10 Dos & Don’ts For Building An Online Community

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When you’re building a company from the ground up, one of the most difficult things to accomplish is an online presence. Attracting the right people is essential and, in order to for a business to grow, generating a good relationship with online communities is also a must. It can often be very tricky and frustrating! Here are a few dos & don’ts for those who are getting started:

1. DO: Your Research

Group of Business People Working on an Office Desk

The easiest way to, comfortably, fit into an online community is to LISTEN first. Don’t just jump in there and push content out that may be completely irrelevant to them. Spend some time defining your audience: know their wants, needs, dislikes and curiosities. That way, when you do begin to communicate with them, you’re producing quality work that will be appreciated.

TIP: Listening tools such as HubSpot & Hootsuite are great. They enable you to gain an insight into communities by searching for key terms. Remember to listen before you engage!

2. DON’T: Jump on EVERY Social Media Channel

This also ties in with research! When defining your target audience you should also have a better idea of where to find them. It’s just not necessary to be on every social media channel – go where the fish are. But also remember that pushing content on Twitter in 140 characters will be significantly different to publishing on Google+. You have to engage with each online community differently. Make sure that you cater to their needs.

TIP: Pay close attention to the way that your users engage with content. Remember that audience behavior will vary across all social media channels.

3. DO: Encourage Your Audience To Provide You With Feedback (Positive & Negative)

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When used well, feedback can be your greatest asset. Unsure if you’re providing your audience with what they need? Worried that your delivery isn’t doing your content justice? ASK. The people that you’re connecting with will provide you will all of the help that you need. Then you can make well-informed decisions that will make a difference to your community!

TIP: Pay close attention to comments. Don’t ignore or delete negative feedback. Use it to your advantage and do better. This, in combination with data, will enable you to see how your brand is perceived. Then you can make valuable & relevant changes.

4. DON’T: Be A Robot

Even when we’re communicating with others online, it’s still nice to feel like we’re talking to an individual with their own personality. If you’re using a company/brand account, make sure that your delivery is human. Be personal yet professional!

TIP: Create a list of brands that have a very successful online presence. Take some time to see how they communicate with their audience. There’s nothing wrong with getting some inspiration from others!

5. DO: Have Fun! If You Are, They Will Too!

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It doesn’t have to be all work and no play! Creating a YouTube or Vine video? Make sure that your followers get an insight into the brands personality. It’s not just about being informative – give them something to laugh and smile about.

TIP: Use the quiet days of the week (Friday-Sunday) to engage with your community on a more personal level. Not everyone wants to talk about work on a Friday night! Make sure you’re appealing to their other passions too.

6. DON’T: Brag About Your Brand

Generating business does not come from bragging. Take Nike for example, are they constantly stating how successful their brand is? Nope. They act as a positive force and drive their community to be better athletes. There’s nothing wrong with being good at what you do – but it will annoy your community if that’s all you talk about.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to mention successes – just think about how it is done and how often!

7. DO: Encourage People To Be Themselves!

We all have a tendency to worry about what others may think of us. If you’re trying to build an online community you have to be a good mediator – being unbiased is key. Never discourage people from sharing their thoughts by being critical. It’s OK to disagree, but you should never be forceful with your opinions.

TIP: Encourage fairness and respect within the community. This will help to maintain a balance and prevent individuals from crossing the boundaries and behaving inappropriately.

8. DON’T: Expect Everything To Happen Over Night

All great things take time. This will also involve some mistakes and trial/error. Successfully building a community may take some time & turning individuals into genuine fans will require hard work and patience. You can’t expect too much too soon.

TIP: Patience is everything! You have to be prepared to get to know people and engage with them. Also remember that size isn’t everything – you can have a small but loyal community!

9. DO: Monitor Engagement Rates

audience engagement

Make sure that you know what content your community is engaging with – not just liking & sharing but clicks too. You might think that your content is great (and it may be!) but are you focusing on information that they already have? Make sure your that your content is helpful, relevant and up-to-date.

TIP: This is where data will become your best friend! A great tool for this is Buffer – it provides you with information for each individual post and tells you which have received the most engagement.

10. DON’T: Push Out Too Much Content

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Sometimes less is more. You don’t need to post every day or every hour of the day. People want to be helped – but they also don’t want to be bombarded. I found this article incredibly useful on this topic: Are You Publishing Too Much?

TIP: Use social schedulers like Hootsuite, HubSpot or Buffer so that you can see exactly how much is being distributed across all of your social channels. Also take advantage of tools like SocialBro, although specifically for Twitter, this can indicate when your audience is online & create a schedule for you.

I really do hope that this has been helpful – please feel free to make more suggestions in the comments below!

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