Community in a digital world
The definition of community is evolving. There was a time when community was taken literally – i.e., people with a common interest living in a particular area. Today, the meaning of community has deeper roots. Community is more about the people you surround yourself with, the folks you choose to spend time with because they share your beliefs and the causes you hold close to heart. For some, community means the websites or social networks you visit and engage with. After all, our appetite for content is insatiable. What would we do without the communities we’re a part of on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube?
Community and influencers often co-exist
Whether they exist online or IRL, we are naturally influenced by our community. The rise in the number of influencers has carved a niche for regular people who have something to share or say to create content and build community. The authenticity of the influencer will impact their overall effectiveness. Do people trust them? Do they sound like they’re selling? Do they “fit” in the community?
Community benefits business
Creating a community benefits your business. Your community can make or break your business’ reputation. For example, when you have a happy customer, they’ll likely let other people know. This is also known as word-of-mouth marketing. Before it had an official name, it was the primary way businesses grew before the internet and other advertising platforms existed. Customers who liked your business became brand ambassadors, letting their friends and families, a.k.a social network, know about their shopping or buying experiences. Businesses could also reap the rewards of community when they got together to do something for the greater good, like raising money for a local shelter. By creating an inclusive group, the community becomes stronger and increases its footprint size online and/or IRL.
Here are some ways to build and leverage a community that can enhance your marketing efforts.
- Create a social business strategy and roadmap aligned with your business objectives.
- Establish KPIs to help determine if your community and content marketing efforts are paying off.
- Learn about what your customers need. Tell your community why you are asking, and they will be more inclined to help.
- Forget about the silos. Proper marketing integration will help drive success.
- Develop an engagement strategy by building a plan for activation and adoption. Figure out the journey and learn how to keep your community involved.
Influencers are authoritative friends in our communities
Influencers are often seen as authoritative friends. They may speak to “you” on user-generated platforms, or perhaps they have their own YouTube channel and publish videos sharing their deepest, darkest secrets while hocking their latest hair product/jeans/weight-loss endorsement. Since influencers are “friends” and therefore part of your community, most people are open to hearing what they have to say or sell.
Community for good
One of the greatest things about community is its quick ability to mobilize to help and support those in need. Consider natural disasters in the world where food, water and shelter supplies are needed and pour in from other nations relatively quickly. What about the fundraising that happens online and on TV to help a child, an animal, a cause – and tugs at your heartstrings so you open your wallet? That’s community at work.
Nurture your community
Once your community is thriving, you will need to continue to care for it with targeted and customized content if you want people to stick around. If your community size is declining or the overall messaging has shifted and is no longer aligned with your KPIs, it may be time to find new influencers, tweak your message or move on. Just like in real estate, people’s needs and lifestyles change. Some may choose to move away while others may be content with a fresh coat of paint.