As Social Media evolves as a communications platform and becomes the primary source of information for most people around the globe, it has also become more difficult to get your content seen due to algorithms designed to filter through the mass amounts of information out there. The Solution? Ensure your content and the community you build around your brand provides key elements to attract followers, engage followers and retain followers. Once you build up your online community, that community begins to work for you as they support, share and remain loyal to your brand and the content it delivers. There are 3 primary ways to ensure that you can create, and maintain a viable and successful online community:
ATTRACT AND ENTICE THE RIGHT CUSTOMER
This brings us to basic marketing procedures and protocol. Many small businesses can make the mistake of assuming that social media alone will serve as their primary marketing platform. The reality is, social media is informed by a larger more detailed marketing strategy and plan that is specific to your business and your brand. In order to ensure you attract the right customers to your online community, you first need to invest your time and money into creating an overall marketing plan and strategy that aligns all of your marketing platforms so that they work together to speak directly to your target market. Many business owners can find they get frustrated with social media and blame it on the algorithms of platforms – however, this is not the real reason their content is not being shared and their platforms are not attracting the right customers/followers – the real reason is a lack of proper strategy and planning. Social Media is indeed a social platform – but strategy and plan is needed to inform it, otherwise, your efforts will have you running in circles and not seeing measurable results.
HUMAN TO HUMAN CONNECTION
As much as creating an online community requires a solid strategy and plan, it also requires the business to have a human element. As social media has evolved to dominate business communications, the only true way to stand out and ensure you are delivering information to the right audience is to have a real face, a real person to represent the business who can then be the voice of the brand. People don’t want to talk to faceless corporations any longer – as the paradigm in business is shifting, customers demand the following from businesses that they choose to deal with; Authenticity, Transparency, Communication, Respect, Accountability. Your online strategy should ensure that you not only entice followers to join your community but that you also spend time nurturing those relationships and responding to individual reviews with due care and attention to each individual. Each customer should represent an individual connection and relationship – when your customers feel heard, respected and cared for, they will return with brand loyalty and commitment.
VALUE, VALUE, VALUE
Once you’ve enticed your customer/follower and have a plan in place to nurture that relationship, you will need to ensure that the content you provide to your online community contains enough value to ensure continued shares and engagement to keep attracting new members. Retaining those customers that you have taken the time and strategy to attract into your community should be the primary goal for your social media strategy. Keeping those customers is the most difficult aspect of building a viable online community. Once you have them, you need a plan to keep them. Provide value in your content that feeds directly into what your customers want and needs from you – this requires that you plan content carefully and listen and engage with them on a daily basis to keep your thumb on the pulse of the community you have created. Online communities require consistent and committed time and focus – your community will evolve and you need to be present within it to be able to stay ahead of what your customers need. Taking the shortcuts with any online community by buying likes, posting content and running, not engaging with comments, ignoring reviews, and not listening to your followers will ensure failure in building up your community. You must be ready to offer the time and value to your customers and know when it may be time to hire a professional company to assist you with this as you cannot put half the effort into it and expect a full response.
Because social media is in all of our lives, and we all utilize it, many businesses make the error in judgment that it is easy enough to do, and they can manage it themselves and don’t need the expense of hiring a professional company to support them. This is a grave mistake – building strong, viable, and engaged online communities requires a level of marketing and communication expertise that not all of us have the skillset or the time for. The smart business owner knows that to succeed in business, one of the most valuable lessons they can learn is knowing when to delegate. If you cut corners, you will get that same level of results from your online efforts.
Invest in your business by creating a strong marketing plan and strategy that informs your online efforts and be prepared to spend significant time on it. If you don’t have that time, hire professionals who specialize in translating your business brand into a relatable, informative, and engaging community online. These three elements when practiced with professionalism, patience and commitment are a solid roadmap to building a thriving community online for your business.