Building a community around a brand used to mean setting up a discussion forum on your website and letting people comment on a corporate blog. Now, that's a pretty low bar.
With social media sites taking over, sites like Facebook, Twitter and aspects of Google, there are conversations happening in many more places. If you’ve got a product or service and you would like to build a community, how do you do it?
Focus on what your customer needs. If you’re going to get meaningful interaction, it’s got to be on the customers’ terms, not yours.
Figure out how to get your customers to talk to each other. Not only does this ease your support burden but it also is the only way a community grows.
Consider your local markets. Even though your community could reach around the globe, don’t be afraid to stay close to home too. Especially if you have a tangible product.
Don’t worry about having everything on your site. If a customer creates a blog post about using your product, don’t feel you have to republish the content on your site. An outside source of information is way more credible so don’t be afraid to let go of a bit of control. Also, if you get a community member that is writing about your brand, promote him or her to the rest of the community. Don’t be afraid to make this person a bit of a celebrity. These community celebrities are going to be your advocates to the rest of the community. Also, once you find an advocate, keep in touch with them. A little encouragement can go a long ways.
If you must moderate your community discussion, don’t just delete curses. If a person is upset, it’s more helpful to the rest of the community if you address the problem rather than just sweep it under the rug. Ask people using foul language to refrain and you’re community will appreciate that you’re involved. If a nasty item just gets removed, your community has no idea that you’re doing anything at all.
If you’re building a community, remember to keep it simple. Just because one person want’s some new feature in the community, it doesn’t mean you should add it. Too many features make it difficult for people to join the community. Also, it means that the content of your community will be spread out into more areas. Imagine a community that has blogs, a wiki, user-submitted videos and a Facebook application. Your community already has to make choices about where to go for information and would have lots of different ways to contribute. If you add another feature, you just make those decisions harder.
Remember this rule: 1–9-90 – 1% of your community will create content. 9% will participate (they’ll leave comments on blogs for example) and 90% will just browse.
If you’re interested in building a community around your brand, we’d love to hear from you.