Communities — Growing more than just your following

Social Media’s potential is no news to you. You are already actively benefitting from it and have long ago conceded to its influence in the success of your brand. You know people are spending more time on it; consequently, you might even have spent the last few years improving your content’s visibility.

Maybe you’ve done a great job, established a significant presence and is now consistently converting visitors. However, what are you going to do next?

Real conversations are time-consuming

Most take on engagement next. Setup schedules, work the timing, adjust frequencies and engage their users through questions. “What is your …?”, “Do you think …?” or “How do you …?”, maybe throw in a contest or two. All in the name of “improving engagement.” In the end, it’s all tricks of the trade to maintain a slightly deceitful impression of shared interest and involvement, which in itself is fine.

I mean, we all strive for genuine conversations, whether through social media or the stories we sell with our products. But let’s be honest having actual conversations is too time-consuming. A few hundred, maybe, but a few thousand? No way!

We need something that scales, something that can keep conversations, and something that at its very core includes users and engagement. And until chat-bots becomes considerably better that something will have to be communities. With it, we can move the goal from you engaging all your brand’s followers, to having them engage with each other. The very essence of a community in it’s most scalable nature.

Presence through branding, not content

A first step in making one is to take some of the content you make for your followers and making it about them. Take the article with ten ways to use your toothbrushes and turn it into ten ways one of your followers use your toothbrush. And then ask the rest of your community what they think. Guess what? You just started a conversation, in fact, you started hundreds, and that builds relations.

With relations forming, around your brand, your role turns from being a provider of content to enabling conversations. You are actively using the presence of your brand to engage. Take the conversations, highlight them, write about them. Show that your brand is a community, let people know that they are part of it, and they will automatically act accordingly.

When I talk to organizations about this, they often counter with something like, “I can’t build a community around my product, I sell toothbrushes.” And they are right. Communities exist through relations, and we can’t create those just because people use the same toothbrush.

But like our products, it isn’t always directly about them; sometimes the most important thing is the stories we sell alongside. Red Bull is a prime example. They don’t sell you an energy drink; they sell you a lifestyle, community, something much bigger than their product.

So what do you do? Start by…

  1. Writing content about your community, not for them.
  2. Stop directly engaging your followers and help them engage each other.
  3. Let them know they are part of a community, this way they automatically act like it.

Is it that simple? Not really. Building a community doesn’t happen over night, which is why it’s so important you start now.

So start building a community and stop growing just your following.

With that, I end my first post and hope for more to come. This post will definitively not be my last about community building; I left a few loose ends, all which I fully intend to go through in coming posts.