By now you have heard many times over the value and importance of your brand having an online presence. (“Build the website, and they will come!”- If only it were that easy!) Just having a website, blog, and social media accounts are not enough to get noticed online. In addition to having search engine basics in place, you need to invest some time and energy in creating and fostering an online community.
An online community is a group of people with common interests or goals, interacting online. These are your brand’s followers! Your community may consist largely of followers who come to you for useful information, get what they need, and that’s it, or you may have people engaging with one another via your social media presence, in the comments section of your blog, or in a forum you’ve created. How do you build an online community? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Know your customer. Before you can build your online community, you need to understand who your customer is, and where they are online. Then, you need to ask them to join you!
Offer something of value. People have information coming at them from many directions, all day long. Give them a reason to connect with you. Most of us won’t follow a brand for the sake of following – we have to get something out of it. That “something” can be as simple as being clever. There are a few companies that I follow, even though I don’t use the product, because their marketing and branding are so good, and I find value in that.
Be human! This is a big one. It is so important to humanize your brand. Demonstrate that there are real people behind your logo. Engage and interact with your community. Answer their questions. When they tell you they are happy (or upset!), respond. When they Share, Forward, or Tweet, thank them for being an active part of your community! Always be professional and courteous, even when it’s hard. Remember, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t post it!
Make sure they can find you. As you are growing your online community, be sure to have your SEO in order, so people searching for what you offer can find your brand online. You will find that as your community starts to grow, it can have a great effect on how you rank in search engines.
Stay current and consistent. Make sure you are offering new content on a consistent basis. You want your followers to understand when they will hear from you so they start to seek you out. When you have people checking in to see “what you have to say today,” that is the best. It allows you to start leading the conversation about your brand, which is a great position to be in.
Nurturing an active, engaged online community requires an ongoing, consistent commitment. Monitoring conversations, interacting with and responding to your followers – you have to invest the time to do this effectively. With the right strategy in place, you can be your brand’s pied piper!