Successful social campaigns are about more than just getting online and posting information. While social media platforms often make for great content syndication channels, your primary goal should be building a community. Only through community building will you be able to develop a wider reach for your brand, stronger loyalty among your customers, and a better medium of communication between you and your followers.
Unfortunately, building a community takes time and a significant amount of effort. To make things worse, there are few reliable protocols for community building since each industry is different and your audience may behave in unpredictable ways.
Still, there are seven tested rules for community building that you must follow in order to effectively facilitate the growth of a social community:
The first rule is also the most important. While building your online community, you’re going to need to remain both active and consistent, indefinitely. That means logging in to each of your social profiles multiple times per day, every day, and posting at least a few times a day as well. Without that level of active consistency, people will have no reason to check your page for updates. It’s also important to remain consistent in the types of material you post. That means writing in a consistent brand voice, posting consistently high-quality material, and generally keeping your subjects and content to a specific theme.
When you first establish a social media presence for your company, it might be tempting to push your products or services. After all, if you have 100 followers and you post an ad for your latest product, you could get 5 of those followers to buy one. Unfortunately, while these types of sales tactics might have a short-term return, their effects on your long-term social community are devastating. Followers are turned off by companies who are only interested in pitching their products. Instead, focus on bringing value to your users and engaging in sincere, personal conversations. Show off your personality and show that you’re more than just a faceless corporation interested in sales.
Anyone who goes out of their way to engage your brand deserves to be recognized in some way. Any time you see someone share or comment on a piece of content you posted, and any time you see someone message you, respond to them, publicly wherever possible. This will show that you appreciate interaction, and will encourage more people to interact with your brand directly. Even if these comments are negative, don’t cover them up; instead, address them with patient understanding. This approach will make your brand seem more valuable to new customers and may salvage an otherwise damaged relationship.
Influencers are the only shortcuts in the world of social community building. By definition, influencers are social media users who are seen as highly authoritative in a specific industry, and as a result, they tend to have large followings. Reaching out to influencers in your industry can open the door to new segments of your audience and accelerate the impact of your posts. For example, merely mentioning an influencer in conversation might spark them to share a piece of your content, which could get thousands of new eyes on your brand and your material. Use as many influencers as you can, especially at the beginning of your growth. Eventually, you’ll become one in your own right.
Staying topical is a good strategy no matter which social media platforms you use. Experiment with social listening software or simply keep active tabs on your news feed to find out what people are talking about and what they’re most interested in reading. Once you have that information, the next step is obvious—use it! If you have time to write articles around the new trends, feel free to, but don’t be afraid to simply mention them in short social posts. It shows you pay attention to the world around you and gets you much more visibility for your brand.
Communities aren’t one-directional. In order to be successful, your audience members must feel comfortable to engage with one another as much as they are engaging with your brand. The best way to facilitate this type of atmosphere is to start conversations. Get your users to talk to each other however you can. Typically, the best ways to do this are through controversial subjects (which tend to elicit strong opinions) or topical matters (which attract a lot of attention). Keep these conversations going by getting involved yourself.
In order to keep your community going, you’ll need to attract more and more followers to your brand. The best way to do this is to get your existing followers to do the work for you. Every time one of your followers shares a piece of content, your brand gets exposed to several dozen new people. Therefore, the more shares and page participations you can encourage from your existing fan base, the greater your potential impact on new customers will be. Write shareable content, share viral material, and host contests to encourage more of these actions.
Put these rules into practice for your ongoing social media strategy immediately. Building a community takes time, so the sooner you’re able to build momentum, the sooner you’ll be able to start reaping the benefits.