Establishing your own online community is a great way to start conversations with like-minded people or people who wish to come together to share information, comment on discussions, give advice or collaborate on projects. Having common ground is a great way to promote yourself or your services, to others who want to hear what you have to say.
Communities can take all forms – from LinkedIn groups to Facebook groups, there’s an online community covering just about everything. So, if there are already so many communities, why start one of your own? There are a number of reasons, an obvious one being that as manager of the group, you get to set the tone and pick the conversation. It helps you to build stronger connections with your customers or followers and can be a good way to give back – questions can be directed to a group instead of an individual, sharing information. And most importantly, communities can be a great way to generate leads.
Setting up a community doesn’t take long, but running it successfully is quite a commitment. To be successful, you need to contribute regularly (daily, if possible); set up guidelines and stick to them; reply to questions promptly; and listen – encourage conversations, take criticism, show you care.
The guidelines for your group should be clearly stated and easy to identify. These are essentially rules and should cover how to use the group; who can post what, when; when people are allowed to self-promote; and what kinds of comments or posts will get them kicked out of the group.
It’s a good idea to post a mix of information, like quotes, memes, tips and advice, other people’s blogs, success stories, video clips or personal experiences. Using an online community to blatantly self-promote is not a good idea, you’ll quickly lose your followers. It’s more positive to turn leads into conversions gradually and subtly.
To make your community stand out from the rest, you need to give it a personality. Once you’ve decided on your tone, stick with it – you may alienate some followers, but a core group will most likely become very loyal. It’s not a good idea to use your platform to whine or pontificate; being prepared to learn as much as you can from your community is the point here.
Don’t delete negative comments outright – rather use the opportunity to get feedback on your business or product and tackle it head-on. Online communities can be extremely valuable, often connecting business partners for life. You’ll learn more about your customers than you thought possible, as well as getting great ideas.