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Ashley Zeckman

3 Tips For Effectively Growing & Managing Your Online Community

By Ashley Zeckman     Social Media, Social Networking

Online Community BuildingWe live in a world where shopping, dating, watching new films and networking can all be done online.  In fact, these actions (and many more) have become a part of our everyday life.  Many of us may experience buyers remorse for purchasing something online that wasn’t within budget, a desire to post a bad review after a terrible movie, or have a sense of regret after a bad date.

When it comes to networking for personal and more importantly business use, there are many benefits to be had and pitfalls to be avoided.  If you are able to effectively engage your online community you can experience many advantages including:

  • An introduction to someone such as a thought leader you might not otherwise have access to.
  • Connecting with other business professionals in your field.
  • Discussions and research which can further your insight into your prospects and customers.

These benefits only scratch the surface.  We know that the initial connection is just the beginning.  It begs many of us to ask what it really takes to grow and maintain an online community in a meaningful way.  This post provides 3 helpful tips for effectively growing and managing your online community.

Tip #1 – Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

Patience is a key when you are initially growing your online network and even as you manage it on an ongoing basis.  Perhaps you reached out to a well respected individual or organization on Twitter and obsessively check your new followers every hour hoping to see their handle on your list.

When “networking up” you may want to take a more strategic approach.  Spend time doing research, try to see if there are connections that you may have in common, or a mutual interest or goal that connects you in some way.  Even in the online world, people want to connect with people they like.

Keep in mind that meaningful connections on social networks are worth much more than a large list filled with inactive accounts or illegitimate profiles.

Tip #2 – If You Want to Make Friends, Be Friendly

Before Google and MapQuest applications were invented for smartphones, one thing all of us have done at one point was ask someone for directions.  If you were lost which person would have a bigger impact on you:

  • Person #1 – Took a quick moment to tell you that your destination was a couple blocks away.
  • Person #2 – Spent a couple minutes showing you where to go and drew you a simple map to help guide your way.

I’m sure we can all agree that the person that spent just a few extra minutes doing what they could to help you reach your goal would have left the better impression.

How does this translate to your online community?  Very simply, a little bit can go a long way.  On a consistent basis you may want to:

  • Use search terms within Facebook & Twitter related to your areas of expertise and find questions you could help answer.
  • Visit LinkedIn groups to participate in the conversation as well as ask and answer questions.
  • Monitor and respond to comments on your company blog and social sites daily.
  • Identify at least 2-3 web articles per day to comment on.

Tip #3 – Give the People What They Want

In order to give your community content that they will devour, you must first determine what it is that they want.  This can be accomplished through a combination of tactics such as speaking with your current clients to determine what they would find interesting and monitoring your competitors and prospective clients to see what type of interaction seems to work best for them.

As a rule, your content should be a good mix of:

  • Current and relevant industry news that will be helpful to your prospects and customers.
  • Informative information about your organization in a way that does not appear to be a sales pitch.
  • Questions based on your customer pain points that you have identified.
  • Mini social campaigns based around a theme to draw in your online audience.

An well thought out and genuine social networking strategy can be an effective means of helping to attract, engage, and convert prospects into customers and make meaningful connections.

As marketers I’m curious to know what is the biggest benefit that you’ve seen from nurturing your online community?  What do you think is your biggest opportunity for improvement?

Image provided via Shutterstock.


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