The strength of your community is critical to the strength of your business. A strong community will produce loyal customers and will help create awareness for your brand.
Learning how to engage your users will help you strengthen your community and drive traffic and sales.
Here are a few effective things you can do to engage your community:
Identify a Real Need
You may need to get more customers and make more sales, but that’s not what your customers care about or need.
You need to identify a real need for your customers by asking yourself questions like, “What goals do my customers have?” or “What concerns do they have?”
You then need to offer information or solutions that address these needs. That’s a basic rule for a successful business, but it’s also what you need to do to build and engage your community. You may need to create articles, tutorials, videos, or even online courses that address these needs.
Fresh content and offerings are needed to continually re-engage the members of your community.
One of the easiest ways to find out what your community needs is to just listen.
Instead of trying to manage the conversation happening on your blog and social networks, sit back and find out what you can learn from the dialogue. What are your customers talking about? What do they seem to get excited about? What are they upset about? What are they saying that they want?
Don’t pass off idle chatter or venting. They both provide opportunities to better understand your community and what they need.
Put Time into the Relationship
Think of your customers like you would your friends and family. You can’t take the relationship for granted — you have to put time into to make it strong and healthy.
Relationships are about give and take. You are essentially taking by promoting sales of your products and services. You are getting something you need. You then need to find ways to give back.
Not only should you be finding ways to address their needs and make it clear to them that you are listening, but you should also find ways to help them celebrate. You can do things like send coupons or discount codes on their birthdays or customer anniversaries. You can provide special, members-only content, and you can publicly recognize members who are making special contributions.
Offer Face-to-Face Time
One of the easiest ways to engage and strengthen the relationship is to spend one-on-one time.
Of course, it’s a little difficult to meet with your customers face-to-face when you are operating an online marketing campaign. However, you can create opportunities with online meetings, webinars, and even Skype calls.
It is also prudent to implement traditional marketing techniques for an integrated campaign. These can include community events, attendance at trade shows and festivals, and even in-person seminars and workshops.
Even a basic meet-and-greet can have a big impact. If customers have the opportunity to put a face to a name, they will feel more connected and will be more engaged.
Offer New Venues
Think beyond your blog and social networks when engaging with your community.
Create new venues in which customers can engage with each other and your brand, such as a dedicated forum or chat room. You can also create private groups on social media that are only accessible to your community.
These venues are not only valuable resources for your community, but they also give members the chance to get to know each other better and feel more engagement around your brand.
You can also participate in these venues as a member, allowing you to get better feedback and to actively work on maintaining your relationships with your community.
Turn Members into Ambassadors
Your community is your best source of advertising.
Find was to turn your members into ambassadors to not only make them feel more engaged but to also get free exposure for your brand. An easy way to get community members to be ambassadors is to host contests and giveaways and ask them to share links in order to get more entries.
You can also make customers ambassadors by hosting a forum and asking volunteers to be moderators. They will feel committed to the mission of the brand and the forum and will share their passion with others.
The more engaged your community feels, the more they will promote your brand totally on their own. The best advertising they can give you is their referral. Make it easy for them to give it by giving them great service and great products.
An engaged community is a powerful tool for your brand, but it takes time to build. You need to think about the needs of your community and how to naturally encourage their passion for your brand. The rest will take care of itself.
Anyone with any ambition will need to know how to become an influencer in his or her industry.
You could have the greatest product, the greatest ideas, and the most cutting-edge research studies, but without influence, no one will hear about them.
This recipe for influencer success will keep you on top of your industry so that people turn to you for advice.
1. Build Respect and Rapport
Your industry and your circles consist of your target audience, your peers in business, and your competitors. The first step towards influencing them is building respect and rapport.
- Be personable and likeable. People trust those they like and vice versa. Cultivate positive relationships with everyone in your industry, from co-workers to industry partners.
- Get involved and prove yourself socially. The more people you can build relationships with, the better. There is safety in numbers and the bigger your following, online and off, the more people will trust you and respect you.
- Stay true to your word. Transparency, honesty, and consistency are key. Sticking with commitments shows people that you are reliable, which conveys solidity and trustworthiness.
2. Create Content
Influencers make themselves heard and the best way to do that online is with content. But there are countless others trying to do the same, so you need to do it right in order to stand out.
- Blog. Yes, blogging is critical, but 9 out of 10 people stop there. Frequent blogging is fundamental to your success, but it’s just the beginning.
- Guest blog. The next step to influencing with content is to guest blog. By blogging on others’ sites, you can gain access to their audience and increase your reach.
- Distribute on social. Social media is the biggest online time sink, taking up more time than email. Stay present and engaged, since that’s where your audience is. Pick the right networks for your audience, create an editorial calendar, and stay consistent.
The content that you do create should be focused, quality content that meets the informational needs of your target audience. With substantial ideas and valuable research to fuel your content, you’ll earn the authority you need to become an influencer.
3. Engage Your Following
Spend time finding and focusing on the needs of your target audience. Ask yourself what they want from influencers in your field, then find out the answers to that question by performing market research.
First, use keyword research tools and content research tools to discover what people are searching for and what they are talking about. This will help you create the right content that helps to solve your audience’s problems, which is the first step towards engaging them.
Second, make your content interesting. Tell stories and write in a style that’s informative, personal, and engaging. Go beyond blog articles and test other media formats, such as infographics, video, and slideshows.
