Social media isn’t just for lolCats anymore. Businesses are using it too, but in a radically different way. If you’re only using PPC marketing, press releases, and traditional direct mail, you’re skipping out on engagement and missing an easy win for connecting with your ideal target market. Here’s how to rectify that situation.
Know When To Create Your Own Community
Sometimes you don’t need a community. Sometimes, you do. It doesn’t always make sense to have a community when you’re first starting out in business, for example. Communities develop over time. If you plan on being an active member of your industry, contributing ideas and whatnot, you probably don’t need to form a new community. You probably just need to join an existing one.
If you want to discuss something that has a narrow focus, however, you might need to create your own community. For example, if your ideas are oriented around your particular business solutions or products, you might consider creating your own community.
Think About Your Single Purpose
Your community needs a focus – a purpose. If you don’t have a purpose, you’re likely to experience the chaos phenomenon. Starting out, you’ll get some focused discussion of something related to your business.
Then, it happens. Someone goes off-topic a bit and the tangents start to spread. Before you know it, irrelevant discussions are taking over your community and destroying it.
For example, if you want to set up a value-add service for your VIP clients, make that a private community by invitation only. It will keep out your “B” clients and prospects who aren’t actually customers. You should also figure out if your membership will be comprised of customers, employees, both, or something else entirely.
Establish A Contact Management System
A contact management system lets you further personalize and keep track of everyone in the community you’re building. A web based contact management software program can very easily tie into the community itself – especially if it’s a web-based membership area. When users sign up, or are invited, to the member’s only area, they are automatically enrolled in a contact management followup system.
This secondary system sends out periodic emails that remind people to come back to the community if they’ve been away for some time. It also advertises new content on the site, premium services, or benefits for members. It can also be used for VIP or exclusive invites to live events.
Think About Membership
Who do you want to be in this community? If this will be a community of customers, will you make them pay for the privilege or will this be a free perk?
If you want to create a recourse for your vendors or employees, it will be a very different site than one hosting clients.
Hire A Community Manager
You can’t really do anything without a community manager. While you should always strive to build a self-governing community, problems almost always arise. Things like off-topic discussions aren’t uncommon, and occasionally you will run into problems with spam. Your content manager can help you work through these issues.
Establish An Internal Process
You want a vibrant community that’s engaging and engaged. So, rather than walling it off from the outside world, or from you, make sure you have internal processes that pick up on the feedback and discussions coming from within the community.
Measure Your Success
Measuring the success of your community can be difficult, unless it’s customer-facing. You may not actually have any sales figures to show an accounting department. The success of a community might be how well people get along, how many ideas are shared, how many new relevant threads are started during the week or month, or how engaged all users are.
Periodic polls can help get a subjective measure of the success of your community but, ideally, you’ll have a system in place to track hard metrics like visitor flow and discussions, as well as topic generation and problem resolution.
Robert Walker started in marketing before businesses even thought of having websites or social media. Now with years of experience, he has a keen understanding of using traditional marketing strategies in a modern, digital context.
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