Gini Dietrich

Building Community: A Step-By-Step Process to Get Started

By: Gini Dietrich | February 12, 2019 | 
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A Step-By-Step Process to Build CommunityA few months ago, our content team recommended I do more video, especially in our Facebook advertising.

Uggggggggggg.

They weren’t wrong…I just have a hard time doing video.

I prefer to write.

But I took their advice and put my big girl pants on and created some Facebook video ads.

And then the trolls came out.

One guy said he couldn’t take me seriously because of the contractor grade lighting fixture in the background. The Z Gallerie light fixture my dad gave me as a wedding gift.

(Granted it was 16 years ago. But it was a gift!)

Another guy said he didn’t like my tube TV armoire. The one I use as a china cabinet because I live in a 130-year-old house that has zero storage. But hey! I have all original floors and millwork.

(No one commented on that, of course.)

I’m not going to pretend I felt great about it. I didn’t. It hurt my feelings. Here I had put myself out there and this is what people are commenting on? Argh!

But what happened next was pretty wonderful.

All because we have one of the very best online communities in the world!

Why Would I Want a Branded Community?

Before I tell you what happened, let’s talk about online communities.

An online community is made up of people who know you or your brand.

They LIKE you or your brand.

And they engage with you and—and this is the most important part—engage with one another.

Much of your content marketing works to get people more familiar and comfortable with your brand values and messaging, but community building takes this a step further.

It allows your fans and followers to get to know and support one another.

Not only will they be participating in an environment you create, which is great for reputation and sales, but they’ll talk about you to other people. 

They’ll evangelize for your products or services.

Community members are the MVPs of your audience.

They’ve taken the time and energy to create content, get involved and make their voices heard.

They’re the best of the best, and when you have a good group of them, they provide many benefits.

So how do get one of those elusive communities?

Unfortunately, you can’t wave your magic wand, open a Facebook group and expect the community to happen.

It takes time, a lot of it has to be organic, and everyone involved has to really want to be there.

The Community Secret Sauce

Lots of people ask us for our Spin Sucks community secret sauce and I’ll tell you what it is…

Time.

I know, I know.

That’s a terrible answer, but it’s true.

We’ve been building, engaging with, and building trust with our community for, gosh, 10 years? TEN YEARS? Holy smokes.

I think it was 2009.

First on the blog, then on Facebook, and then, two years ago, we moved to Slack.

We found people wanted to continue to have conversations, but they wanted to do it in a less public way.

That’s why we created specific channels on Slack for it.

It took a little prodding at first, but now we’re at 2009 engagement levels again.

If you’re going about creating a community a little more intentionally, there are some specific things that will help you get going.

The First Steps to Building Community

The first is to start asking for engagement on the social networks where you are active now.

If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, ask questions and respond to the answers.

If you get comments on your blog, respond to them.

You can even send personal thank you notes to folks who contribute to your content.

(That is a Mark Schaefer trick.)

Demonstrate through your actions and responses how much you value and appreciate people taking the time to tell you their thoughts.

If you notice that you have a frequent engager or two, look into them!

Do they have a blog or business? Promote it!

Treat your fans how you want them to treat you.

Read and engage with their work, connect them to people and resources who can help them grow.

Sure, it’s not scalable, but it works as you’re starting out.

People spend time with your content.

They want to know that they’ve been heard and appreciated.

Where to Build Community

You set the tone for how your community will be by acting like the kind of community you want and making it easy for people to do the same.

Do it enough times, with enough people, and it will start to snowball.

Then they’ll be ready for something more.

When you have the people who are ready for a more permanent place to engage, you need to create it for them.

Options for online communities abound—Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Slack channels, membership forums, Mighty Networks—there’s no shortage, but you need to choose one to be your community headquarters.

In a community headquarters, your members will know you’re likely to be there, hanging out with them, answering questions, and making information available.

What’s important to consider, however, is just how much work someone is willing to put into a community.

The more invested they are in engaging with you and one another, the more they’ll work to get used to a new platform.

For example, it would be easier to get people into a Facebook group than a Mighty Networks community because most people already spend time on Facebook and know how it works.

That said, a community on Mark Zuckerberg’s platform will always belong to Mark Zuckerberg.  

What Community Can Do For You

Outside of your community headquarters, make sure it’s easy for community members to find one another on the outside.

They should be able to comment on your blog posts, engage on your social media pages, and hear from you via email.

The different platforms work together to create little circles on the internet where people who know and like each other are able to meet and chat about their area of interest—all curated and provided for by you.

It can become a powerful ecosystem!

So, what has having a community done for me personally?

Well, when I was sitting in front of my computer writing and rewriting responses to the guys who didn’t like my furniture or light fixtures, the community came to my rescue.

It was a smorgasbord of incredibly nice comments about what we offer the industry, the value we provide to the industry, and everything we do to give back.

I didn’t have to lift a finger—and I will always be grateful.

I don’t have anything to top those warm fuzzy feelings for today, so I’m going to invite you to join the best community on the internet (cough, cough), if you aren’t already there.

And now I open the comments to you…

What has been your experience with online communities?

Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

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, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.