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Article | 05 Oct 2017

8 steps to building an engaged online community

Posted in Freelancer, Top tips, Tools & Advice, Motivation & inspiration, Learning,

A lot of brands struggle to build a online community and find the value in social media, not least start-ups and small businesses. With numerous social channels to manage and so much noise to contend with, it can feel like a lot of effort for little reward - particularly when you’re short on resources.

But get it right and social media can be a brilliant way of communicating directly with your target audiences, and even building an engaged community around your brand. So, before you throw in the social media towel, here’s some tips to get you thinking:

  1. What do you want to be, and for who?

    The first step is to clarify what you want to achieve through your social community; that includes who your audience is and the ROI you want to see for your business. A community is defined as ‘the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common’, so decide what these shared interests are going to be, based on what you do and your customers. This will help you prioritise the channels and content to focus on, and ensure it delivers. It’s much better to do a few things well, at least to begin with, then you can always branch out once your business and brand become more established.
  2. Remember, it’s not all about you

    A lot of brands make the mistake of using their social channels to broadcast lots of information about themselves, without thinking about what their target audience really cares about, or having a two-way conversation. Social media guru, John Friedman, says that when building a social community, your content should be 40% social, i.e. interactions between community members, 40% about the subject matter in general and only 20% about your brand. And it’s good to remember that your aim, first and foremost, should be serving your community, rather than focusing on what they can do for you. For more on building your content strategy, have a read of our blog, content marketing on a bootstrap.
  3. Interactive content

    You need to give your users a regular incentive for visiting your social page and a good enough reason to interact with the site. That means mixing your content up with competitions, giveaways, polls, and visual content such as images, gifs and videos. It also means responding to any questions and queries promptly, as well as encouraging discussions with and between your followers.
  4. User-generated content

    Creating your own content is important, but to build a community that is really flourishing, user-generated content is key. You can generate user content in a number of ways, from encouraging conversations between members, to inviting your followers to submit their own photos, videos or ideas. GoPro does this really well by featuring the best shots tagged by users on its website and social pages, driving tonnes of likes, comments and questions from the community.
  5. Face-to-face first

    It’s easy to forget in the age of social media, but actual, real-life human interactions are still hugely effective, especially when your brand is relatively unknown. People are much more likely to follow you online if they’ve seen you at an event, or spoken to you in person. So, remember to incorporate lots of face-to-face meetings, events and networking in your community strategy.
  6. Be authentic

    Trust is essential to building a community around your brand, and you can only build trust by being authentic and consistent in all your communications and interactions. Achieving that starts with knowing your brand values, personality and tone of voice, as well as having a clear social media strategy from the outset. You can also help to build personality by giving a ‘behind the scenes’ feel to your content and not being scared to chat and joke around with your community. It’s vital that you show the human side to your business.
  7. Tap into existing communities

    Starting a community from scratch isn’t easy, so a good short-cut is to piggyback on those that already exist. Look at where your target audiences already spend their time, whether that’s an industry body, Facebook group or chatroom, and see how you can get involved. And don’t forget to think about what you can do to help them, rather than the other way around.
  8. Influencer engagement

    Similarly, find out who are the biggest online influencers in your area and look for ways to engage with them. That could mean anything from commenting on or reposting their content, to setting up more formal partnerships, where they help promote or become involved in your community. Take a look at our recent blog on six steps to successful influencer marketing, for more on how this is done.

With so many consumers turning to social media for information, advice and to share their experiences, these platforms offer a fantastic engagement opportunity for brands. And while it might not happen immediately, with persistence, determination and a smart approach, you’ll see your own engaged community start to emerge.

If you need some help developing or executing your social media strategy, a specialist freelancer could be the perfect solution. To find out more just drop us a line here here or give us a call on 0203 828 8440.