21 August 2012

How To Build Your Online Business Community


Social media has the power to create a sense of community around your organisation.  A prime example of an organisation using community build is the Red Cross.  The question however is always how?  You know you have "likes" on your Facebook page, followers on Twitter and even the odd guest post on your blog.  These are the obvious things to do but is it enough?

Things to consider:
  1. Your website/blog's shared purpose - You must have a buy in, something your readers can identify with and belong to.  Yours readers will be looking for like minded people with the same kind of problem or difficulty that you can solve. 
  2. You are the leader - Communities need a spokesperson that is you.  You need to maintain the community'ss purpose and its direction.  Conversation and connections will need to be probed and expanded.  Use your personal story to illustrate the community's purpose, after all people have similar problems.  Find guest bloggers who can spread the word of your movement.
  3. You are also the enforcer - some posts by members may need to be policed if abusive to other members or not in line with the site's purpose.
  4. Aim for inclusion - make sure members feel their points and concerns are met.  Also you will need to be seen to be fair so that all members need to receive the same consideration and be heard equally
  5. Create a Referral System - The best way to grow a community is to create a referral system, ideally with an incentive.  This incentive can be a prize for the member would refers the highest number of new members in a given time period.  Again such a referral system may will not suit all business models.  Another idea would be free admission to the community for getting two new members to sign up.  You need a self-perpetuating system build in or it all becomes an uphill struggle. 
  6. Continuity is key - All of the participants must feel that there is a benefit to continuing to visit the community, otherwise your member numbers will dwindle. Increasing content is of importance here.
  7. Your content - Growing a community requires content that is relevant to your target's interests.  This needs to be kept up to date.
  8. Work with feedback - Be aware that you may need to rethink the community's purpose based on the questions you are asked by your members.
  9. It takes time - And continual effort.  Do not expect a "critical mass" or "tipping point" number of followers that will arrive out of nowhere and make all the difference.  Should this happen (by some remote chance) then its a bonus.  You will continually win and loose new members even while growing at a steady pace. 
  10. In practical terms - Spread your group's shared purpose on Twitter.  Retweet messages from like minded people.  Spread the word of your movement through bloggers already blogging in that space. 
  11. Include outgoing links and related article on your blog posts.  Use an automated Twitter and Facebook feed on your subject matter to seed these online conversations. 

I would welcome comments or ideas, please comment below.