Cultivating your online community

November 26, 2012Uncategorized

We’ve all been there – you’ve built your website, written some blog posts, created a couple of social media accounts and actually been active on them for a few weeks, but nothing’s happening.

You want to build your online community, but aren’t sure how. Before you abandon your community as a lost cause or Google ‘How to make a viral video’, check out the following tips on how to cultivate a meaningful online community for your brand.

Step one: Renovate your page

First things first. Is your community page as good-looking and informative as it could be?

Profile picture: If your picture is out of date, fuzzy or you don’t even have a profile picture, upload a new one as soon as you can. Don’t worry! Your profile picture doesn’t have to be a glossy, corporate headshot, it just has to help your audience identify with you: the person behind the page. Personalised avatars, logos, photographs of you with your cat are all fine as long as they comply with the values and brand personality you are trying to communicate.

Visual appeal: It’s a proven fact that we are all implicitly attracted to visual stimuli, so it’s important to make your profile as visually attractive as possible. Creating and curating visual media content like infographics, videos, slideshows and photographs from events should be an ongoing core component of your community strategy. This visual content will energise your page and will usually receive a higher clickthrough rate because it is easily accessible and generally more entertaining than a block of text.

Another way to boost your community page’s visual appeal is to personalise your banner images and backgrounds. This not only reinforces your brand’s visual identity, but allows you to position additional information like your company bio or links to your website and other social pages on your main profile page.

Perform a content audit: Have you written an awesome blog that is gathering dust in the archives? Or are there a number of your early blog posts that you could edit, improve and re-purpose? A content audit involves sorting, analysing the data and evaluating the content you have produced to date. Cast a critical eye over the content you have produced to date and ask yourself:

  • Why did the blog you wrote on Google algorithms achieve your highest view rate?
  • Which of your regular blog topics attracts the most comments?
  • Which posts do you feel are the most valuable for your community?

Once you have analysed your published content, you can remove what is redundant and improve or repurpose your most successful content on your newly renovated page.

A content audit offers more than just a spring clean, however – use your newfound insights into what type of content was deemed valuable by your community to adapt and optimise your content strategy going forward. After all, content marketing is about connecting with your audience by providing valuable, relevant and engaging content.

For a more detailed explanation and guide to performing a content audit, check out Adria Saracino’s ‘The argument for a content audit your marketing team never made’.

Step two: Assume leadership

Are you actually leading your online community, or half- heartedly posting and placing continued engagement in the too-hard basket? Think about every successful blog, Twitter feed or Facebook page you’ve ever visited. Odds are, the owner or community manager posted several times a day and was accessible, answering and instigating comment threads and discussions.

Like them, you need to take control of your feed by having a regular and relevant presence. Post, share and comment often, but also according to strategic content criteria. Quality assurance is important. If the first mediocre blog you found at 8.30am contributes nothing to an understanding of your discipline, don’t share it with your followers.

Curating and sharing other’s content is a fantastic way to introduce ideas and spark discussions in your community, but curating alone will be nowhere near as successful as producing and publishing original content for your followers. Posting informative and relevant original content both validates and strengthens your position as community leader.

Assuming leadership of your community may sound obvious, but if you won’t take ownership of your brand’s voice online and lead the community you are trying to create, who will?

Step three: Get down with the 4-1-1

So now your page looks awesome, you’re producing and curating some great content and your online community is growing, but you’d like to accelerate the process. Before you contact a ghoulish Twitterbot salesman, try founder of the Content Marketing Institute Joe Pulizzi‘s 4-1-1 sharing rule.

The basic idea behind the 4-1-1 rule is that for every single self-serving tweet, status or post, you should retweet or share another relevant tweet/status update and share four pieces of relevant content written by others. Through this system you are introduced to and become a part of the network of content producers in your discipline, gaining access to their followers and also facilitating your ability to organise industry webinars or online events with other thought leaders, which can significantly boost your following.

Wrap up

Although growing your online community organically takes time and perseverance, the insights, content and connections you make along the way mean that the journey of growing your community online is more important than the end result.

Who needs 20,000 mute bots when you could converse with 50 interested people?

By Elizabeth Penning – Digital Marketing Coordinator
Find her on Google+

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