Ways to Boost Your Online Community

Ways to Boost Your Online Community - Twitter Smarter chat with Bella Vasta -July 25, 2019

Online communities are the rage nowadays. Not only do we all want to be part of a community, but we also want to start our own. The reason is simple human science: everyone wants to feel like they belong.

Since it’s such an important conversation, we decided to make it the topic of our #TwitterSmarter chat. We invited Bella Vasta to answer our questions about building a sustainable network. As a business consultant, keynote speaker, and writer, Bella has trained and led thousands of businesses to success. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Topic: Ways to Boost Your Online Community
Guest: Bella Vasta
Format: Eight questions directed to the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: How do you define an online community?

An online community is a group of people who share ideas, opinions, and advice on an online platform. Every social media has thousands of communities, discussing a range of topics. As Bella said, these topics usually revolve around a product, service, or an interest.

It’s important to remember, as Rachel pointed out, that a community is more than people making noise—it treats each person as an equal, with frequent interaction, feedback, and criticism. One of the key elements of an online community is inclusiveness and mutual respect.

Q2: Who should build an online community?

Community building is a trend and a full-time job. Everyone talks about it even when they don’t know what they’re talking about. That’s community engagement right there.

As Bella told us, subconsciously we all participate and build communities around conversations we care about. Offline or online, a group of friends, a weekly Twitter chat, a Facebook group, or an event discussion—they’re all communities.

Having a community, and being part of one, is great way to stay updated, to get new ideas, and to feel welcomed. And for a business, it’s essential to identify their needs and wants.

A word of caution, though. Like Jake mentioned, not every brand or business has the resources to invest in community building right away. Even though it’s an elemental part of online marketing, community management takes a lot of time and effort. You need to weigh your priorities and options before diving headfirst into it.

Q3: Why is it important for a brand to have a community?

People in your community are your cheerleaders. Engaging with them, thanking them for their support, and acknowledging their efforts are all good ways to make you and your business approachable. As Bella put it, building a community humanizes a brand.

Plus, it’s an easy way to do research. Think about it—you have so many people who care about you and want to help you become a better brand. Run surveys, polls, ask for feedback, test your products, and get them involved in the way you do business.

Not only does having a brand make you more relatable, but it also helps establish yourself as an industry leader. Our friends at Olesco said it well. The more you interact with your community, the more recognizable your brand becomes.

Q4: How, if at all, can you use automation in community building?

No one likes fake auto DMs. They’re a menace. But that doesn’t mean you should shun automation altogether. When used strategically, as our guest said, automation can be a handy tool.

Make a content plan and use automation tools to schedule posts in advance. You can even run regular challenges by scheduling them. This way, you’ll get more time to respond to your audience and participate in real-time interactions.

Jake gave us a great example. Consider using automation to invite people. Facebook chat bots are all about this. We can’t all be online 24/7. So set up auto acknowledgements, instead, and follow up after with a genuine response.

Q5: What are some features of good communities?

When you come across a community on Twitter, Facebook, or any other platform, you’ll know right away if they’re worth your time. Because they have what all good communities have: genuine conversations, helpful comments, and a kickass moderator that everyone respects.

It’s important for a community to have a proper leader who knows their role. Their purpose is to serve the community and foster good harmony between participants. They’re actively involved and show how much each member matters to the community.

Apart from a good leader, Joana suggested a few other aspects of a good community. Like rules, for example. They help moderators keep conversations civil, and a good community isn’t afraid to establish rules. Similarly, a community is pointless without a well defined goal or a common interest.

Think of a community as a tribe, as Alberto reminded us. It’s family.

Q6: How do you choose a platform to build your community?

Go where your audience is. It’s the oldest and most underrated advice on social media. Bella pointed out that sometimes your audience will be on multiple platforms. In that case, identify which type of content works on which platform and form your goals accordingly. For example, use Facebook to gather feedback and post articles, and Instagram to share updates on your new home office.

And as our new community member Nidhi said so well, you don’t always have to go out of your way to create a community. They’re already all around you—just head over and blend in.

Q7: What are some mistakes brands make with community building?

Oh, my. This is a big question.

Bella gave us her top three mistakes that brands make while building a community:

  1. Setting it up and forgetting to engage. You need to give people a reason to return to your profile, your webpage, and your conversations.
  2. Not defining goals and purpose to your audience. This means you don’t have a plan or a strategy in addressing your audience.
  3. Faltering leadership. We spoke about the importance of having a good moderator. A manager who can’t handle the pressure can be the unbecoming of a community.

A few other mistakes, as pointed out by our community:

  • Hiring content creators who don’t know the community, who don’t care
  • Jumping on the trending (sometimes irrelevant) bandwagon, hoping to get overnight success
  • Being salesy and spammy with your messages
  • Not listening to your audience
  • Failing to respond and acknowledge your audience
  • Being inconsistent in posting and messaging
  • Not offering valuable content
  • Trying to dominate conversations, without letting the community engage with each other
  • Being mechanical, copying other brands, and a total lack of authenticity

Q8: What are some things to remember when you’re building a community from scratch?

Apart from all the general dos and don’ts of community building, always remember the big picture. Understand the purpose of building a community and see how that will impact your overall revenue. It’s a long term strategy, and be mindful of that right from the start.

If you can, collaborate with other stakeholders in your business and know how a social community ties into your sales model. This will help you keep your messaging consistent across all channels.

Oh, and lastly, as Jignesh says, be open minded, friendly, helpful, and have fun.

That’s all for this week, folks. Feel free to share your thoughts by tweeting out to either Madalyn or meself.

If you can spare an hour of your Thursday, join us at 1pm ET for the next #TwitterSmarter chat.


About me, Narmadhaa:

I’m a writer of all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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