7 Things the #BizHeroes Community Can Teach You about Growing Your Community

In the last 12 months, our #BizHeroes chat has grown by leaps and bounds, to reach almost 700 million timeline deliveries! How cool is that?!

We owe it all to you. Your participation, feedback, and insights taught us a lot about building the Paper.li community in the right way.

Community is our backbone, it is really what inspires us to be better and to continue providing value through guests and interesting topics. With that in mind, I have decided to bring you of the best tips from two of our most recent chats: “The Culture of Sharing: Why We Share and What it Means w/ the #BizHeroes Community” and “How to Build an Online Community with guest Mack Collier.”

I hope this week’s roundup will motivate you to start your own community. And if you already have a branded one, this list should help you take it to the next level.

1. Start with Specific Goals

Communities are not exclusive to certain industries or big companies. Every marketer and business can build a successful one.

With that said, before jumping on the bandwagon, there is is one thing to take into consideration: What you wish to achieve.

Your goals could be as simple as offering better customer care, encouraging loyalty and advocacy, providing a helping and supportive hub, and/or letting your fans steal the show.

When it comes to the latter, the Ford Motor Company is a great example to follow and learn from. Its Ford Photo Community on Google+ gives fans the opportunity to share and discuss their love for the cars. Not only does it humanize Ford, but it also allows it to identify brand advocates and potential influencers.

The next step in your strategy is to determine if you need to start your community from scratch. Listening to social media conversations conversations around your name, company, and content will help. There are many tools for that purpose: Mention.net, TweetDeck, Google Alerts, HootSuite, Social Mention…

Building on those conversations will allow you to understand how to meet your audience where they are really comfortable interacting with you. People are usually a lot more receptive that way.

Finally, take into consideration your current needs and resources. Remember that things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

“What if I am not my own boss and I need to convince management to invest in community building?” A great question! The #BizHeroes community has answers for you:

  • Spell out costs and benefits
  • Share the results of your company’s consumer care efforts
  • Do competitor analyses to measure growth
  • Show case studies of brands doing it right

2. Focus on What Customers Want

What I am about to say is nothing new. However, I think it bears repeating: There is no community without an audience. Business owners and marketers need to acknowledge and celebrate them.

So, how can you make it about your customers at all time with your community?

Loyalty and increased sales imply a two-way-street strategy…

3. Treat People Like Human Beings

Do you know that 73 percent of consumers are likely to buy from a responsive social brand? Also, more than half of internet users would recommend a company if they were rewarded for it.

Advocacy is one of the most effective way to build your brand’s reputation. Why? Because advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as good sources of information by people around them.

So, why aren’t we seeing more company run successful communities? I’ll let #BizHeroes participants answer:

  • “Not understanding the full time investment it takes to sustain the community. Don’t build a community and leave.” – @ThinkSEM
  • “Communities do NOT form around the idea of being monetized.” – @MackCollier
  • Companies “try to force ROI instead of fostering quality activity.” – @CWPBIZ
  • “Lack of commitment, consistency and failing to know their target audience.” @prettygreentea
  • “Only talking about brand. Talking to a wall vs. talking to real ppl. Social media is not a brochure.” – @milguy23
  • “The ‘I know why my customers want to hear/see’ mentality. Not listening!” – @bdaniell628
  • “Expecting the audience to jump in and start the discussions for you.” – @christophrrice
  • “Building a community to create the hype of a launch and then forgetting them after.” – @Plumlytics
  • “Forcing content down people’s throats that they aren’t interested in. Listen to and grow w/ them.” – @CBarrows
  • “People don’t want to be pitched to. They want to be listened to & spoken with. They’re looking for a relationship with you.” – @KDHungerford

4. Make It a Comfortable Experience

Have you ever heard of NASA Social? The government agency created the hub a few years ago to promote its missions, people, programs, and behind-the-scenes events.

Whenever one of these events is set to happen, NASA invites bloggers and other social media influencers to apply for media credentials. The eligibility requirements are simple: You must be an active social networker, post clean content, and have a large, non-traditional audience.

Selected applicants enjoy the same privileges as journalists! These include the ability to meet astronauts, cover space launches, and share their experiences with their networks.

Genius, right? Well, that’s the way a great branded community should be. It’s not just about impacting campaigns. You also want to build an emotional connection with your audience. From there stem regular contributions and participation.

Thriving branded communities are hotbeds of positive conversations and connections, which often start naturally. Members do not just enjoy engaging with the companies or marketers behind them, they also respect and help one another, welcome new members with open arms, and side with brands when need be.

5.Encourage Sharing

According to a New York Times study published in 2014, people have never shared more content than today. But they don’t do it thoughtlessly. More than 9 in 10 online users focus on  value, while 68% of people see it as a way to define themselves to others.

Here are more reasons people share content, according to the study:

  • To establish a rapport with users they would usually not connect with (78%)
  • To find and interact with like-minded people (73%)
  • To support causes and brands they care about (84%)

By encouraging user-sharing and the pooling of resources, brands open the door to collective problem-solving, progress, and innovation. They also show members of their communities that they respect them:

6. Involve Your Employees

People work differently from 15 or 20 years ago. They want their contributions to be valued, as well as take an active part in the success of their companies. Employers that foster that kind of culture lead brands that are more successful than others.

How so? According to a 2012 Columbia University report, a rich company environment keep job turnover low (13.9%), compared to a poor one (48.4%). Happy employees are also 12% more productive, as stated by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick.

“Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%, they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off,” says Professor Oswald, one of the leaders of the study.

Your greatest assets are not just customers. They are also your employees, to quote Entrepreneur’s Eric Siu. Why? Because the happier they are, the more they are likely to engage with your audience and positively influence their purchasing decisions.

Actually, companies with satisfied workers outperform the competition by 20% and are more than 2% above industry benchmarks!

7. Some Tools to Manage an Online Community  

Managing a branded community is a lot of work. Fortunately, there are tools that will make your work easier. Here is a short list:

  • @nuvi has a great way to pick up convos and assign to someone directly. Great for comm mgrs!” – @bdaniell628
  • “Google Analytics for tracking content & visitor engagement, analysing & taking action on data.” – @jacobhenenberg
  • “Definitely have to add @movystream as a great video software to manage a community as well.” – @chevd80
  • “Sometimes community management is as simple as #HootSuite, sometimes more like #Radian6.” – @JoeBugBuster
  • “Forums can work, Twitter chats are great as #bizheroes proves, a blog, a Facebook group can work, anywhere that people can come together.” – @MackCollier

With that said, do not obsess over tools. Make sure they fit into your strategy, workflow, and budget. And don’t forget to leverage the human part of the equation:

What are your tips to build a thriving branded community? Share your experience with us!

Cendrine Marrouat
Paper.li Blog Staff Writer, Cendrine Marrouat is a French-born social media coach, curator, and author. She is the founder of Social Media Slant and the #smslantchat Twitter chat. Her latest e-book release, "The Little Big eBook on Social Media Audiences: Build Yours, Keep It and Win", is a comprehensive guide focusing on the four pillars of audience building. Follow her on Google+.

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