At 9010UK we have recently come across a client with a huge number –millions- of fans on it’s Facebook page. This can be a real gold mine if you know what to do with these ‘fans,’ how to engage the evolving community, and how to call it to action. It wasn’t particularly hard for this company to reach that result as they are a well-recognised brand which invests a lot of money in advertising but, what if you have to start from scratch, and you don’t have unlimited economic resources for your advert? Should you renounce to the great opportunities that an engaged community can assure to your brand? Having a group of people that are interested in our content and who identify themselves with our products and values is the best way to spread brand interest all around the web by word of mouth.
There are lots of things that we can do to create an online community around our brand but I think that the real core strategy should be our blog and trying to keep it constantly updated with interesting and original content. A blog is the place where the brand can really express its own style of communication (design, register, format etc.) therefore engaging more directly with its community. It is also the place where you can finally convert visitors into clients through the right “call to action”, remember that communities are about people, so make sure you write about community members as much as you write about your organization.
If, however the blog is the heart of our strategy, social networks should be the veins. If we want to maximise the result of our effort we should consider that Facebook and Twitter play a pivotal role in catching the attention of new visitors and drive them to the blog where they can eventually be converted into client.
These are a few different ways to build an online community. One basic point would be to have a Community Manager, someone who wakes up worrying about your community every morning and can create new content that can be relevant to your community – they are in charge of your community. Secondly, before defining our strategy we should listen to what the ‘chatter’ is about using monitoring tools such as Radian6 or Social Mention. We should focus the main topics on the brand and the sector and try to identify who the influencers are. This will help in the next step of our strategy.
In my experience I have learnt that a successful community is not the one that speaks about selling products but one which gets people together around a shared passion, like music, entertainment, travels, sports or environment. If we can centre the conversation on events and competitions or if we can give our community the sensation that they stand for something, this will really help to maintain a strong sense of belonging. Your community must have a purpose that matters to the people you’re trying to reach. You shouldn’t be creating the purpose, actually you should find a purpose a lot of people care about and build a community around it.
Having defined the previous point, this is what I would do to build a solid basis of followers:
– Obtain a good URL, give your community an easy name to find and to remember, and to give it maximum visibility (even using online paid ads or ads in traditional media)
– Use our previous email database to invite our customers by email
– Clearly define and communicate the benefits of being part of the community (this will be the reason for sharing and inviting friends too)
– Maintain the engaged community and offer a unique community experience through polls, games and competitions, whilst showing our fans public acknowledgment, encouraging users to produce original content, and giving it maximum visibility.
– I am a believer in light moderation: public disagreements in a community are fine, as they stimulate dialogue and promote interaction, but it is still essential to state a few clear and simple rules to promote a sense of confidence and respect. Somebody would even think that You need to hand over control and power to members to help run parts of your website. This increases their involvement and ownership. In turn they will continue recruiting their friends and increasing their level of activity.
– Last but not least, my three social media golden rules are: be transparent, be real, be close.
(author: Giulio Vaiuso)