Every community needs a strong leader to rally the troops. You know, the person in the neighborhood who organizes the block party, inspiring everyone to show up with their side dish to share. The one who opens their home for the neighborhood block watch meeting, allowing everyone to address their concerns. The one who shows up with a plate of brownies at the new neighbors’ doorstep, welcoming them into the fold.
That person is the community ring leader. They are the ones who bring the community together to be a community. And when done right, everyone starts to participate and become invested in making the community stronger. When the new neighbors begin getting 12 plates of brownies when they move in instead of just one, you know you’ve built something great.
Your brand can create this same environment online through a Facebook Group, Instagram account, or whatever social channel your audience is most active. When you lead by example with the right motives you can ultimate inspire others to action.
But don’t be fooled. It takes more than posting articles, and blogs, and funny cat videos on your social channels to get a few likes. That is activity… and it’s great to generate awareness. But it isn’t community. So let’s talk about what is.
Why Build an Online Community for Your Brand?
Community exists when all the members of a group have a connection to the cause.
All the members care to contribute.
All the members check in because they WANT to, not because they HAVE to.
There are many reasons why a community might be right for your brand. If you are finding it hard to keep customers, you may need to build up loyalty. If you aren’t sure how to take your product or service to the next level, a strong, honest community can give you insight into what it needs. If you have major competition in the marketplace, a value-added service like a community forum might be just the thing to take you over the top.
If this is the type of environment your brand wants to cultivate, then read on. These five tips will help you build an online community that empowers your members—and your brand.
1. Find Your Purpose
What do your followers care about? What mission will they get behind? What does your product or service solve for them? We’re not talking about your product attributes. We’re talking about the reason they may have reached out to find a community like yours in the first place.
Do they work virtually and are passionate about striking work/life balance? Do they care about putting real food on the table amidst a busy 21st-century schedule? Do they run a small business and wear many hats and could use some like-minded peers?
Find the cause your followers care about and start to build your community around that.
2. Find Your Community Leader
The leader of your community should love people and find pleasure and purpose in engaging with them. Their attitude must always be, Yes! I will help you. This role is not for everyone (no judgment). A community manager must be proactive, able to make connections between members, and provide honest guidance when needed. The person who can say, “I’m not 100% sure, let me explore that and get back to you.” And then they actually find the answer and get back to the member.
Your community leader makes people want to come back to visit because there is someone there who cares. They bring the brownies to the new neighbor. And, in turn, the members want to become someone who brings brownies, too.
3. Keep Your Brand Voice Alive
If your brand voice isn’t syrupy, then your community leader’s shouldn’t be either. If your brand voice is educational, bring that to the table here, too.
Ensure the attitude and core voice you use within your brand stays true, but be free to add a more conversational tone. You are not selling anything here. You are bringing people together for a cause.
4. Set Expectations for Replies
The community needs to know you’re there but like every neighbor, sometimes you’re out and about.
One brand I work with has a goal of responding to each comment in the community group within 10 minutes. It’s an investment they are choosing to make for their community to feel like someone is always there. Another brand has someone monitoring most of the work day, but is clear they take the weekend off.
The best thing to do is set expectations and meet them wherever they land. This builds trust with your members and minimizes disappointments.
5. Take Your Online Community Offline
Your community will offer up many opportunities for growth, on your part and theirs. And a good community leader will recognize those opportunities.
If you have solutions for a discussion that is going on within the online community but is more in-depth than a social post can cover, ask to connect on another level. Set up a phone call or lead them to a helpful webinar.
Better yet, create an offline event that’s just for your members: an exclusive training session, a sale that’s just for them, a full-fledged conference. If you’ve spent time building up your online community, then you’ve also built up trust that you support and encourage their success. They will welcome the chance to grow together offline as well.
With a solid purpose and invested members, your community becomes another example of “it takes a village”. The members are willing to participate for the greater good of the whole, all the while you are building up loyalty for your brand. Everybody wins!