There’s a lot of buzz in the digital marketing arena about inbound marketing. For those of you who aren’t familiar… inbound marketing is the proccess driving customers to your brand via content, rather than paying for traditional advertising. In this article I’m going to focus on one key aspect of inbound marketing which is growing a following or community around your brand.
1. Know your audience and yourself.
Before you start building a community you should think about the type of individuals you want to join your community. Think about what other sites they’d visit, twitter accounts they’d follow, other products or services they’d buy, food they’d eat. If you understand who your target audience is, it will help you better improve your online marketing efforts.
Need help thinking about who you’re audience is? Try utilizing this persona worksheet from hubspot:
You should also know yourself, or in this case your brand. Meaning, what’s the personality of your brand? Are you formal, informal, business casual, goofy? Since building this community will take place in social spaces you’ll be better off being personable rather than a stuffy suit (in most cases).
2. Establish a social presence.
Building an online community in 2013 isn’t about trying to make your own social network. You could try, but why reinvent the wheel? There are many social communities out there but twitter, facebook, linkedin and Google+ are the essentials I’ll focus on. Creating these profiles is free and a very powerful way to grow a following around your brand.
Don’t got time to setup all those social networks? Try claim.io.
3. Connect your website and social networks.
Make sure as you create your various social profiles that you’re linking them to your website and vice versa. You should also optimize your website for social media using markup code. New to the concept? Check out KnowEm’s Social Media Optimization Tool. This tool checks your website for social media markup and gives you direction for the tags you’re missing (this job is for your web developer).
If you do a lot of business offline then make sure you include your social profiles on your marketing materials or store window…
4. Use your blog as your social media hub.
Think of your interlinking social media profiles as a subway system. Your social profiles are different trains. Facebook is the blue line, Twitter is the orange line, Google+ is the red line and your blog is grand central station. At some point virtually every passenger crosses through the hub. By utilizing your blog as your hub, it’s taking those social media passengers further down your conversion funnel. From your social media profile to your blog where you have full control over their experience.
5. Make it easy to connect and share.
Just like how you want to drive visitors from social media pages to your website you also want to drive them from your website to your social media profiles. The more times/places someones interacts with your brand the stronger the relationship between them and your brand potentially becomes. To make that a smooth experience for your visitors you should make sure it’s easy for them to connect with you. Make sure buttons to follow you and to share your content via social media are easy to find.
6. Make it easy to contribute.
Not every website is ideal for a forum, but if you have a large enough audience and time to maintain it then I’d highly recommend it. For everyone else there’s still a really simple way to let your visitors contribute to your website via blog comments. You should not only allow visitors to comment on your blog posts, you should encourage it (make time to monitor comments to prevent spam). You should also make sure it’s super easy for them to do it. You can use a blog comment system like disqus to make it easy as well as a great way to get them to share their comment on their social networks.
7. Keep it fresh with interesting content.
Remember you are building relationships with other people. Your online community shouldn’t be treated like PA speaker for you to shout of. It needs to be more like a friendly networking event with an open bar. Create content that’s fun, interesting and/or casual and create it on a consistent schedule (need blog post ideas?).
Don’t just settle just writing blog posts in all text. Try to enhance your content with…
8. Collect Feedback.
Once you have a following you’re going to want to keep them around. Use your social media accounts to ask your audience questions about their experience with your brand. You can also get feedback from your website visitors using user experience tools. Don’t be afraid of negative responses and address them with care. Learn more about creating/testing your visitors satisfaction.
9. Show your community members appreciation.
@bloghandsseo Thanks so much for the share!
— Ryan Hanley (@RyanHanley_Com) July 28, 2013
These people have decided to follow and share your brand with others. The least you can do is show a little appreciation. Here are a few ideas:
- Follower Spotlight – once a week showcase a short bio about one of your followers to the rest of your audience.
- Prizes – Give away a t-shirt, gift card or coffee mug to the first person to answer a trivia question.
- Blog Interviews – Do a short interview with one of your fans on your blog.
- Hangout – Conduct a Q&A session via Google Hangout.
10. Monitor brand mentions.
If you’re not doing this already, you may be missing some great opportunities to interact with brand advocates or even worse, missing a customer complaint that takes on a life of it’s own. Here are a few tools to get you started:
11. Answer relevant questions.
One of the best ways to attract new community members is by being helpful. You may already be creating helpful content on your website/blog, but you should also extend you help to other communities. Simply find people asking questions, relevant to your brand, on social networks like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Q&A sites like quora, and industry specific forums.
For example lets imagine you sell running shoes. You could do a quick search on quora, looking for people actively looking for advice on running shoes.
12. Be patient.
By no means is this a short-term marketing technique. Building an engaging community takes time. You should be focused on not just building a community but growing that community over the long hall. The last thing you should be doing is looking for shortcuts to increase your followers, like buying them. You want to earn followers, because they’ll be the most likely to engage, convert and help you grow.
I wish you luck with your community growth and I hope I’ve inspired you to become a member of our community. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via any of our social networks or contact page.