Remember when Facebook marketing was the easiest thing in the world? Someone could “like” a brand name, and then that Page could just spam them with updates four times a day?
Those days are long gone. Social media marketing is much more competitive, and there are a lot more challenges that need to be overcome, including declining organic reach and an audience that is more demanding than ever before.
Social media marketing has evolved, and the need to form real relationships with our followers has taken priority. Many brands are trying different strategies to do this, and we’ve seen a shift towards developing communities instead of just followings.
Social media communities are the way of the future. In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into why social media community building is so important, what it looks like, and how you can start to foster your own.
Why Does Building an Online Community Matter So Much?
Before I moved, there was a kickboxing studio I used to go to. It was unlike other gyms I’d been to before. You got to really know the trainers and even the other people working out, too. Real relationships were formed, work out buddies were established, and the group became a community. It made us all significantly more likely to get out of bed early enough to get over there and get going.
I’ll give you another example. I’m in multiple professional Facebook groups for writers and/or marketers. These groups are closed to the public, but you see people sharing personal information and stories, reaching out to each other, and forming friendships. I have made legitimate friendships that have extended offline in these groups, too.
There’s something in common here with both examples: the human connections that are very real. These relationships develop into a community, and keep us all coming back time and time again.
When it comes to social media, fostering this kind of community is how you create a connection with your followers that feels meaningful. It will keep people engaging, which keeps you high in the algorithms, and it promotes crazy high brand loyalty. You’re adding value and emotional connection to people’s lives in addition to just a simple product or service, making them more invested in you overall.
What Exactly Are Online Communities?
Online communities are really just groups of people who feel connected to your brand and, ideally, your other followers. This can happen inside formal groups, on discussion threads, and even on UGC shared about your brand.
Signs of a social media community include:
- People enthusiastically sharing content about your brand.
- Followers engaging with your brand and starting conversations on your own.
- Having followers not only engage with your content, but the content of their peers, too.
- When people aren’t only using your page to complain about customer service; they’re also discussing or sharing industry news or tips, their personal experience, or tips they’ve learned.
Still not sure what this would look like? After I moved and had to leave my beloved kickboxing studio, I joined an online kickboxing company, which a Facebook group for members.
People are constantly sharing their experiences, asking other members for advice even more than engaging with the brand. This is a community, and while it’s centered around a brand, it’s not limited to it.
How to Establish Communities on Social Media
Social media community building pretty much sounds like a marketer’s dream, right? Fortunately, establishing these communities isn’t as elusive as you’d think; you just need the right strategies and content in place. Here are some of the best ways to do this.
Create Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups were one of The Biggest Things for marketers in 2018, with more branded groups emerging and actually getting the strategy right. Within these closed groups (which should be for customers/members only), you can share valuable information that is relevant to your audience, even if it isn’t brand related.
Encourage discussion and questions, and have an exceptional customer service rep on hand to tackle everything.
Share User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is not only an incredibly persuasive marketing medium, it’s also a powerful community building tool. Creating UGC campaigns to encourage the creation of content about your brand is an excellent way to start to build a community even if you have no interest in running an actual Facebook Page.
When users create UGC and see it shared by a brand, it creates a lot of loyalty. They feel valued and appreciated, and are more likely to engage on posts moving forward. As you keep this up, increasing numbers of your followers start to feel a sense of ownership on your brand and become the kind of advocates that help you form an online community right on your public Pages.
Tieks has always done an excellent job with this. They share a lot of UGC on social media and on their site, and by generating conversations well with their followers, they’ve created a solid online community who promotes them constantly.
Host Social Media Challenges
Social media contests are a commonly-used strategy to build engagement, but social media challenges are an excellent strategy to build communities.
Challenges can be directly competitive with other members, or they can be task-specific to an individual. You can, for example, have “who can create the best pescatarian recipe” or opt for “3 weeks of cooking pescatarian.”
Ideally, these challenges should be “hosted” in one place on social media. If you have a Facebook group, that’s a great choice, but even posting updates on your brand Pages work great, too. Post regular updates to keep people engaged, and ask them to share their progress, too.
Video marketing is a natural partner to social media challenges. Video is engaging, and you can provide more information about challenges in an upbeat, excited way.
For best results with challenges, give users a reason why they should complete it. Are they getting into shape? Learning something new? Developing a skill, or having a new experience? Explain why they’ll benefit, and watch the participation start pouring in.
Live video is an excellent choice for community building, because it puts a huge emphasis on interacting right now. It’s unscripted and authentic, and even though you’re on opposite ends of a screen, it feels like there’s nothing separating you and your audience members.
You can go live in groups, or public pages, but make sure that when you do, the focus of the video is on engaging with your followers. Q&As are great options for this reason.
A few groups I’m in will regularly feature lives, where group members can ask whatever questions they can think of. It’s almost like personal consulting, but it a way that everyone benefits, and it brings all of your followers together.
You can learn more about live videos here.
A product is just a product, and a brand, however great it is, can also just be a brand. If you’re able to develop a community around your brand or product, however, what you have to offer becomes immensely more valuable to your target audience. The ability to have more real relationships with your clients while adding something special to their lives will set you apart and keep them around for a long time to come.
Interested in using more video to tell your brand’s story and help with community building? Shakr’s video templates make it easy to create engaging, personalized videos for your community quickly. Learn more here.
What do you think? How do you foster an engaging social media community? How has your online community impacted your brand (and sales)?. Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!