Why You Absolutely Must Build an Online Community for Your Business – Part 1

There is a really big difference between an audience and a community. An audience is one-way. It is not interactive. It isn’t social. An audience passively watches or reads. An audience doesn’t participate. Or share with others. It just observes.

On the other hand, a community is a two-way conversation. It is a living, breathing thing. It is extremely interactive. It is Social. Sure, there are some people who just watch or read, but many more participate and share with their friends. And that is why your business needs to build an online community.

So what exactly is community building? Well, your mother was right; to make friends you have to BE a friend and this especially applies to business marketing online.

It is not enough for a business or brand just to exist on the Internet any more. Your business needs to thrive and attract attention, and the way to do this is have an active community. The days have gone when all businesses needed was an online presence which basically consisted of having a website with a logo on it and a way for people to email you.

Even now, if all you have done is just fired off a few tweets or made a couple of Facebook posts about what your brand has been up to this week, that really is the bare minimum that you can get away with. You need to think of that as being your starting point.

From there you can build a community of like-minded people who aren’t just your customers – they’re also your potential customers, your peers, the leaders, innovators, visionaries and stand-out voices in your industry. If you create a space for all of these people to join you in conversation you and your business will reap huge rewards.

Why Bother?

social media relationships1At the heart of all communities are relationships. Your first step is to identify, reach out and build a relationship with all the diverse groups that fall within the sphere of your business.

This will have positive benefits for your business, particularly in the search engine rankings. Here is the reason why: Google frequently updates its search algorithm to reflect real-world interaction and penalise the companies who are using out-dated and sometimes, unethical Search Engine optimisation (SEO) strategies to bump their web site to the top of the search engines.

This is good news for companies like yours taking part in social media marketing. So long as your marketing efforts align with what a live, actual person would find valuable, your site will not be in any danger of being penalised from algorithm updates. All the people that you are building relationships and establishing a community with, are going to be naturally linking to your website, your content and your blog. You are going to be providing exactly the sort of content that Google is looking for to rank highly in the search engine, and it is all down to having strong relationships with your community.

How A Community Will Help

Without wishing to sound too cynical, if you have created a vibrant online community of people all interested in whatever your business is about, you’ve got a great pool of focussed, targeted people right there at your fingertips to whom you can market to.

However, it goes without saying that you don’t want to do this in a blatant way. If you constantly send out obvious promotional offers and hard-sell sales pitches, your online community will quickly abandon you.

What you need to do is get people excited about your products and services by building relationships, and they will seek you out and buy from you.

It takes time to build a community1

Let’s say for example, that you are running a vibrant community of people interested in running gear and you are contacted by a company that makes sportswear.

They introduce themselves and tell you a bit about what inspired their company. You like the sound of what they’re doing and have a look at a few of their promotional videos, which you decide to share with your own community because they are informative and well made.

This sparks off some good reactions and slowly the brand is introduced to a group of highly targeted potential customers. It is all done without it ever seeming like a hard sell. And in turn, your brands and products are being introduced to another potential community in a virtual circle that feeds off itself. It is a win-win situation.

So being involved in a community can be a way into other markets and potential customers that you might never have reached otherwise, because of the other communities you can share stuff with.

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