How to build a successful community online

HOW TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL ONLINE COMMUNITY.png

This blog post was written by Jen Eastwood of Rock Rose Digital, a digital marketer & copywriter and valued member of The Independent Girls Collective. If you’re a member and would like to contribute a post to the IGC blog, email julia@independentgirlscollective.com.

We hear so often that ‘numbers aren’t everything’ and that we should be focused on creating a community around our businesses’ instead of focusing on growing followers and likes. But how do you grow a successful online community?

Quality of followers is definitely better than quality - 1,000 followers and 100 of them clicking through to your website is SO much better than 10,000 followers and 1,000 likes.

Imagine you’re opening a real life cute indie boutique, in an area where you don’t know anyone. How would you build up a community around your little shop to be full of dedicated customers? The same rules of engagement would apply.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for growing your own thriving hive of loyal fans.

1) Show up, consistently

You can’t start your online profiles, make a half-hearted effort on posting content when you have time and expect people to know how you are. It’s like having your shop but not being open very much. You have to make yourself visible. If you can do it around the same time every time your followers will start to know when to expect your content: just like shoppers knowing your opening times and knowing when you might be available for a chat. My general rule of thumb is daily Instagram/Facebook Stories and no fewer than 3 main account posts per week to keep in your followers radar.

2) Don’t just talk about you

Imagine if every-time you started a conversation with your new customers, you only talked about yourself. They’d would think you were pretty rude and a bit boring, so might not make the effort as much. It’s exactly the same online.

Ask your followers how they are, talk about other things related to your business which they might be interested in and that you’re passionate about. You never know what meaningful conversations can arise.

3) Don’t just sell

We know all the MLM types. The old acquaintances you barely know or even complete strangers trying to recruit you for ‘this really amazing working from home opportunity’ that we all cringe and probably avoid? Only pushing your products and services on your social media is exactly the same. No-one likes to be sold to. It makes them feel awkward and ikky.

Take time to build proper relationships with them instead, it’s SO MUCH more beneficial.

4) Who do you want in your community?

Knowing who you want to attract and being picky about this is key. As a little shop, not everyone is going to be your ideal customer, and you wouldn’t want to try to get everyone. You want people that REALLY understand you, your values, your vision and what you’re trying to achieve. You want people that are going to rave about you and tell all of their like-minded friends.

‘We’re only as good as the company we keep’ is something I heard A LOT growing up to put me off hanging out with trouble-makers. This is the same online. Take time to pinpoint exactly who you want and craft your message specifically for them. It’ll help attract the customers you do want and repel the ones you don’t. I’d also recommend ‘pruning’ your followers of any that don’t look like you’d want them in your shop.

5) What do you want to be known for?

Once you know who you’re talking to, think about how you want to come across. Do you want to be known for your quirky style, your excellent friendly customer service, how helpful and informed you are, because you make them laugh?

Find out what your followers want, what keeps them coming back to you and consistently keep doing more of that.

6) Be sociable

The clue is in the name ‘social media’. Going back to my analogy, if new people came into your shop, you’d say hi, ask them if you could help. If someone complimented something you’d acknowledge them and continue a conversation from there. If repeat customers came back you’d start to know what they like and know more about their life outside of your shop.

Drop new followers a DM. Acknowledge and reply to all comments. If someone takes the time to engage with your brand, engage back! People like to feel acknowledged and taken care of. Being sociable builds these relationships that your community will grow from.

7) Give to get

It isn’t just about the people that walk into your shop. If you moved to a new place, you’d go round and say hi to other local businesses, give them support and show you want to be an active part of their community. Following local or related businesses, engaging in their content and giving them a bit of love is a great way to develop a ‘community over competition’ vibe.

8) Find where your people are

Move anywhere new, and there will likely be a pocket of people like you already there. Online, I’ve got a pocket of other freelance business owners who all support each other and regularly have virtual coffee dates, exchange knowledge and experience in twitter chats, give support and advice in Facebook communities.

These people might not be your customers, but their part in your community is just as important for a whole heap of other benefits and you never know who they could send your way because you’ve made an impression.

9) Take it offline

This might not always be possible, but forging amazing relationships offline is a wonderful thing. Ask people for a coffee in real life, arrange to go to an event or a networking meet-up. Sometimes the analogue methods are just as beneficial.

10) Take your time

Like any relationship, doing it well and organically for the best impact takes time. Much like planting a seed, it takes time for the roots to bed in deep before the flowers flourish. If you force it, it can look really false and disingenuous. Good times take time, so focus on being the best you can be to the followers you have and the rest will flow from there.

TAKEAWAYS:

  • Show up

  • Be social

  • Be specific on who you want

  • Be generous

  • Be patient

If you’d like some help building your community, my diary is currently open for 1-1 consultations which can be a one off or a 3 month package. All IGC members get 15% off. You can find out more at www.rockrosedigital.co.uk or drop me an email jen@rockrosedigital.co.uk.


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