Social Media Community Building

What is social media community building? It’s where people come together because of a ‘bigger’ idea. They have a common association or feeling that’s related to a person, product, organization, or event.

For me, creating a community online for a business is really the same as throwing a party offline.  You invite people to an experience and hope to keep them entertained with clear expectations and outcomes.  That way they can choose to spend time where they feel they can make a difference.  The problems arise when companies let their true goal (making money) become the main focus in social media.

The line between marketing and selling in social media is where many people and organizations get stuck.  Many people are ok to be marketed to in social media.  It’s when they are blatently sold to, they leave.  So, where’s the line?  People aren’t going to interact with you via social media so you can throw sales messages at them.   And, they aren’t going to come together and form communities so you can promote your product and grow your business.  Once you recognize that, then you can start using social media in the same way that your customers are, and for the same reasons.

There are three steps to building a community: exposure, awareness, motivation.

1. Exposure-Size matters.

Having influential people in your audience is important.  Audience size and influence does matter. You need to have both engaged followers, and a large number of followers.  Otherwise, your message will just not be heard.

2. Awareness-big and loud still works.  Personalize.

There’s almost an unlimited amount of options and noise in social media.  So, to get through, big ads, viral campaigns, videos, and exposure still work to get attention – to a point. Eventually, being the center of attention at the party gets old.   That’s where personalization becomes critical.  Once you get someone’s attention, you need to talk to them. Ever heard your name over the top of the noise in a crowded party? That’s selective attention; utilize it in your marketing.

3. Motivation-why do people share?  To make them look good of course!  So, help make your audience look cool.

Nobody likes to talk to the guy at the party who only talks about himself. Don’t be that guy on social media.  Your goal should be to motivate people to share stories and experiences.  Preferably positive one’s about your brand.  Some ways to do that: be relevant-focus on topics that your community will find interesting; use tools to increase the reach of your community such as sharing links, calls to action, and networking tools; provide something of value such as how-to/instructional information, warnings and alerts, even humor.  Be original but familiar.

One online community that has been very successful is Nike’s Nike+ running community. It meets every need of the consumer: ease of logging workouts, running accountability and connecting with others who have running in common.   It also has a coolness factor that lends to the passion the runners have for the sport.

Whether you have a social media community already or are just starting out building one.  The main thing to keep in mind is to be a good host.  Make sure to devote enough time and energy into encouraging involvement, responding to member’s comments and questions and making sure enough solid content continues to be published to give members a reason to come back.