Online Community: How to Build One for Your Business?

Want to build a better online community? Then you need to focus on building a better company — from the ground up! There are no easy shortcuts to the process. You can’t hire an SEO guru and throw a bunch of content up on your website and expect to grow a genuine following. You can’t go online without a solid offline marketing strategy. Let’s get back to the basics of building your business and developing the kind of community you need to succeed.

1. Set Some Goals

The first step in building an online community is to set some goals. Don’t focus on the online part just yet. Think about your marketing plan in terms of a coffee shop pitch. If you were face-to-face with someone in a coffee shop who asked what you were working on, how would you describe your company and its goals? Do you want to increase customers by 200 percent in the next 6 months? Do you want to focus on improving your relationship with the customers you already have?

2. Build Your Community Offline

In order to build an awesome online following, you actually need to start with a good offline community building strategy. Just because you have a fancy new webpage with buttons for people to Tweet, Like and Post, doesn’t mean you should stop attending community networking and charity events in person. Regularly recognize community members at public events. Give them awards of appreciation. Shower them publicly with praise. Build your community externally and internally into a cohesive team. That means treat your customers like you treat your employees and grow the community as a whole.

3. Build an Attractive Meeting Place

Whether it’s a website, blog or physical business location, make the place you spend time an attractive place to hang out. Customers, employees and business partners will want to invest time in each other. This community building effort translates to more networking, more time spent browsing your webpage online, and more exposure to your brand.

4. Integrate Your Social Media Efforts and Outreach

An important part of building an online community is to integrate all your social media efforts. People come in through many different channels, and some respond better to Facebook or Twitter than email. Still others prefer to use the telephone after searching testimonials online. Make it easy for your potential customers to discover and share your message across their favorite media.

5. Improve Online Ranking Organically

Stop chasing Google’s frequent algorithm changes by building an online community around your company. It’s more than brand name recognition — it’s genuine engagement. And it leaves Panda and Penguin updates in the dust every time.

6. Share the Value of Your Business Ideas with Others

Don’t think “sell”, think “share”. Start each day with a purpose to share the information and lessons you’ve learned in life and in business dealings. You’ll quickly find yourself surrounded by a strong community of like-minded people. And because you have built the group based on helping everyone succeed, they will genuinely engage with your business.

7. Build Your Co-Marketing Team

Invest at least 10 percent of your time in other companies. Partner with other small businesses to develop co-marketing strategies. Develop a formal or informal referral system among your co-marketing team, to keep customers within your partner companies.

What strategies have you used to build and grow your online community? What might you try differently now?

Comments(8)

  1. Trackback: Listly List - 7 Tips to Build Online Community

  2. Trackback: Online Community: How to Build One for Your Business? - Social Media - News and Tools :Social Media – News and Tools

  3. Marty Diamond

    Reply

    Point #2 is such a critical step and when you’re strictly an online business it’s easy to forget how important local can be for your business. If you’re not a fan of the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary – you can check out your local meet-up groups. These people can form the base of your online groups as well – commenting on each other’s blogs and sharing posts on twitter and Google+ .
    Marty Diamond recently posted..How Understanding Customer Awareness Can Increase ConversionsMy Profile

    • Marty,
      Thanks for your comment and I couldn’t agree with you more. Stay in the public eye (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, etc) is very important when it comes to word of mouth business. Great point and thanks for your contribution.

      Cheers
      Shane

  4. Jon Mertz

    Reply

    I agree with Shane; Number 2 is vital. There is a tandem relationship between on-line and in-person communities, and both need to be engaged in the right way. By focusing on both, real community unfolds.

    Great points and things to do in your post, Shane. Thanks!

    Jon
    Jon Mertz recently posted..How to Handle Negative Feedback at WorkMy Profile

  5. mike sagar

    Reply

    Well said Mike. I absolutely agree with you that it’s a ground up change. Social Business is a whole new paradigm for doing business, and companies need to reflect that in their entire culture. It’s NOT a new channel, or PR or Marketing – Social Media is an ‘attitude’ change which IF adopted by the whole organisation can bring about massive benefits. So much so that Social Business will become the de-facto standard for success.

  6. Dr. Erika

    Reply

    Thanks for the tips.

    I’m a naturopathic physician just learning about the whole world of internet marketing and networking. I’m realizing that my biggest competition is from “Mommy bloggers” with no medical training (yet dispensing medical advice). I know this is a bit off-topic, but how does one compete with this type of “force” in internet media? I’m doing extensive off-line networking, but locally (of course), which just can’t compete with the millions of hits that many “mommy blogs” get.
    Dr. Erika recently posted..Quit it! (Smoking, Carbs and Mom-Guilt)My Profile

    • Dr. Erika,
      I have to say competing against the mommy blogger will be an uphill battle. They are strong, educated bunch that have tons of followers! Now with that being said, what is the goal of your site? Information? Sell Products?

      I also think you have a huge advantage by being a naturopathic physician, you are a trained professional and there is something to be said for that (i.e. being an expert). I would say instead of competing with the mommy bloggers why not partner with them! You can do this through guest blog posts, sharing each others information through social channels, etc.

      Cheers,
      Shane

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