As more shoppers move away from brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online, building and growing an online community is more important than ever. There are many online stores or service organizations that do the same thing. To make your business stand out, you have to show online users the faces behind the online storefront. Let them know that, yes, real people are there to provide service and support. One of the best ways to show your business’s “human” side is through a strong online community. Your business probably has a Facebook page, Twitter account and LinkedIn page. But simply having them is not enough. Social media community building is something you have to actively work on. Follow these tips to build a better online community.
Show the Faces and the Places
If you look at the LBF Travel LinkedIn page, you’ll not only see what the company does, you also see the people who do the work. You see smiling faces who look a lot like you and your neighbors. They are people who work hard, have fun, raise kids and lead productive lives – the kind of people you’d want to deal with if you walked into a brick-and-mortar store in your neighborhood.
Posting behind-the-scenes pictures of people at work, staff members at an office party, company celebrations and other events gives online users a sense of your organization and the people behind it.
Invite Follower Interaction
Customers who are excited about what your company does tell their friends. That’s the real power behind online communities — you make it fun and exciting for your customers and they tell everyone.
How do you promote the sharing spirit? It’s not by making every single post a sales pitch. In fact, sales should be on the back burner when it comes to building a community. Sure, post that you’re having a sale. Post when you introduce a new product. But, those types of posts should not be your focus.
Instead, focus on starting discussions, asking questions, reading and responding to comments. Use humor. Be kind. Deal with complaints. In fact, how you deal with online complaints is one of the best opportunities you’ll ever have. All businesses make mistakes, but if you own up to the mishap and fix the problem, you’ll earn the admiration of current and prospective customers alike.
Engage Your Community
Engaging followers is key to creating and growing a successful online business community. Try these tips to connect with followers and keep them coming back:
- Ask followers for ideas about the kinds of products or services they’d like to see you offer in the future.
- Ask followers for suggestions to improve current products and services.
- Have contests where winners receive a free product or gift certificate.
- Post general news articles relevant to your business and ask for follower comments.
Most important, interact, discuss, reply to and get to know your online followers. Show them who you are. They probably can’t come in and meet you in person, but if you successfully build an online community and stay in tune with it, they’ll feel like they know you. And, that’s good for business.