Building your online community through social media

How do you find your online tribe? According to our social media specialist, it involves transparency, the right platform and a great online persona.

With nearly 8 in 10 Australians on social media in 2017, this platform has become a valuable space for small businesses to create an environment conducive to fostering relationships with their customers. 

And given that 64 per cent of consumers check a brand’s social media presence before making a purchase, it makes sense for these businesses to work hard at building a strong online community. 

Australia Post’s Social Media Specialist, Mark Broadhead, has a few pointers on how to get started and keep it growing.

Find your people 

“It’s about finding your target audience,” says Mark. “You want like-minded people who are interested in what you’re talking about and then start engaging with them in a two-way conversation. This builds trust and ultimately, more customers.” 

That engagement can range from ‘likes’ and comment to video views, and shared content. The effectiveness of this engagement can be measured with social media metrics based on your business objectives.  

When it comes to seeking out the right people, Mark recommends narrowing your search down to locality and a person’s social media activity. 

“Say you’re in the hiking industry and want to build an Instagram community. Look for hikers who follow your competitors in the same region and start following those who engage the most with the other brands. Then begin the conversation by engaging with them on their personal pages to make them aware of your presence.”

But Mark also cautions against blindly following everyone and anyone. “It always looks a bit off balance if someone has 120 followers but is following thousands of people. In other words, be discerning. 

Be transparent 

Having your business on social media should be about humanising your brand by giving people a little access behind the scenes. “A lot of new businesses leave their marketing for last. They get set up and then decide to start promoting,” says Mark.

“But if you start thinking about your social media marketing strategy from the beginning, you’ll have the opportunity to involve your customers in the different stages of setting up – painting the walls, creating signs and new business cards. This takes people on the personal journey behind your brand, and that’s what creates the connections.”

Make your customers your content heroes

A recent study by user-generated content (UGC) platform, Stackla, showed that 60 per cent of consumers view UGC as the most authentic form of content. This isn’t just great for your brand’s reputation, but is also an ideal way to start a conversation with your customers. And it’s also cost-effective for your marketing budget. 

“You’re getting people to create their own content about your product and giving them kudos by sharing their post,” says Mark. “What you’ll also find is that you’re not only starting conversations with your customer but also between them and other customers.”

There are a number of ways to inspire UGC. For Facebook, you can encourage customers to tag or mention you in any post about your brand. On Instagram, hashtags are a great way to see who loves your brand and is sharing images of it.

A social media competition is one way to spark UGC. “A little incentive can go a long way when it comes to boosting engagement with your brand,” says Mark.

Choosing the right platform 

A key part of your marketing strategy involves finding out which platform your audience is using. 

For business-to-business companies, LinkedIn and Twitter foster a thought leadership environment and serve as ideal platforms to engage with others in your industry on the most relevant topics. LinkedIn, especially, lets you share insightful posts with a like-minded audience, which is ideal for lead generation

Facebook and Instagram are more suited for business-to-consumer companies, with Instagram being the dominant platform for targeting millennials and Facebook for reaching the broadest demographic.

Whichever platform you choose Mark says, it’s a mix of relevant content plus your online persona and a good product that will lead people to your brand.  

Flaunting a great online persona

In real life, people are drawn to those with interesting personalities. The same applies to social media. Here are a few quick tips to help you nail a strong online persona: 

  • Invest in face time: Nothing beats face-to-face interaction so when you meet new or potential customers, tell them about your online community. Once they get to know and like you in real life, they may just become your best brand advocates. 
  • Be human: You want people to care about you and your brand, so an empathetic, human voice that people can connect with is just as important as sleek content. 
  • Serve your community: Building a community is the first step. The next is adding value to it so be generous about sharing some of your expertise. If you’re a craft maker, you could make a how-to video. Or if you run a restaurant, share a not-so-secret recipe.
  • Be present, be consistent: You need to actively listen to your audience and understand their interests. Be consistent with your posting but don’t post so much that you can’t keep up with engagement and feedback. It’s always about quality over quantity. 
  • Outline a community policy: It’s beneficial to have a community policy that outlines the behaviour you expect from users and vice versa. If you’re a family brand, for example, then make it clear that you will only engage in respectful conversation. 

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