Whatever your sector, it’s becoming increasingly important to give your audience a reason and place to be able to speak to you, and to others like them. That’s why now, more than ever, there’s a focus on developing online communities.
Some of the busiest sites in the UK are community-based, such as Mumsnet and MoneySavingExpert. Here’s 9 simple tips to help you engage and grow your online community:
1. Get to know your community well
It’s important to be part of your community as well as manage it – get involved! Knowing your community helps you provide content that will be of interest. It also gives insight into how the community thinks and acts, thus allowing you to talk to them appropriately.
2. Know where they are and when they’re there
Think about the best times to speak to your community and understand the reasons why this is the case – where will they be, what will they be doing? If your audience is mainly singles under 25, posting on a Saturday night isn’t going to be the optimum time to speak to them. It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how often timing isn’t considered!
3. Communicate effectively
By knowing your community you’ll be able to figure out how to communicate with them effectively – you’ll get to know how they want to be spoken to, but even more importantly, you’ll be able to balance the organisation’s objectives with the needs of the community.
4. Make it as easy as possible to talk to you
Make sure your Facebook page and Twitter account have easily searchable names. Make the profiles identifiable as you. Keep it short and simple as this will encourage people to tag you or mention you in their social media activities – don’t needlessly take up valuable characters! Promote what social media platforms you’re on by linking to them from your website and putting them, where relevant, on marketing literature.
5. Listen to what they’re saying
When a consumer engages with you, really listen to what they’re saying. After all, they’ve gone to the effort of taking time out of their lives to interact with you so make sure you make it worth their while.
6. Find out what’s going on in the wider conversation
Make the most of free listening tools available. Hootsuite, Facebook Insights, SocialMention and Google Alerts make it easy and cheap to listen to what’s being said about your brand online.
7. Don’t be scared to be bold
Communities hosted on social media platforms are, in general, public and so anyone can see what’s being said on them. Just because your content is visible doesn’t mean it needs to be ‘wishy-washy’ as to avoid confrontation. Don’t be scared to really show your organisation’s personality – if people like it they will tell you, if people don’t they will most definitely tell you. Just remember, as long as you can justify why you’re posting something then go ahead.
8. Be human, be nice!
Customers like when companies are nice to them, plain and simple. Think of your community as an extension of your customer services. Being nice, understanding and, where needed, apologetic will help you avoid conflict and potentially turn angry customers into happy ones.
9. Make sure it looks great
Make the most of what social media platforms are offering to help make your community belong to you – use Facebook cover images, branded YouTube channels and Twitter accounts to bring your platforms in line with your brand guidelines.
What’s your experience with online communities? Have you already got one or thinking of setting one up? Share your comments with us below!
About the author: Julie Gray is a community & social media manager at award-winning digital and creative agency, Whitespace, who advises and manages social media for a variety of clients from alcohol brands to government organisations.