Right next the "growth hacking", the phrase "community building" became the buzzword in marketing leading into 2016. Unfortunately, most people trying to "build" a community online for their business or themselves have forgotten what a true community is and what it means to be a part of a one. At the end of the day a community is made of individuals who are bonded together through beliefs, location, or characteristics, and makes you feel accepted and heard.
Offline, we don't force people to be a part of our community, it just happens naturally. So why is it that online we focus so much on growing the number Facebook or Twitter followers we have, commoditize likes and shares, and hope that our "community" listens to what we have to say, when we aren't really listening to what they care about or have to say?
I say no more! If you want to foster (notice I didn't say "build") an online community it's time to rid yourself of old bad habits and craft a new strategy to get your voice heard.
Here are 8 entrepreneurs tips who've succeeded in building true communities in the digital world.
Tip 1. Get on the ground, go in the field, and talk to people face to face.
"Forging online relationships can definitely bring value, as they create pathways for user feedback and give you an idea of what people want and need. It's great data. But data are far more accessible and powerful for everyone when human faces are at the front of that data. Humanize everything. Community is intrinsic to our business because we're in the business of bringing communities together to achieve the same goals." -Melissa Jun Rowley, CEO of TheToolbox.org
Tip 2. Intentionally lead your interactions with empathy.
"The most important piece when building your brand digitally is having empathy. Creating a human voice, hiving followers behind the scenes access, taking people on an emotional journey. Empathy is key to building brand evangelists as opposed to consumers." -Charles Ressler, Creative Juggernaut and Founder of #dreamMaker
Tip 3. Change your thinking.
"Entrepreneurs are always talking about "building communities." Building a community from scratch is next to impossible. Instead, think about how you can serve the community you already belong to. It could be your neighborhood, your professional community, or an interest group. Communities of passion emerge organically. Chances are, you are already a part of more than one! If you think about how you can best serve your community and help make its members more awesome, their support will come your way." -Micki Krimmel, Founder & Roller Derby Athlete
Tip 4. Get to know the human behind the device.
"Engage with people in your community offline, one on one, to understand who the person is and why your community resonates with them. Get their feedback, understand what ignites passion in them, and understand what's currently hindering them. There's still no complete substitute for in-person engagement, a lot comes out of the serendipity of spending time with someone." -Andrew Fayad, Co-founder and CEO at eLearning Mind
Tip 5. Find out what they are using to engage with you.
"As a keynote speaker on Millennials I like to find out very quickly who in my audience is "online" with a smartphone or iPad. I give those who are having a bigger reach in real time, bigger than my little keynote...I give them homework. "Look this up for me." 10 minutes later "what did you find?" I use this as a way to test my theories. I want audiences to push back. And out of it, I get a loyal following as well as a fan who gets me hired at the next company they go to." -Brad Szollose, Global Business Advisor and Keynote Speaker
Tip 6. Two words: Add Value
"Focus on adding value to your audience before you ask anything from them. Truly engage with them, care about what they care about, and be the solution to meet that need." -William Coles, Creative Director and Photographer
Tip 7. Be present.
"It is an understatement to say how important active listening, especially on a digital platform. Stay where your community is right now, listen to the problems they are facing, and speak about relevant topics that your community cares about. And remember, be authentic. Truly listen to and care about the community you are serving." -Amy Masters, Founder of Dante Consulting Group and Senior Level Marketer for Startups
Tip 8. Be consistent.
"Post consistently on social media. If you can't keep up with the amount of posts then decrease them. Quality and consistency trumps quantity. Remember to post morning, lunch time, and late afternoons and evenings because different parts of the world come online at different times of the day. Business is no longer local it's global, and so are the people who need to hear your message." -Sangeeta Haindl, Founder of Serendipity PR and Media Consultancy