Gini Dietrich

Build Your Online Community

By: Gini Dietrich | October 15, 2009 | 

Yesterday our newsletter focused on tips to begin to build your community. I thought I’d repost a portion of it here.

The time in the early life of social media has come where people are beginning to question if it’s valuable. Many of our clients, friends, and peers have mentioned to us that they don’t see it working and are about to give up.

But wait! Don’t give up yet!

The one thing we see in common with those telling us social media doesn’t work is they haven’t yet built their community.  Community, you ask?  Why do I need a community?

What is the first thing you do when you go to a networking event? And don’t say get a drink…that’s assumed.  If you know someone, you walk up to that person and let them introduce you to the people with whom they’re talking, right?  You find something in common with those people and you engage in conversation. At some point during the conversation, you decide if these people are going to refer business to you (or vice versa), if you’re going to do business together, or if you are going to become friends.

The same philosophy works in social media. You are building your community in order to gain referral sources, prospect for new business, recruit talent, and find like-minded people who help your knowledge base and wisdom grow.

With direct precision you can find your target audiences, your competitors, or industry experts.  Following are some tools to begin to build your community, by finding the right people to follow.

* Twellow is a directory of public Twitter accounts, with hundreds of categories and search features to help you find people who matter to you. Once you register, you can update your profile and categories, add links to your other social media profiles, and create an extended bio. You can also search for people in your city, state, region, industry, or by job title.

* With MrTweet, you can discover people, enhance your existing relationships, and be discovered by other people who are naturally relevant to you.

* If your target audiences are business owners and leaders, then ExecTweets is the tool for you to use. It allows you to search by industry and follow people who are on Twitter that are good targets for you.

* WeFollow allows you to type in different tags that help you find people who are great targets for you. For instance, you can search by company, industry, title, or interest/hobbies.

* If you haven’t already, download a desktop application, such as TweetDeck, PeopleBrowsr, or Hootsuite. As you begin to follow people, you’ll create groups to keep track of them. Your groups may include competitors, industry reporters, employees, your referral network, clients/customers, vendors, and/0r industry organizations.

By using these tools, following 10-30  at a time (then, after they follow you back, follow another 10-30), and beginning to network, you’ll be building your community one day at a time.  Most people say to us, “But no one is paying attention to what I’m saying!” Then we go to their Twitter stream and see that everything they’re posting is all about them and there aren’t any conversations happening.

If you look at this less as a way to get the word out about the great things you’re doing (initially) and more as a way to network and find new relationships in order to meet your business goals, you’ll see the value of social media in a month or less. You’ll be building a community of friends who want to help spread the word about the great things you’re doing.

What have I missed that you would include for those wanting to build their online communities?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • One other suggestion that I would make, is via twitter, go and look who your competition is following or following them. Listen to their conversations and join in. I think sometimes we are scared of our competition, but I saw an interesting blog yesterday about blogging and it talked about using content from your competitions blogs. Not to steal it, but rather to tell you community that you are more interested in providing good content. This also tells your competition that you respect them, have an abundance prospective not a scarcity. Build the community together . . .

  • Great post, Gini!
    These are excellent recommendations for people to follow. I see people doing well with Twitter these days with smaller numbers of followers. As attractive as large numbers of followers might be, I think the ones who stay small are able to have more sincere and authentic conversations. I find myself using Twitter as a search engine or portal and much of the blog content I read is now coming from twitter.

  • Hi Gini,

    Thanks for posting another great piece on building communities through social media. Many thought that with the advent of social media the human factor of building relationships would disappear, that we would all become faceless drones, hiding behind avatars locked to our computers.

    Social Media in most cases has had the exact opposite affect. For those who continue to apply the principles of community and relationship building through social media avenues have seen their lives enriched at an exponential level. We are able to connect and share with people our thoughts, our experiences and our knowledge in real time. No longer are our communities bound by the geographies that we live in but rather by how wide we want to open our doors and let other in.

    As you point out, building those communities can not be about taking from them and should focus on what you bring to the table and are able to offer. Additonally, building communities is also about being engaged with them. Expecting your community to be there for you when you weren’t there for them is pointless.

    Thanks again for the great reminder on how to build communities.


  • @SocialDave DM’d me on Twitter and said to add TweepSearch to the list so I’m putting it here so I don’t forget!

    @Ljuba (I really want to call you Tstone)Isn’t it true that athletes and celebrities get energized from their fans? The same applies to your community. If you take the time to build and enhance your relationships within your community, you’ll be energized by them daily.

    @TS Please don’t go look and see how many followers I have! Actually, someone asked me the numbers question yesterday and I responded that at about 500 is perfect for most people. It’s enough to manage and create viral campaigns, but still have the ability to connect and engage with each individual.

    @Nate Great reminder on monitoring your competition! I agree with you that you can find ways to work together or hoist each other up to better the industry.

  • Gini,
    One of my favorite desktop apps for Twitter is Seesmic. I know I promised to comment with that after the last SMBChicago event 😉
    Also, speaking of communities, @SMCChicago is holding an event on 10/22 discussing communities and have some great panelists.
    Personally one of my favorite ways of meeting local tweeps (being the Lake County suburban guy I am) is to search for tweets with the local towns names. If I see an interesting tweet, I check out who it came from, follow them and introduce myself if they follow me back. Easy, effective, targeted.

  • I always forget about Seesmic. Thanks Tim!