You’ve probably heard a lot about creating online communities. This sometimes generates some strange mental images, like who is going to be the mayor, where the convenience store will be located, who is going to be the biggest local gossip, who are going to be your close friends, and who is the odd person who lives in number 53. In terms of your website, those odd images are closer to reality than you might think.
Your business, brand or website has to behave online in exactly the same way as you would behave in any other sort of community. All that’s different is the method.
You can join the FatCow Community Directory to get an invite to the community party.
And think of the community as being something that’s not about you. Instead it’s a place where people can meet, have conversations, have fun and gain knowledge.
Let’s look at this analogy in more detail:
- The Mayor –that is you, but remember the best mayors are tuned into the people they represent. The listen, they participate, they get involved, they help, and they deliver.
- The Convenience Store – that is your product or service. It needs to be there and it is very important. But communities are not centered on convenience stores. Instead, convenience stores are part of communities.
- The Local Gossip – local gossips are the lifeblood of many communities, despite their (sometimes) tarnished reputation. At your website they’re the people who post frequently and engage most often. They will also talk to others about what you are doing. Used right, they are invaluable.
- Your Close Friends – these are the other people in your niche. Sometimes they are competitors, but whoever they are, the best way to grow your community is to get them involved.
- The Odd Person in Number 53 – the size of the community is not important. It’s the quality that counts. We will come back to this a bit later, but don’t chase quantity – chase quality. Not everyone has to be involved, but those that do should be engaged, interested and active. (and if you live in number 53 in the offline world, the number was picked at random and may or may not mean that you’re odd).
How do you do it? Let’s start with the elephant (or the odd person from number 53) in the room: this is not easy. It takes hard work over a long period of time. And you will probably not see results immediately. But if you follow the steps below you will get there.
Before You Start
Consider why you are doing this. What are your business objectives? What do you want to build? Who are you building it for? You will only get the answers to these questions by knowing and understanding your industry and your customers.
You also need to get into the right frame of mind and your team needs to be in the right frame of mind too. Everyone involved in the project needs to understand what they are trying to achieve, why they are doing it, and how they are going to measure success.
The next step is to create great content. That is worth repeating again – the content has to be quality. After all, quality content is the centerpiece of good design. And remember, this means your content should not always be about what you’re doing, or about your products or services. When you’re creating content on social media or your blog, aim for 20 percent of your content to be about you, with 80 percent about stuff entirely focused on your community.
This can be hard sometimes, but don’t always try to sell. Even though you’re creating content 80 percent of the time, you’re not directly selling. And that’s ok. You’re indirectly self-promoting, which can be incredibly effective if done right.
The content you create should be very well researched and should be about what your community wants to read, watch or listen. Don’t forget your SEO principals and always remember to be personable.
Which leads us to our next step, communicating.
To create an online community from your website you first need to be human. You need to find people and groups who are in your niche and start talking to them. Open up a dialogue, offer value, and ask questions. But don’t try to sell! This is about having a conversation.
This will attract others to the community you’re trying to create. Once they’re in your community you need to continue the process by participating in discussions, responding to comments, and answering questions. Most importantly, you need to listen and get to know them. And you need to show them that you appreciate them – give ‘em some love!
And remember: don’t try to sell when you are doing this. If you engage and talk to your community, the selling will be easier when the time is right.
Quality Over Quanity
Building an online community with a website is not a numbers game. You should strive to get quality participants who are involved and active. Doing this takes time and hard work, but it will be worth it. Here are some reasons why:
- You can stop chasing the Google algorithm because you’ll have an engaged user base from which to grow
- Adds monetary value to your business
- Gives a purpose to your online strategy
- Makes you stand out from your competitors
- It will help to keep the focus on achieving your goals
Take the time, have a personality, and get involved. If you follow these steps, your website community will be a success.