Creating Community: If You Build It They Will Come
The web design community does a lot of things well, and they are praised for those instances. Just as when they do things badly, there is an amount of chiding that comes along with it. Today we are going to look at one of the things the online web design community does the best, and how it can actually help others’ business models to follow in their footsteps. The thing we are talking about, is building community.
This is not something that a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the online web design industry know that they have done so well, and how much that community has helped to drive the industry and its people towards success. Which means that many are missing out on this recipe for success, when they could easily take steps to do the same for their online brand presence.[adsense]
Benefits of Community
Most people are familiar with the broader benefits of community when you look at the advancement of society as a whole, and how pivotal a role that community can play. We have heard accepted truisms for years and years that talk about the how much impact a good community can have on our shaping. For instance, the old pearl about it taking a village to raise a child. However, many fail to see the similarities between those benefits and the positive growth the web design community has seen over the years.
So they do not take away the powerful notion that they can improve their own position and standing with their online audience, by building this community. And if we look at our brand as a child that we are responsible for rearing, then we can see that building up that village (community) we are counting on for assistance is how we are going to successfully raise our numbers to where we want them. Because that translates into brand benefits. Such as…
Builds an Accessible Audience
Now we know that there are millions of potential users online that we can tap and entice towards our brand, and that with any particular field or industry there is a section of these users that are already interested in what we are offering or doing. We just have to connect with them and let them know that we are there. So while there may already be something of a built-in audience that we are playing to, we have to know how to reach them and access them. So that they may be able to access you. Because this reach needs to work both ways.
Adding community engagement elements to your online presence is key in completing this reach. The masses have so many different places to turn for services and products of any and all kinds, that your brand needs something of an edge. If there is a community of interaction and interested users surrounding your brand, then naturally, your audience access to your brand is going to increase. And that can quickly turn into a strengthening of brand loyalty.
When you start building a community around your brand it does more than just increase access, and in turn, loyalty. It also acts to connect the professionals in this area into a web of cohesive and cooperative communication that can have numerous benefits on the industry and your brand. This can also facilitate easy team building when the time, or should the time come. So this is another reason to take your brand in this direction.
By becoming something of the focal point of this web of experts, you automatically increase your brand reputation for excellence and as a go to source for the inquiring. Community can bring out the best that is offered and raise the bar for the industry if it is fostered and nurtured correctly, and if those expert connections are generated. But it can also go the other way. So having those experts engaged and connected is an important step.
Strengthens the Core
Another benefit of community is how it actually strengthens the core of the industry as we have so much information and expertise being shared openly. This allows for more innovation and growth. Community can do the same to strengthen the core of your brand. That is if you take the time and put in the effort to build a community of users around your brand. Think of them as a layer of muscle being added around the core (your brand).
The more solid a base your brand has built around it, the better it can grow and attempt innovation. And this may be the very most important part of having this foundation in place when you try to be innovative and branch out, it allows for failure without the utter destruction of the brand itself. For if you do not have a solid enough user base who loyally support you, then you do not necessarily have an online audience that will forgive your failures and continue to keep up their support of your brand.
How to Build Community Around You
Now that we have covered why this is such a necessary consideration and approach for your brand, we come to the ways that you can build this community around you. It essentially boils down to doing two things with priority and dedicated focus. You have to both reach out and engage. Neither alone will bring in the results as they will when they work together. Or rather when you work on both at the same time.
Here are some of the basic ways that you can reach out to your audience and engage them.
The first is a pretty basic step that most brands understand is a necessity, and that is using social media. You have to get social and have a presence on a few of the major networks, or at least hire someone who is skilled at doing so to do it for you. But this can no longer be written off as a minor avenue of user engagement, as some businesses seem to do with it by having a lackluster or not fully fleshed out social media strategy in place. This free marketing resource is invaluable in actively listening to and interacting with your customer base.
But it also is a very easy way to build up a bit of community around your brand. Once you begin collecting followers and reaching out to your users this way, you have established an access point to your brand. That will cause users to ‘flock’ to this avenue, if you will, and it will become very fertile ground for you to begin planting your community seeds. So setup lists, groups, circles, and interact with the people in them. Engage.
Now as you begin this social journey, you have to actually socialize in order to foster this community. You might even have to get a little personal. Share some details about your day. Give them a little insight into how you operate on a day to day basis. Whatever the information you share, make it more than just about the business and brand itself. You need to foster relationships with your users in order for this to work. And you can’t do that if they don’t know who you are.
This will also keep your social media engagements from becoming dull and indicating that you are not interesting in engaging, but more in just shouting down your followers to let them know what is happening with your business. So be sure to share. Make it known who is behind the brand and give your users a person(s) to connect and possibly identify with. Again, this will often translate into user trust.
Another avenue to take when you want to build community around your brand is to add a blog to your site. This offers yet another way to reach out and connect with your audience. To discuss and exchange ideas directly with those whom you are counting on for helping you to make those ideas and your brand a success. It may seem like more of a waste of time than a business aid, but blogging gives your audience another, regular way to tap into what is happening in front of and behind the scenes.
And if you are hoping to strengthen your brand as we discussed earlier in the post, then giving them as much regular information about what is happening with the brand is how you keep them interested. This will also keep them returning to your content (i.e. brand) with regularity to see what is happening, and what developments are on the horizon. Building this sort of expectation and excitement over what is coming from your brand is key for growth. The more users are talking about you and what you’re doing, the more chances you have of it reaching others.
You need to interact with your audience. So engage them in every way you have at your disposal as we have discussed. But it cannot all be one sided. Remember you have to ask questions and listen for the relationships to build and strengthen. If you are using social media and sharing about your day, then ask them about theirs. If you are blogging to reach your audience. Engage them with questions in your blog posts to encourage discussions and further sharing.
Let your users know at every turn, that you are listening and interested in hearing their thoughts and suggestions for improving your brand. It will in turn improve your relationship with your users. When they feel like they are being heard and have input in what is going on with your brand, it does a lot to get them invested in the future of your brand. A future they know they have influenced in some way. That also makes them more excited to share it with others. This is one of the elements that makes crowdsource funding so appealing.
Provide Engagement Incentives
Now there will be some who are resistant to taking this approach, but if you are looking to build an active community around your brand, you are going to have to make it worth everyone’s while. So you need to give your audience a reason to engage. Especially in the beginning, you want them to know that you are appreciative and rewarding of feedback and engagement by offering your audience some sort of incentives to do so. Reach out to your audience and give them exclusive access to you, your products, your services, whatever!
But these incentives will prove a powerful motivator when so many are vying for your users’ attentions, and may be just the factor that initially brings them over to your brand. And it is not always about the freebies you give away that offer this incentive. It can be as simple as setting yourself up as a hub of expertise and knowledge where users can turn when they need to know specific information. So your content can be the incentive if it is done correctly.
But whatever route you opt for this, be sure that with the oversaturated markets out there, these engagement incentives to encourage your users to interact will help begin fostering that community around your brand.
In the End
In the end, given the variety of brands and demographics that comprise the online landscape, no one approach is every going to be a sure recipe for success across the board. But each step we can take in the direction of engaging our users and building a community for them to be a part of, is a positive step for our brand. What are some of the ways you have seen this effectively done online? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Images provided by Shutterstock
In Post Image: Social network structure in digital futuristic blue background via Shutterstock