5 Easy Tips to Building an Online Community around your Brand

Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Branding, Internet Marketing, Social Networking [ 0 Comments ]

business brandingIn the past, marketers would rely on traditional media in order to send the message out to their audience. However, with the advent of the Internet, social media, and changing standards of connectivity, much of the audience has shifted online. Many companies have addressed this shift through a variety of ways, whether through developing social media strategies or giving employees the new title of “Community Manager”.  But small businesses, lacking the resources and manpower of larger companies, may find this change quite daunting.

How to Build an Online Community

For small businesses, creating an online community can appear as a time-consuming, costly challenge. However, there are a variety of different ways through which small businesses can quickly build up an online presence. The following tips can help busy businesses build an online community:

1. Make Yourself the Expert

One of the best ways to attract readers and visitors to your site is to establish yourself as an authority. There are a number of methods through which you can show your expertise, whether by maintaining a niche blog in a specific topic such as insurance or real estate. Answering questions through Quora or LinkedIn is also a great way to directly reach out to an audience. With enough time, the individual can develop a reputation of trust and knowledge, enough to a point whether readers will begin to flock to the expert.

2. Social Networking

A common technique to build communities is to utilize social networking tools. More and more individuals are using the Internet for everyday activities, such as finding the nearest restaurant or asking peers for answer to a quandary. As a result, an endless amount of social networks have arisen from these demands. While Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn are examples of major names in social media, there are a wide variety of smaller, dedicated networks waiting to be found.  Social networking is a great way to identify your audience and connect with individuals, inviting them into your brand.

3. Provide Readers with Value

In order for a community to develop around your brand, you must first give them reason to do so. True, you may have a loyal customer base coming to your business, but providing a common online ground will give them the means to collect under the brand’s banner.  One great way to bring community members to your site is to provide them incentive and value. These benefits can come from a variety of sources, whether through compelling content or exclusive events. The incentives do not necessarily have to be tangible: the chance to join an active, engaging community can be an advantage in itself.

4. Empower Individuals

Given time, your business will most likely have individuals who are quite passionate about your brand. These individuals are the leaders in spreading your brand through word-of-mouth and active endorsement. Businesses should identify active participants and reward and encourage their participation. By showing appreciation, the business will establish a stronger influence on these individuals, enhancing their loyalty and trust.

5. Allow for Feedback

One critical mistake for community management is to take a controlling, restrictive approach. Many adopt this method for fear that a single angry customer will turn the audience into a collective mob against the brand. However, a controlling moderator can lead to unintended consequences and possible backlash. Instead, allow community members to share their thoughts and express their opinions, whether through comments or forums. This will allow the community to organically develop and give it a more authentic, natural feel.

Photo Credit: kennysilva.net

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