You really have to sympathize with the guy managing social media for the dishwasher repair company. He must constantly be exposed to articles which offer solutions for building a social media community, while using GoPro or AirBnB as examples. How is the “Dish-Dirt-Destroyer 9000” supposed to compare to a castle with ocean views?
The truth is, there are way more appliance repair companies (and other, let’s face it, boring businesses) than there are AirBnBs. So how do the regular, “boring” brands use social media to build community? Here are six tips you can apply to your own business today.
1) Value passion
What kind of community do you want to build? Do you want to build an engaged community that interacts with your content and promotes your brand? Or do you want… some other wrong answer that’s not worth mentioning? Right. You want an engaged community, and the key to achieving it is setting realistic expectations from the get-go.
Though your boss may expect 1,000 new followers this quarter, your focus should be on quality over quantity. A strong community is built on the back of passionate fans, who go out of their way to support your business online. These are the people who promote your community within their own networks, who disprove the trash-talkers and spammers, and who bring your message to parts of the world you may not be reaching.
Your job is to find them or to create them, by fostering relationships with followers and creating that passion within them. This can only be done if you focus your efforts on engagement, rather than targeting a big number of followers, most of whom won’t even engage with your content or help you drive business.
2) Build your own channels
The word community itself has a physical connotation. It’s a place where people live, where they come together and meet and interact. As a business, your job is to create social media channels to house your community.
This doesn’t have to be complex. Create a hashtag that represents your online community. Hootsuite, for example, encourages our brand ambassadors to use #HootAmb, in order to share their stories and interact with one another. You may also turn to Google+ Pages, Facebook or LinkedIn Groups, or even Slack groups.
You can use your leverage your existing business channels to target strategic influencers, followers and fans in and begin to engage them. Once they’re interested and engaged in your community, you can use these community channels you’ve created in order to strengthen that bond. Give them access to the community or ask them to share with your hashtag. They’ll appreciate they’re getting exclusive access to something, further building their ties to your brand. And with this access comes a certain responsibility: they’ll probably feel a certain responsibility—not pressure—to participate and engage within these channels.
3) Create something bigger than your product
Every brand needs to create a community that has a purpose that is bigger than it’s products. Regardless of what happens with your next release, you want the community to stick around and support you. That rests on your ability to make the community feel like you can’t do it without them.
Focus on what your brand stands for. Appeal to people’s beliefs and emotions. Show that your business cares about its clients, and cares about the world beyond its bottom line: environmental causes, social causes, charity work and more. You need to create a community that people inherently want to be a part of because they find value and meaning in being a part of it.
All businesses, regardless of size and purpose, can achieve this. It’s a matter of listening to your followers, discovering their interests and priorities, and making an effort to support them through your online community.
4) Recognize that relationships take time
We’re fond of saying that building a global advocacy program is a marathon, not a sprint. The longer you’re committed, the better your results will be. Think of it like a new brewery. It’s going to take you tons of time to find the right recipe, but once you do you can brew it over and over again.
Take your time and really work at fostering these online relationships. Don’t expect to build a community in five minutes a day. Listen to your community members. Actually address their concerns and questions. Learn about them and use that knowledge in future engagements. Personalize your interactions. Remember you are building relationship with actual people not social avatars. Community isn’t some sort of quick-fix. It’s a long-term investment, but one that will almost always pay off.
5) Ask community members to fill the gaps
A strong community has benefits that extend well beyond simply promoting your product. Your social media community is a resource you can tap into to fill gaps in your business.
Are you unable to reach a certain geographic market? You might have a community member located there who could help. Are you short on content? Ask your community members if they have stories they’d like to share. Are you overwhelmed by simple questions on Twitter or Facebook? Maybe your loyal users could step in to answer some of them from their perspective? Are you curious about how your new marketing assets will be received. Look to your community for feedback.
There are so many different ways your community can help your business move forward. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them for help.
6) Celebrate and reward your advocates
That help doesn’t come free, though. You should have a two-way relationship with your social media community, which means thanking and rewarding them for their participation. At Hootsuite, we do this in several ways.
- Publicly thanking them on social media
- Free access to gated content
- Free access to Hootsuite University
- A Hootsuite Pro subscription
- A discount towards the Newhouse Advance Social Media Strategy Certificate
- Exclusive Hootsuite swag
- Early access to Hootsuite’s latest features
- An official “Hootsuite Ambassador” title that they can share in their LinkedIn profiles and resumes
Make sure you’re acknowledging your community. Whether it’s by providing them with great content, or by actually giving them discounts, show them that what they’re doing is important and valued. They’ll be far more likely to keep doing it in the future.
What building a community looks like
So, let’s bring it back to the top. If you sell dishwashers, how do you build a strong community? Seek out the small group of people who actually care about dishwashers (Your best customers, Restaurant owners maybe? Cleanliness bloggers?) and start to engage with them. Invite them to a Facebook group, Google+ Page or ask them to use your Twitter hashtag #DishWashCrew in order to start building the foundation of your community. Teach them about how a clean living environment can truly improve people’s lives. Don’t get discouraged, it may be slow going but if you’re patient and invest the time, followers will come around. Ask your particularly engaged community members to review your dishwashers, to provide you with feedback, to share their dishwashing stories and even to reach out to other locals where they live. Once they fill those holes, thank them for it, by providing them with discounts, information, training opportunities, or free access to great content. You’re well on your way to building a social media community.
Want more? Community building is the foundation on which Hootsuite has grown from a bootstrapped start-up to a global business with over 10 million users. Join me at SXSW and I’ll show you how having a community-driven brand can help your business, and provide practical tips for growing your own.
But first, I need your help to get there. Vote for my SXSW panel, How to Create a Community-Driven Brand.