These days community building seems to have a major focus on Social Media. How to attract followers in their thousands, how to be available 24 hours a day to engage with your audience and how to listen socially, are all topics you're likely to come across. Search any popular search engine for the term "Online Community" and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about.
While Social Media does have its place when building your community, there are other areas you need to focus on in order to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level. Today I'll show you where your attention needs to be drawn to and why it's crucial to your on-going success.
Social Media and Owned Communities
Before I dig deeper into the benefits an online community can have for your business, it's important to define what's meant by the term "Online Community".
In this instance I'm not talking about a Facebook Group or a list of engaged users on Twitter. In this day and age, it's simply not enough for you to post the odd Tweet here and there or a couple of updates on your Facebook Page.
To really be successful, you need to have a more comprehensive approach to social business. This will involve using your company website as a central hub for communication, having dedicated forums where you can communicate directly with your customers and a functional internal communication system to ensure your staff are all on the same page.
Essentially you're taking your Social Media efforts to the next level. You're upping your game to something with far more potential.
Online Communities and SEO
There are many benefits to building online communities. One of those being the SEO benefits it can have for your organisation's website.
Google algorithm updates such as panda and penguin removed many of the old ways of 'doing SEO.' They represent the lengths to which Google will go to try to weed out poor or low-quality content.
Everyone who wants their websites to rank well within search engines and are looking for an approach that will overcome the inevitable issues which arise every time they change something. They want a way of doing SEO that goes beyond just chasing algorithms - something which building online communities does.
Building an online community can be a better approach than its digital marketing alternatives, because it's authentic, genuine and provides valuable information.
Online Communities and Relationship Building
Community building brings you what no other SEO or web marketing effort will - relationships with real people. Word-of-mouth is and continues to be the most trusted form of advertising available to businesses and in order to thrive today businesses must earn attention and build an audience, a.k.a. a community.
By doing so you are opening up to industry influencers, colleagues, people who will read and share your content (which also raises the profile of your brand), current and potential customers and more. By attracting those customers at a lower cost you are beating your competition, finding new niches and verticals for your business, and, above all, building a much better business.
Not only this but by building an online community, you actively create a network of online supporters and friends via the targeted distribution of valuable content - it's the most sustainable approach to marketing on the web.
Overall it's time to stop thinking about online communities as just another social network to update. Forget about Social Media for a second and think about some of the best conversations you've had in the past, conversations that go over the 140 character limit.
Those are the conversations you need to be having both within your organisation and with the customers you serve. Conversations that build awareness, influence and value. Your website should be at the heart of those conversations, creating connections that will nurture trust with your customers that will last for years to come.