Building an Online Community

image of a community of words and blocks
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Social media gives you the chance to engage with your customers in a way that you couldn’t in the past.

What is an ‘Online Community’?  A community is a group of people who share common interests and/or goals; therefore an online community, put simply, is a group of people using the internet to connect and exchange information.

Developing an online community is a powerful way to get people to engage with your business.  The question is “How do I build an Online Community?”

The first thing to be aware of is the big difference between an audience and a community.  An audience may watch you or even read your stuff but they won’t engage or interact, there is no real connection.  On the other hand a member of your community will be actively interacting with you by commenting, liking and sharing your content.

There is no quick fix to building an online community; it takes time, work and patience.  Firstly you need to know who your potential community members are, you could identify them by looking at other like-minded communities.  Make links with these communities; for example liking the Facebook page of a competitor or someone with interests similar to yours and then commenting on and sharing their content makes you a member of that community, in turn other members may notice you and engage with you.

To build a community you have to offer something interesting and engaging.  Think of it as a relationship building tool first rather than just a way to get more customers, this will happen in time if you get it right.  Think about the content that you post online, if you only constantly market your product or brand to people they will soon disengage and you will lose them.  Keep the content balanced; it should inform, educate and entertain.

Your goal should be to have a healthy mix of posting:
• 50% news and information that your target audience would be interested in
• 30% personality and fun stuff, for example questions & comments that encourage your audience to respond
• 20% business; promoting your brand, business, products, and services

Keep them coming back for more with fresh and varied content.
• Keep it visual, research shows that people respond far better to posts that have eye-catching images and videos.
• Vary the length of your blogs, some of your subject matter may only need a short, sharp 300-400 words; other subjects may require more depth of detail and will be longer.
• Use guest bloggers who might bring a different style of writing and opinions.

Always acknowledge any interaction that your followers make with you.  If they comment on a Facebook post, respond to them.  If they retweet your tweet, thank them.  It demonstrates that you value their input and feedback and it is just plain good manners!  If someone has said something negative, and it does happen, don’t shy away from it and certainly don’t ignore it.  See it as an opportunity to engage with a customer and turn the situation around.  Showcase your customer service skills!
Building your community is a two way process so be sure to engage with your followers by liking, commenting on and sharing their content too.

Nurturing your online community can give your business fresh momentum.  Social media gives you the chance to engage with your customers in a way that you couldn’t in the past.  Businesses and companies should be grabbing this opportunity with both hands and using this two-way engagement to develop products and services to meet the exact needs of their customers.  So what’s stopping you?!

Why not start today by joining the Flow Online digital marketing community.  Follow us via our social media channels, sign up for our newsletter to receive regular updates, blogs and tips or use the comments box below to tell us what you think of this blog.