Building community for a small business is done with three repeating steps and one vital insight. However, you must first determine if building a community is right for your small business. Building a social media community represents a long-term commitment of both time and resources with a specific return – it builds your brand.
If your goals and objectives in social media do not yet include building your brand, and are about finding partners, recruiting talent, or attracting customers, joining a community is a much better option. Joining a community is about building a network. It is easier, has a lower cost, and does a much better job of meeting certain objectives.
Building a social media community for your small business is about building your brand through three repeating steps and one vital insight:
Connect to your audience with frequency and repetition; respond to questions with immediacy and monitor conversations regularly. When you let people know you are listening, they are more likely to continue the conversation. Automation doesn’t connect. People want to be heard, and if they discover the only one listening is a machine, they will stop talking with you.
After you connect, you must create value. The first mistake so many small businesses make when building a social media community, is jumping to the sell too quickly. Equip your audience with the tools to sell to themselves, and once they become fans, the tools to sell to others. Community is about equipping members to help in its construction and maintenance.
Beyond connection and creation comes engagement. Think of engaging like connecting 2.0. Engagement is about sustained, proactive two-way conversation with your audience. This will need to take place where the conversations are happening: on other blogs, forums, and social media. Find your audience and go to them. Engage meaningfully. Invite them to participate in your community.
And don’t forget (the vital insight)
Acknowledging participation is the most important part of community. Finding ways to reward participation in your community encourages loyalty and advocacy. Examples include discounts, prestige, status, verbal acknowledgement, and personal notes of thanks. It doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be valuable and consistent.
Return to connect. And repeat.
by Jose Albis