When I first started building a fragrance community around my video blog, FragranceTalk.com, I didn’t have a single member, follower, or fan. It was hard trying to create a community from nothing, and at times I felt really lost. However, along the way I managed to connect with likeminded individuals and build a strong community to support my business.
Once my community was established, it was amazing how they were there to support my brand, becoming ambassadors and helping my business to grow. Members of my community are always the first to comment on my videos and blog posts and they’re always supporting me when I need it the most. Building a loyal community takes time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it! Here are some tips to help you get your community started.
Decide who you want to be a part of your community
Knowing your community members is like knowing your target market; you want to make sure that you have the right people supporting you. Ask yourself these questions: Where do they spend their time online? What do they care about? What is their character? Where do they want to be in the future?
Decide the focus of your community
Will it be your brand, a topic, or a social movement? If it’s revolving around your brand, it’s a bit harder, because the community isn’t surrounded by a specific hobby or interest that draws your members in. My community members were interested in fragrance and that was all I needed to focus on – great fragrances that are unique and of high quality; fragrance lovers noticed and followed.
Building a community around your brand can be challenging, but doable – especially if you’re confident about your product or service and how it adds value. Focus on how your product or service benefits your customer. Perhaps you can relate it to something that your target market is interested in. For example, if you’re building a community around your maternity store, build a community of new mothers so they have a place to discuss and share pointers. You could even focus it more, by building a community around eco-moms (mothers who buy and use only natural, eco-friendly baby products). Your options are endless as long as it relates to your business in a way that logically and effortlessly brings your brand to top of mind.
Get yourself involved!
If there are existing communities on topics related to yours, get those members interested in you – this is your chance to build relationships with like-minded individuals who care about what you care about.
Start asking questions around what type of community they’d find awesome to have. What kind of issues they’re experiencing in their industry, and who they think would be great members to have within the community. Their responses will be extremely valuable when conceptualizing your community. Not to mention, you’re building online friendships, so these people will more likely feel good about joining your community.
You need these strong relationships to help attract new members and to keep them involved. These people are also the ones who will most likely create new topics for discussion, launch polls, and interact with other members in your community. They are going to be your core group!
Build your community!
Ning.com offers a fairly cheap solution for building an online community; however, the quick and simple (and free) route is to start a Facebook or LinkedIn group based on your community’s theme. On the other hand, one of the most effective solutions is to set up a forum – Invisionpower.com is great if you already have an existing website, because it can serve as an extension of your site.
Invite more people to the community
Reach out to your core group – have them invite more people. You don’t really want to promote your community through advertising yet; you want to encourage direct referrals. These are always the most engaged individuals and it gives your community somewhat of an exclusive feeling, as it makes users feel as if they’re part of something – well because they are!
I would suggest your group be referral only until its gets large enough to open up to the public – usually 100 members. This is because it is important to focus on high engagement per member; you will be able to more spend time in discussion with each member individually before things expand.
Keep participation high
Break your community up into the most common topics and spin them off into different forums within the platform. Put your most active members (most likely your core group) in charge of their own topics. Watch each area grow as your core group expands their topics; this is where you will notice your community has become more self-sustaining.
Set up events and Meetups
Encourage your members to meet up with each other to support causes, celebrate accomplishments or just to get out and network. If you need a reason to meet, invite guest speakers to join your community and have them discuss different topics.
This should get you on your way to building a successful, tight knit and engaged community of likeminded individuals. Your community will continue to grow, so continue to invite and motivate core members to moderate and manage their topics. It’s a lot of work, but definitely worth it!