Seven things you need to do to grow a loyal community for your business

Want to engage with your customers and create loyal brand fans? Discover seven things you need to do to grow a community for your business. 

The internet is a fantastic tool for bringing bring people with similar interests and passions together; a community can get behind anything imaginable.

All of which is brilliant news for brands. Already big names like Harley Davidson, Lego, Weber and H&R Block are cleverly cultivating loyal communities of customers and fans.

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But you don’t need to be a big brand name with the budget to match to grow a community. With the right approach and consistent effort, even the tiniest business can nurture a rewarding community.

Seven things you need to do to grow a loyal community for your business

If you like the idea of growing a loyal community for your business here are seven things you need to do.

1) Find passionate customers

Every community needs people. And if customers are not genuinely interested in your brand or product, it’s difficult to get the ball rolling.

How do you know if there is enough interest? Do you have loyal customers? Do they buy from you again and again? If you have a newsletter, do people open it? Do customers reach out to you by email or on social media? Are they talking about you positively on social media?

When building a community, it’s not the size that counts, but the passion. Better to have 50 raving fans of your business in your community than 50,000 disinterested followers. You want people who are genuinely interested and engaged with your brand, products and services.

2) Create a rich experience

Creating an online community for your business is more than just an extension of your existing customer service offering. It’s not simply a place to answer questions and gather feedback. Instead, it should offer a unique experience for your customers, and strengthen their relationship with your brand.

So what should you offer customers in your community to make it a rich experience? Here are some ideas:

  • Question and answer opportunities.
  • Conversation openers.
  • Chat hours with your own, unique hashtag.
  • Competitions and offers only available to your community.
  • Behind the scene glimpses – photos, videos, stories.
  • How-to videos and other useful resources.
  • Personal customers stories and case studies.

Whatever you include, post or share in your community, it’s also essential that you are consistent. Don’t start posting daily then get bored. (To ensure this doesn’t happen, plan a monthly content calendar).

And make sure you are suitably engaged with your community. If customers ask you questions, respond. Be human and friendly, and always keep your posts and activity appropriate to your brand.

3) Give up control

While you’ll initially need to be very hands-on in building and managing your community, at some point you need to step back a little and allow it to grow organically. After all, the community doesn’t belong to you – it’s for your customers and users. Once you realise this, the potential is limitless.

You may feel wary about allowing customer-to-customer communication to run wild, but encouraging open discussion will encourage your community to grow naturally. Controlling the conversation will just stifle it.

So unless a post is spam, don’t delete it. And allow critical debate (although keep an eye on it to ensure it stays the right side of polite and reasonable). Treat your community as the most invaluable source of feedback you will have – which it will be if you give it the freedom to flourish independent of your complete control.

Listen to what people say about their problems, dreams and needs. And what they say about your business. Then use the valuable knowledge you learn to improve and create products and services they’ll love.

4) Invest in it

Creating a popular online community doesn’t happen automatically – you will have to invest time and possibly money in it.

So give it your everything. As your community grows, give the time it needs and be prepared to spend money in growing it. This could mean investing in software to host or manage it, or advertising to attract the right people to it. You want your community to be easy to use, look good and be reliable.

Like many things in life and business, the more care, attention and time you invest in building your community, the more it will reward your efforts.

5) Find and share a good mix of content

Good content will grow your community more quickly. So look for content that is educational, inspirational and entertaining, and give it a unique spin.

Find ways for your content to stand out. So if no one else does interviews or videos, work on that. You want a good mix of your own content, and content from third parties that you find and share.

When finding or creating content, always keep in mind the reason why your community exists. It’s for your customers and users, so make sure you are sharing a mix of content that will appeal to them and solve their problems. If your content is too self-serving and me, me, me you’ll just put people off.

Your community is the perfect opportunity for you to establish yourself as an authority in your niche, so find and share content that helps show off your knowledge and expertise.

6) Be consistent

Whatever you include, post or share in your community, it’s essential that you are consistent. So don’t start posting daily then get bored – the last thing you want to find yourself posting is “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.”

To ensure this doesn’t happen, plan a monthly content calendar. Treat your community with the same professionalism as every other area of your business and set aside time every month to plan and manage it.

A monthly content plan will ensure you have a good mix of content to share, and that your community members can rely on seeing fresh content from you regularly. If you use scheduling tools, even better. You can schedule a month’s worth of posts, and even cover times when you’re away from your business on a work trip or holiday.

BUT don’t be so organised that you assume you don’t need to check into your community. As well as posting regular content and updates, you need to be human and engage with posts shared by others, answer questions and just generally ensure your community is friendly and on track to achieve your aims.

7) Measure

So what are those aims? Remember, you’re investing time and possibly money in your community for a reason. And this reason must be connected to your overall business aims.

So be clear about why you’re creating your community, what you want from it, and how you can measure its success. Then schedule regular times to measure whether your community is on track to meet those aims, or whether you need to make some changes.

These changes may be:

  • The type or mix of content shared.
  • The frequency of posting.
  • The type of conversations.
  • The places you promote your community.
  • The audience you promote your community to.
  • How you talk about your community.

It’s also important to assess whether your community is thriving or failing. Are people posting regularly? Are they responding to your content? Sharing your content? Engaging in conversation? Or are you posting into a disinterested vacuum?

You may even decide that your community isn’t repaying the effort you are investing in it, and question whether, long term, it’s going to work for your business, or just become a nice-to-have.

Start building your business community today

If you’ve been toying with the idea of building a community for your business, or have already started, we hope these seven strategies have inspired you.

Growing a community isn’t always easy in the beginning, but if you approach it properly and consistently, it will more than reward your efforts.

Nicole Anderson works in marketing for Outbax Camping, Australia’s number one online store for camping gear and camping equipment.