When I think of “online communities,” I always go back to Seth Godin’s post about the third guy. It’s a great watch because I am reminded, I’m rarely the first guy–even when I think I’m the first, it turns out that there’s somebody else out there doing the same thing.
Marketers and businesses can always set out to engage their customers by turning an intern loose on a Facebook page, but that isn’t what really makes a community. In fact, the brand, if lucky, may be allowed to show just for a minute. The conversation is probably already happening. The community has probably already formed in an open community. If, on the other hand, the company is going to build or engage a managed community, consider the following points:
01. What is the common interest?
From best vegan recipes to Honda Civic enthusiasts, communities build around a common interest. Not everyone in the community shares all interests, but something attracts them to participate a common cause. As Utpal M. Dholaki And Silvia Vianell0 say, “do unto yourself as others already do unto you.”
Target – Personalized approach to the Target customer experience.
Riot Games – incorporating player feedback into the gaming experience.
02. Know your Ambassador(s) & Influencers
The community influencers, in many ways, shape the entire community. While they make up the smallest percentage of the community, they contribute the most and likely have both online and offline sway with other community members. It is critical to understand what makes them tick. Morgan Evans, the community strategist at Etsy, had this to say about Influencers:
“Identify leaders within your community and support these people as much as possible. They are some of your most valuable assets. Reach out to them, chat on the phone, buy them coffee, take a walk together. Use these opportunities to listen to how they feel about your brand/business and find out what resources you could provide.”
03. Listen, but don’t always lurk
You must know what your customers are saying. Here are a few tools that help with this:
04. Bring Value
If you are the brand or company. Bring value to your community. Give away products, information or laughter. It’s really important to equip the customers with the tools that they need to choose you without “selling.”
- Dr. Reath has a great strategy for giving back to his plastic surgery community.
- Equip & inform, don’t sell.
- Don’t always talk about yourself
- Can you really outsource this to anyone?
Make your community real. In Real Life (IRL) connections are really
- Flash mobs (improv everywhere)
06. Stay Authentic
People connect with people and people can smell a “poser” a mile away, so planning your strategy despite the size of the network is critical. Dunbarr’s number suggests that there is a theoretical limit to the number of social connections that one can manage. So, regardless of whether you have 150 or 150,000 connections, the strategy must plan for authenticity.