Ever experienced the tedious obligation of accepting an invitation to like someone’s 12-year-old daughter’s face-painting ‘business’ on social media? Or felt compromised by being urged to follow a friend’s friend’s friend’s account, even though the friend’s friend’s friend runs an abattoir in Belfast and you’re a lifelong vegan living in Croydon? I’ve declined dozens such invitations over the years because I refuse to click like on random builders in Birmingham, cafes in Cornwall and glaziers in Glasgow.
It’s infuriating. Other than an extra number, what’s the point? I’ve just checked my Facebook account and apparently I’m a fan of a window cleaner who works 200 miles away from where I live. Goodness knows how that one sneaked in but I hope he’s got a long ladder.
Who do YOU appreciate?
Take a look at the businesses and brands you follow. Why did you give them the click in the first place? Which ones do you engage with? Which do you actively seek out for the latest posts and updates?
Whether they give you hints and tips, special offers, glimpses behind the scenes, product alerts or a place to chat about a hot topic, I’m willing to bet that most of them share one important characteristic: a sense of community.
And it’s that shared interest, attitude or passion that you need to ignite in your own social platforms. Making your customers or clients feel they belong to something; that they’re part of a wider club of funny, savvy, fashionable, smart, interesting, intelligent or kind folk will help to cement their long-term bond with your business.
Why does building a community on social media matter?
Apart from it being a lovely thing to do, you’ll get five main bonuses:
- It adds more value for your existing fans and followers
- It cuts through the general social media noise
- It creates deeper connections among your audiences, bringing them together
- It develops brand experiences that that will bring customers back time and again
- It cuts down on marketing costs and effort.
Start understanding your audience with data and insights
There’s no such thing as understanding your audience too well. Use analytics to map their journeys – and dig into who they follow and what they’re talking about by using social search and listening tools such as Pulsar.
Join the conversation
As well as getting to grips with the broad data and behavioural trends, it’s vital to meet your audiences where they are – and listen. Ask questions by all means, but this step is all about taking the temperature of your customers. Hearing and acknowledging their motivations and frustrations will help you make sure your content – as well as your products and services – is fit for purpose.
Honing your customer-led content strategy
Once you’ve understood what floats their boat (or indeed, gets their goat), it’s time to start planning what your content will be about..
This is all about pinpointing the sweet spot where your product or service overlaps with what they’re talking about. How can you lead – or turn – the conversation? What can you provide to make their lives more interesting, entertaining, simple or efficient?
As well as understanding your topics and purpose, you need to get to grips with the platforms you’re going to use. Where are your customers hanging out? If you’re a boomer, you might understand Facebook better than the other platforms. But whether you’re seven or 70, if you’re selling to Gen Z, you need to get comfortable with Tiktok. Fast. Remember it’s about them, not you.
Ultimately, as marketing guru and author Seth Godin famously asked: “Would they miss you if you were gone?”
In other words, if your audiences stopped seeing your posts, publications, emails, videos, images or podcasts, would they notice? And would they miss them?
Worried about giving away the keys to the castle? Don’t be. Just because you’re telling the world how to do it doesn’t mean they will. What it does mean is that they’ll see your business as the oracle on that particular subject. And that’s a powerful way of attracting customers without the hard sell.
Communication is key
The wise Mr Godin actually went on to say: “The best way to be missed when you’re gone is to stand for something when you’re here.”
Boring, beige and bland content just isn’t going to cut it. You need a clear tone of voice and a diamond-sharp point of view. Campaigning or controversial brands might get a lot of flak from their enemies – but the love and loyalty from their fans more than makes up for it. Making a statement helps your audiences to believe that you’re authentic and committed.
And you need to stay as engaged with your audiences as you were when you were researching them. Successful social content is a delicate flower; you have to be there to nurture and encourage it to grow. You can’t just post something and take the rest of the day off. You’ll need to respond, explain and recommend, rapidly.
Turn customers into advocates
Your biggest fans are invaluable: treat them like the beloved ambassadors they truly are. Thank them, give them a shout-out and reward them with products, resources, exclusive content or a chance to have their say on decisions.
Giveaways, competitions and discounts help to build loyalty in certain businesses – but a word of caution: make sure you don’t get such a name for sales that you can’t sell anything at full price.
If you’re thinking ‘this is all well and good, but how will I have time to run my business and create all this content?’, help is at hand. As well as getting in touch with a brilliant agency to do the work for you (ahem!), remember that encouraging your audience to post questions, tips and ideas keeps your community buzzing with little to no effort from you.
Get users on board to co-create content with you: the closer you get to them, the more likely you are to evolve with them and remain relevant.
Because we’re as impatient for results as you are, let’s round off with five quick wins you can action almost immediately:
- Start a dedicated group. Remember, Facebook groups, Facebook Messenger chats, WhatsApp chats, LinkedIn groups, Twitter lists and Instagram pages are all legitimate platforms.
- Got plenty of wisdom to impart? Carousels are performing well right now – and consider using Instagram Guides and TikTok too.
- Go live. Video content is currently prioritised by most platforms.
- Reward your most loyal followers by inviting them to an online event.
- Cross-promote your community by using other platforms and groups – but check the rules first!
This article was inspired by our Tuesday Wrap session, Building meaningful relationships through social media. If you’d like to be the first to know about upcoming free sessions, sign up for our newsletter.
Discover how we helped one client build a community of happy parents and kids through digital marketing or get in touch on [email protected] to find out what we could do for you.