns first-hand and see how they perceive your brand. Moreover, videos and pictures of the event can be used to create quality content that can help build your community long after the event has concluded.
Some of the Top 20 brands, recently announced by the CoolBrand Council, including Apple and Nike, have successfully implemented this strategy by effectively combining quality products and great experience, to build authentic relationships with their client base.
- Employ external support
Growing a business single-handedly isn’t easy. As a business owner you will require the support of other professionals from time to time. To create a strong community around your business, you can use the help of influencers from your field.
You need to begin by building a good relationship with these influencers. You can mention them or their most prominent work in your blog and if they like your post, they may share it with their followers, giving you immense exposure within their community. Once you have established yourself as a devoted fan of the influencer, by quoting them and mentioning them in your articles regularly, you can also request them to feature your brand in their posts.
If you have a knack for writing, you can contribute as a guest blogger on websites that cater to the same target audience as you. By embedding intelligent links in your blog, you can direct more users to your website thus expanding your community.
Moreover, guest blogging is not exclusive to startup entrepreneurs, some of the most notable brands benefit from guest blogging as well. Some brands focus more on link building through social media channels rather than guest post.
- Promote word of mouth
You come across two products, both designed for similar purposes, however, one is strongly recommended by a trusted friend while the other is being promoted by its developers. Which one would you choose? The answer is simple; the one recommended by the friend!
Regardless of how actively you market your product, if it fails to gather positive reviews, it won’t help you build a community. Prompt your customers to leave reviews as almost 90% of online users take reviews as personal recommendations. Customers also spend 31% more on businesses that have exceptional reviews.
Another way to encourage word of mouth to build your community is to provide the existing members with stimulating incentives to encourage more friends to become part of the community. The incentive should be something significant and be offered to both an existing and the potential customer.
- Focus on solving problems
If want your community to grow and have faith in your brand, you need to offer valuable solutions to your customers’ problems. While a major portion of brands are focusing on creating content and investing in advertisements, you can build your community and be distinctive by helping people solve their problems.
Farmer insurance could have been just another insurance organization; instead they created Farmers Inner Circle. This extension of the company is a customer-friendly resource that strives to empower their community members with insightful tips. They provide functional advice on basic problems like home upkeep, car maintenance and insurance instability amongst other things.
- Be transparent and honest
Communities are built on trust, and trust is nurtured by honesty and transparency. No company is 100% perfect and everyone makes mistakes but your honesty can help you maintain your reputation in case of crises. The first step to cultivate trust is to be forthcoming about your shortcoming and accept your mistakes.
Social media provides you with the perfect platform to reach out to your entire community and address them personally. You can issue a heartfelt statement admitting to your faults and promise to contemplate in the future.
Pepsi recently found itself in hot waters after it trivialized demonstrations in a recent ad featuring Kendal Jenner. However, after widespread criticism, they pulled the ad off YouTube and also tweeted their remorse, reaching out to their fans to salvage the situation.
“Building a thriving community around your business requires meticulous planning and smart execution to increase visibility and attract valued customers. There are numerous ways to go about it, although, your first priority should be to cultivate long-lasting relationships that benefit both the sellers and the buyers in the long run”.