Boost Your Brand! Create an Online Community for Your Business

Online marketingSocial media has sparked a whole new way to market yourself and your company. So you need to make the most of the opportunities social media can provide. One of the best ways is to build an online community centered around your brand.

Having an online community is the fastest way to spread news about your brand. “Your community will share, like, comment, and spread the good word of your brand. They become brand advocates that will virtually spread the word,” says marketing producer and trainer Brandon Lewin.

Social media offers unique marketing opportunities. Building an online community can give your business access to branding techniques that are unavailable through any other marketing vehicle. Your company can become ‘the’ authoritative voice in your industry,” notes Lori Kaye, director at Lion LinQ, which specializes in social media and integrated marketing strategies for small businesses.

Make sure to examine the reasons you want to create an online community and what you want to achieve. “Determine ‘why’ you should be using social media: sales funnel, educate your community, offer customer service, answer questions, etc. There’s likely a combination of reasons you’ll be looking to grow an online community; the more the merrier,” explains Kaye. “Then, pursue each one; Facebook has integrated new options for selling your products, plus there are many free apps to connect to your e-commerce website so you can start selling! For companies with products, Instagram has also reflected a boost in sales and reach in community by using smart hashtag campaigns. Allow your Twitter followers to tweet your questions, or answer your community’s questions through a blog.”

Build your online community when you have time to dedicate to it. “It’s not extremely time consuming, but it does take time, effort, and dedication,” notes Lewin. “Each small business’s situation is different. Here is one way to do it: Start with a simple plan. ‘Who you are targeting. Why. What value will you bring to them.’ What resources will you use. Have goals and track them. Have one person dedicated to each channel. Push out content – you can use schedulers to maximize your time. Interact with people – spend 10-30 minutes a day or an hour every couple of days. See what works. Then, do more of that.”

Even though it will take some dedication, building an online community isn’t as hard as you might think. You can take a few steps to get one up and running.

–Set yourself/you company up as an expert in your industry.
Wiring blogs on various industry issues can help you establish yourself as an expert as well as being quoted in the media.

–Make yourself helpful to your clients and online community. Offer advice and respond to comments and complaints. “Help your community members solve problems. Interact on a one-on-one basis and on a mass scale,” says Lewin.

–Organize your team and hand out social media responsibilities to employees. “Once you make the appropriate social pages, Facebook, Instagram, Blogger, Tubmlr, etc. build in daily tasks that your team can undertake within their positions. Have your manager or supervisor take on some content posts using a software like Hootsuite or Pagemodo to keep costs down and results up. Your small team can take photos of their daily workings, community events, happy customers, top-selling products, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of your business, etc. and post to your social communities,” says Kaye.

–Measure your results. “Use the analytics in Hootsuite to learn how your posts are engaging with your communities. Twitter also has search options that an owner or small staff member can easily research and track,” suggests Linda Pophal, owner/CEO of Strategic Communications, LLC.

–Hit the target.
Know who your audience is and directly market to them. “Clearly identify your desired target market; the narrower the better,” offers Pophal. “Effective marketing communications requires segmenting a large audience into discreet segments that represent opportunity for the business/business professional.”

–Coordinate your social media plan. “Develop key messages and content calendars/schedules to identify how you will purpose – and cross-purpose – content across these various channels,” says Pophal.