Did you know that two of the top reasons why businesses fail when it comes to online marketing and social media are 'lack of planning' and 'impatience'?
The heart of online marketing success is community - social networks, blogs, video channels, and podcasts are all about people, and enabling audiences to connect, engage and help each other. The true power in that process comes in the form of community.
But communities are not born overnight. A fast “pop-up” Facebook group with an intent to persuade purchases will most likely fail - the most powerful communities are nurtured and grown over time, not coerced or bribed into existence.
Planning takes focus and time, and patience is one of the hardest things to have when it comes to building online communities.
The truth is that community development takes effort. Just like relationships are built on trust that's earned over time, communities are no different - the higher the patience, the greater the end results. Communities are made up of people coming from different backgrounds and education, they have different understandings and expectations of what a community is and why they've joined yours.
Earning the trust of community members early on is critical. People start out in the “community” or “opportunity” zone and will move to loyal evangelists or paying customers over time, after trust is earned.
Moving them from a “free” community member to a “paying” customer takes investment of time, sharing of information and patience. Here are 13 strategies to help community leaders build loyal tribes of evangelists.
1. Be aware of the needs of new community members versus long-standing members
New members have different needs than people who've been in your group for a longer period of time. Be sensitive to their need for communication, introduction to other members and in help getting acquainted with the norms of the group.
2. Set expectations and guidelines for all members within the community
Keep your guidelines positive, but direct enough to provide the needed structure and safety for all.
3. Provide opportunities for members to converse openly
Invite them to special online or offline events. Encourage them to introduce themselves, share their needs from the community, as well as what they can offer others.
4. Be available
If you're leading a community, make sure that you're available. You don’t need to be contactable 24/7, but you should be there to answer questions in a timely manner, to join conversations and to help the community learn and grow. Make it clear when you are and are not available by setting proper expectations.
5. Be supportive of organic role development
If people in your community volunteer to take a leadership role for a specific area or task, openly invite, encourage and empower them to do so where possible. Some of the best communities are self governed - if you, as the leader of the community, are the only one leading, it's likely to become a silo’d dictatorship versus a thriving, healthy group.
6. Be supportive of the OPC (other people’s communities)
One of the greatest benefits of a community is the ability for members to tap into the OPC. There's a lot of power in bringing multiple communities together - offer structure for these types of dialogs to happen, and don’t be afraid that you'll lose community members by integrating the OPC. Be confident, and know that OPC will help you.
7. Set goals
Know what your goals and objectives are for the community. Take time to understand your audience and community members, and understand what you want to get out of the community, as well as what your members want to achieve.
8. Share your best stuff
When it comes to offering value to the community, don't hold back - share your best tips, strategies and information. If you do this, others will do the same. A community of value is a community set to grow and succeed.
9. Be patient and acknowledge where in life cycle of community member growth the person is
Don't expect new members to become loyal evangelists overnight. Give them time to build relationships, absorb information, learn, and feel comfortable with you and the other members.
10. Reward good behavior
Acknowledge when community members do really good things. If someone has been helping you with moderation, then thank them publicly for such. The same goes for people sharing great information which provides value to others.
11. Offer unique information only available to the community
Don't share the exact same posts to the community group you share on your public tweets, Facebook Pages and Pinterest. Instead, create unique content only available to members.
12. Inspire your audience to connect with you, with a goal of helping them achieve their goals
If you focus on their goals, you'll move closer to your goals by default. Inspire – connect – achieve. You can never go wrong by investing in engaged people.
13. Focus on the heartbeat of social media
The heartbeat of social media is you and me, it's people. Focus on contributing to the healthy heartbeat of your communities as well as others. Don't be the person spamming, trying to get more likes and follows - instead, offer real value, invest in people.
These tips will help you build an active, engaged and lively community - and with groups set to become a bigger focus in social media marketing moving forward, you should definitely be considering the value of such in your planning.
You'll be amazed at the organic results you can achieve with these tips. Trust me, it works.
A version of this post was first published on Pam Moore's blog.