Your Online Community: It's the PEOPLE, Stupid
As an event industry blogger, business owner, social media marketer and online community manager, it's been illuminating to see so many blog posts written about the importance of building a community as a social media marketing strategy.
Yet, in comparison, so very little is written about managing an online community and the importance of choosing the right person for that job.
We are told that it's important to create a community that is interacting throughout the year. And then we are offered an array of platforms upon which to build it, for a fee.
Under these circumstances, we often lose sight of the fact that every community begins and ends with people: people who build it, drive it, interact in it, contribute to it, and take something away from it. The variety of features that technology offers in service of a community have a negligible impact compared to the activity of people within it.
How many of us have joined or even begun online communities on private platforms that never became the hives of interaction we had envisioned? Of course, we know there was much more we could have done to drive that interaction, but we got busy with all the other things we were doing as event professionals and so the community floundered. We didn't think it would take so much effort - and that's where we made our mistake.
It's The People, Stupid
The truth is that your business or event community already exists on MANY platforms. It is interacting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, Foursquare and many more. You don't need your own private online platform to drive community interaction around your event or business. What is essential, however, is someone who is part of the community and understands how to interact with it.
Join Existing Discussions Relevant to Your Event or Business
You can start by searching and lurking on the major social media platforms to discover where your community is interacting most. It might be a discussion group on LinkedIn; a group on Facebook or one or several hashtags on Twitter. These interactions will very obviously be related to issues that are relevant to your attendees or clients.
A quick and easy way to skip a few steps is to choose a community or social media manager from within the community who is already known, generally liked and has a reasonably good grasp of digital marketing.
But if you're starting from scratch, it's important to begin participating in online discussions or groups. You can share useful information you find, promote great information from others in the group, join in chats and so on.
Drive Discussion/Participation Around Issues Relating to Your Event or Business
It can be as easy as asking a question on your blog and then promoting the post to your community on Facebook or as complicated as moderating an hour long Twitter chat on a particular subject. The key is to get others to join with you in a conversation, or to start one of their own that is associated with you, your brand or your website.
Create Content on Your Website and Link It To Your Community
Of course buzz about your brand is an important reason for driving community interaction. But why let it evaporate? Why not turn it into traffic for your website that helps you rank higher with the search engines?
Regularly post fresh content on your website that is useful to your community and make sure to promote that content wherever your community is interacting.
You can encourage more interaction between the community and your website by:
* responding to comments in a timely manner.
* inviting guest bloggers to post on your site
* doing interviews of interesting people in the community.
* reposting (with permission) previously published content from members of your community.
A Few Thoughts About Choosing a Social Media or Community Manager
Remember, community is about PEOPLE not technology. If you want people to trust your brand, choose someone to carry your message that your community will trust. Consider also, choosing someone who:
* is already a member of the community.
* is a natural community builder.
* knows how to engage in online dialogue.
* knows how to generate, curate and use content to drive discussion.
* is connected with community thought leaders.
* has digital marketing skills.
* gets that it's not about technology or broadcasting a message.
Don't put all your resources into technology. Technology is only effective when used by someone with the above skills. If you have lots of time, you can follow the above tips for creating community interaction yourself. If you don't have much time, consider hiring someone who possesses the aforementioned skills.
If, after you've done all of this, you decide to create a private online community, choose a platform created by a company that is people oriented and clearly gets what community is all about. Watching a potential company's online interactions is a good way to judge whether or not the company gets online communities.If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed for Sound n' Sight.