Ashley Zeckman

3 Tips For Effectively Growing & Managing Your Online Community

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.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (No Ratings Yet)

Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.


  1. Avatar Roy Condrey says

    Quality content, knowledgeable statements and being a nice person. The key to being a success.

  2. I especially resonate with #2. It’s difficult to communicate friendliness online sometimes, but it’s so important not to look like a jerk when writing. Sometimes an “!” or a “:)”goes a long way! 🙂

    • Exactly! 🙂

    • I like that “not look like a jerk”. A little personality can go a long way 🙂

    • I really liked your title tags. Very relative and instructive with simple catching phrases. I completely relate with the first one. Many people don’t keep the patience with low intensity of promotion.and start wondering only about the traffic generation and less about the quality of the work, which lowers heir standard and result in loss.

  3. Avatar MirandaM_EComm says

    Patience really is key; so many companies I’ve worked with over the years had been told social is some kind of magic bullet and they grew impatient within weeks of trying anything new. You have to stick with it and nurture your community over time! Great tips, Ashley.

  4. I have discovered that my published articles go way further if I reach out to my close friends, associates, contacts and followers and ask them “what they think” about the article. I do not specifically ask them to comment or share the article, but if they do, it is a bonus. My advice is not to do this often and to reciprocate accordingly. Thank you for the great article!

    • Hi David,
      Asking for honest feedback vs. “Please share my article” is a good approach. I like it! 🙂

    • I really like your approach. I totally agree that it’s important to keep a check on how often you ask others to read your article. And, of course reciprocity is the keyword here without which it is impossible to genuine help from others.

  5. These are really worthwhile tips. In order to gain customer recognition online, keep in mind you should use quality content. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Avatar Darin Westenskow says

    I love this article. Thanks for your advice, Ashley! Patience is probably the thing I need to work on most 🙂

  7. I saw this blog and read it, got a new style of writing the blogs with using excellent quotes to get one understand. Tips are bang on the money to get successful

  8. Avatar Sarah Bauer says

    Great post! This year, we hope to make our content marketing strategy a bit more agile; ready to meet our customers needs as they arise, and prepared to adapt from ongoing feedback and communication. It will be our way of discovering what our customers want, and tailoring content that gets results. The scary part is just to go for it- try new things to learn what sticks!

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  9. I’m not the patient “slowly make friends” type of person, so which type of paid marketing is best to do it fast?

  10. Avatar Edward Glassman says

    Awesome post, Ashley! I’m all about being extremely personable and relating to my readers. Sometimes I think I’m being overly friendly. I guess you can never be too friendly, right? Anywho, loved the read. Keep up the good work.

    Have A Great Day!


  11. Avatar Hullabaloo says

    I always try to go out of my way to thank people for sharing/tweeting a post of mine. That has helped me build some good relationships.

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

    That’s why using online tools to automatically increase Facebook likes or Twitter followers is not advisable.

  13. I liked tip #3. It is important to ask questions to yourself as to what your readers want first and foremost before you actually start writing. This will kind of help build your reader’s persona, which, in other terms, means that you are on the right track to understanding your reader/audience. Having had a career in journalism in the past, this has been my greatest learning so far.