How To Build A Strong Community For Your New Brand
Think of how amazing it would be if you didn’t have to pay a dime for your advertising. And think about what it would be like if the positive comments about your brand came from trusted friends and colleagues of the very population that you are trying to reach.
Yeah, I know, pretty amazing!
This is the idea behind community management.
Some of the most successful companies have achieved success based on community management strategies. Consider Harley Davidson, Nike, and Kiehl’s. All are excellent examples of successful community management. The question addressed in this article is how do you build a healthy community program if you are at the bootstrapping stage of your organization?
If you know your audience, you will be able to build a program that gets them advocating for your product. If you don’t know your audience that well, that’s okay. This brings us back to the ABT idea of marketing, always be testing.
For a thorough description of how to A/B test on social, see my earlier article on Differentiating Copy for Social Marketing A/B Testing. The same principles of testing apply to the impactful strategies that I’ll discuss below. As you read, keep in mind that there is no certain recipe for success, but treat these ideas as a buffet that you can try out.
(1) Have advocates apply to be in your program.
This strategy gets to a basic premise of human psychology. Have you noticed how when you try to give something away, you get a few takers. But when when you charge a small fee, you get a lot more takers.
The same idea is that if you make your audience do a bit of work for you, and apply to qualify to be in the program, then you will get more engagement (at least at first), and more good messaging will spread about your brand. In the organizations where I have worked as community manager, Google Forms is a free tool that met our application needs with 11 different types of question formats.
(2) Respond to applications immediately.
It’s important for your advocates to both feel that they are taken care of, and feel like they have a support person to reach out to. This is why it’s a good idea to send applicants a short note with the community manager’s contact information, and send this right after they submit their application. This, too, is possible for free with Google Forms with the Form Notifications add on.
(3) Give accepted applicants something to share on social.
Once you have accepted people into your advocate community, give them something to celebrate! Maybe you can give them a personalized certificate with their name on it, or a badge that they can put in their email address.
To do both of these, I have used the Google Sheets add-on called Autocrat, and in the welcome message, I asked new community members to tweet out a message. The result was happy new community members tweeting about the brand that they loved (which was the company I worked for).
(4) Invite advocates to a private online community.
This is where community engagement gets exciting! You can share product sneak peeks, get feedback on upcoming initiatives, and put community members in touch with each other. This is where your community members will feel valued, and where they will be able to strengthen their own professional networks.
Keeping with the bootstrapping theme of this article, think of where your community members and advocates already are, and build your private online community there. You aren’t sure where your advocates are? Well, there are 2.2 billion monthly users on Facebook, so you’d likely be safe starting your community there.
(5) Give advocates content that is both informative and entertaining.
Think back to your favorite teacher. What kept you intrigued and happy in the class, even though you had to be there? Is it possible that this favorite teacher was educational, nurturing, and informative?
This way when they asked you to do something challenging, you felt supported, confident, and you didn’t mind taking on the challenge.
This very same strategy is recommended by the leading community management platform, Influitive and by the widely cited book by Gary Vaynerchuck, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.
(6) Make advocates feel empowered.
Empowering your advocates in your community means that you make it easy for them to know how they can help themselves. One way to do this is by putting them in contact with each other so they can support each other.
Another way to do this is by creating a community guide chalk full of ideas of how to participate and how to get their friends and colleagues to join along. In a bootstrap fashion, I have combined both ideas into a community advocate guide that I made with a Google Site.
The idea was simple, and it was relatively easy to put together. Even better, it worked well in educating my community members and it was easy to share.
(7) Diversify content delivery.
Whenever something is always the same, any person will get bored. So, it makes sense to diversity the content that you push out to your community members to keep them happy and informed.
To get started, new members can receive a drip welcoming campaign that is pushed out over the first few months they are with the community. This is to keep your community on the forefront of their minds, and to keep them engaged.
Video is great for getting people’s attention, and delivering short messages on social. For community members who want to take a deeper dive into learning, webinars are excellent. For those community members who may be a bit too busy, a newsletter is another way to keep them looped in on what your community is doing and what they may have missed.
Above I supplied a screenshot of one of my favorite newsletters, from Art Storefronts. You’ll see that the copy is short and direct, emojis allow me to understand the message without reading too much, and it’s full of helpful content.
Summing It Up
No matter what your brand, you will win big if you can get a community of advocates to support you. This article address 7 strategies to get you started. This is by no means an extensive list, but it will give you a jumpstart, and for no cost except for some hard work and creativity.
In summary, the strategies discussed here are (1) having advocates apply to your program, (2) responding to applications immediately, (3) encouraging advocates to share on social, (4) inviting advocates to a private online community, (5) giving advocates content that is both informing and entertaining, (6) empowering advocates, and (7) diversifying content delivery.
With these 7 strategies, you have what it takes to get started and be successful. Now enjoy your time working to build your community!