2021 is the Year of Community.
So, you have set up a business and are starting to build a following of customers, peers, and potential buyers. This community of people will be a huge help to your business, and there are ways you can refine your outreach to them and begin to use your community as a resource.
There are five steps to refine your community tools which I have coined “The Five C’s”.
- Understanding your community and its purpose
- How to set up your community
- Content and conservation
- Keeping your community engaged
- Working with ambassadors and setting up partnerships
- Looking after your mental health and running a community
Cause – Establishing a need for a community
Let’s start with cause. This is all to do with understanding your customers and the purpose of your community. You must identify your business vision and goals for creating a community, and understand who your customers are and how they communicate with you. To help you identify your cause, you can write down who your customers are. Go into as much detail as you can! Do they have pets? Where do they work? It’s more than just what they look like. You should also write down your “why”. Why do you want to set up a community? Why is it important to you?
Creation – Identifying the tools you need to set up your community.
Our next C stands for “creation”. This is all about how to set up your community. There are three sections to this: platforms, guidelines, and structure.
In terms of platforms, my main advice is to simply use them. There is an endless amount of ways you can promote your business online these days. You could join private Facebook groups, make a Slack group, use all the social media platforms, build a website and custom community portal, utilise emails and WhatsApp groups, and host events both remotely and face-to-face! Look into different sites that could benefit you, and consider which will be most effective.
Guidelines are there to protect your group. Create a document that sets expectations of community members, and how they may communicate, contribute, and behave. It would also be useful to create a set of FAQs to clear up any common misconceptions and confusion.
Now it’s time to structure these ideas. Select a set of platforms that work for you, then create a content schedule. This will allow you to keep on top of your content, keep your community updated, and stay organised. Ensure you stay consistent, as not only do your followers appreciate reliability, but social media algorithms prefer a more structured posting schedule. Use analytics to understand peak engagement times, and to see how your engagement fairs in comparison to your follower count.
After this, you can identify your community tools and habits. Go through your chosen platforms and find out how your customers prefer to communicate with you currently, then return to your guidelines. What do you want your community to do or not do? Find a way to incorporate these ideas into your document. Finally, think about your structure again. When do your customers engage with your business? Use this knowledge to send out posts at peak times.
Content and Conversation – Keeping your community engaged.
The third C is “content and conversation”. This involves keeping your community engaged. You can do this by welcoming people into the community as soon as they join. Then you should create content that gives the people in your community a voice and that pushes them to interact with your business. Encourage conversation, and encourage networking. Consider how you may gather insights for your content, and ensure you are communicating across multiple platforms and adapt content for each platform. aIn terms of “content”, think about how you can use your content to encourage conversation amongst your community, but push conversations that can give you business insights. Think of some key topics you can discuss that have relevance to you and the way you operate your business.
Collaboration – Working with ambassadors and setting up partnerships
Our fourth and penultimate C is “collaboration”. This is all about working with ambassadors and setting up partnerships. You must find brands that will join the conversation, but also use your community as a resource. Through your community, find key contributors and provide incentives for them to collaborate. Also, give your community tools to be your ambassadors, such as tailored messages and content to be communicated clearly outside your community. As the business owner, you should participate in the conversation, too! In fact, encourage everyone in the company to contribute and join the conversation.
Care- Looking after your community and your own mental health.
Finally, our fifth C stands for “care”, which is not only about your community, but yourself too. In terms of community, you should check in on them and listen. Be human, personable, and authentic, and ensure you show compassion and appreciation! In this “work from home” world, it’s easy to sit doing work on your phone all day without even noticing. Luckily, there are easy steps we can take to give you the time off you need. Switch off your notifications and stop replying to customers outside of business hours, and set boundaries with where and when people can reach you. You can even post an “out of office” sign on your profiles, or make your business hours known to your customers through your platforms. If you’re truly too busy to do these things, though, it might be time to hire some help!
So, there it is! My five C’s to a successful community. Appreciate your community and give it time to grow and become what you dream of it becoming. Download this free guide to get your community started. Please let me know if you use any of these tips and tricks and how they work out for you!