Third, interact with people online. Use social networks, professional networks, and forums to grow and engage your base of followers.
It’s important to remember that influencers depend on those they influence. Without an audience of followers, you will have no one to influence, so it’s vital to grow an audience who will listen to you. Over time, they will cement your authority and your influence.
4. Become an Expert
It’s very difficult to become an influencer if you aren’t an expert. To stay ahead of competitors and become an intellectual authority, you need to cultivate expertise in your field.
Here are a few ways to stay on top of your game:
- Keep up with your field. Stay up to date with news, blogs, and the latest developments that will affect you. Today’s world moves fast, so if you become outdated you’ll lose clout.
- Stay educated. Don’t just read industry blogs, attend seminars, workshops, and obtain certifications if applicable. The more educated you are, the more people will trust the knowledge you dispense.
- Target your expertise. If your field changes constantly, as many tech industries do, then you should change with it. Look at how it will develop in the future, then tailor your education to meet the needs of tomorrow’s industry.
5. Teach Others
With an engaged following and expert knowledge under your belt, it’s time to offer your insight to others. This is the “influence” part of “influencer,” where you establish yourself as an expert by educating people.
Through webinars, seminars, speaking engagements, classes, online courses, informational products, and other educational outlets, you can begin to build your power as an influencer.
Naturally, you will need to promote your presentations or products. Effective use of PR can help you in this regard. From podcasts to interviews to written press releases, you should spread the word as much as you can.
When you’re successful, educating others can be one of the best ways to build your authority. You can add any engagements, products, or presentations to your portfolio. And, as these add up, you’ll become widely known as an expert and an influencer.
Building thought leadership through social media is an essential tactic for any influencer and would-be thought leader.
Though becoming a thought leader isn’t the easy, it is straightforward. By following a few best practices, you can leverage your expertise to grow your audience and build your status as an expert.
What is a Thought Leader?
A thought leader is one who creates conversations, drives discussions, and helps an industry to evolve. Some feel that thought leaders are only those who are at the very top of an industry, while others believe that thought leaders can exist at every scale, from global to local.
Like influencers, thought leaders are regarded as authorities by their industry or niche. Customers, competitors, and business partners look to thought leaders for information and inspiration.
To become a thought leader, one must become an expert among experts and they must become a leader in their field. As with any other business endeavor, this requires a bit of work. Luckily, that job is made easier with online networking tools.
Assuming you are already an expert, follow these 5 key steps to build your thought leadership status with social media:
1. Learn to Communicate Well
Communication is key to building an audience of any kind. If you can’t communicate your ideas succinctly, learn to. Or hire someone who can.
Get your ideas across social media by experimenting with a variety of media formats, from video to infographics to articles. Create content that highlights your expertise and push that content through social media to the right people.
Though many consider themselves to be great communicators, it’s always worth it to get an outside perspective. Since social media is often an outlet for sharing a variety of content, including real-world seminars and speeches, it’s also a good idea to improve your public speaking skills.
2. Connect with Others
Social media is meant to be social, so it shouldn’t be 100% automated. There are two groups you should connect with: influencers and followers.
Influencers and thought leaders can help lend legitimacy to your claims. Climb them like a ladder and leverage discussions with them to build your own status as a thought leader.
Followers, likewise, lend to your status as a thought leader. Without anyone to listen to you, you won’t have any influence and you won’t be considered a leader. To grow your following, engage and interact on a regular basis.
3. Promote Your Credibility and Your Content
Your status as an expert isn’t just backed up by a following, it’s backed up by credentials. These credentials can include everything from diplomas and degrees to published articles and books. Other achievements, such as “bestseller status,” awards and recognitions, leadership positions, and real-world accomplishments also lend credibility.
Make sure that these credentials are displayed and promoted throughout your social media presence. Posts, profiles, bios, and web pages should all highlight your expert status.
Original, regularly published content is another essential requirement. Unless you make your voice heard, no one will listen to you and you won’t have any influence. Find out where your audience is on social media and promote your content to that audience.
4. Social Is Just the Start
Don’t forget that social media is just one part of your thought leadership marketing campaign.
It may be a very important part, but it is only a part. Your campaign should be an extension of your thought leadership campaigns, which should include everything from original content and seminars to books, published articles, PR, SEO, advertising, and so on.
Ensure that your social media campaign is holistically integrated with your other marketing efforts. When you put social in the right place within your marketing funnel, you’ll be able to use social to acquire followers who will listen to you on and off social media.
5. Stay Grounded
Don’t let social media fame and glory get the best of you. When you become enamored by the attention and identify with your celebrity status, it’s easy to become lazy.
Always stay grounded and stay focused on being a thought leader, instead of an online celebrity. With social media, it’s particularly easy to get caught up in the buzz, so think of social media as a tool and only use it to achieve your career aims.
While it’s tempting to lose oneself in the dialogue with followers, it’s important to stay centered on the industry itself. By focusing on the state of the industry, your education and expertise, and your career objectives, it will be easier to steer clear of the celebrity spotlight.
If you don’t avoid this obstacle, you may end up sliding backwards and losing your status as a thought leader.
While becoming an expert, an influencer, and a thought leader is no easy task, it has major benefits. With thought leadership comes career success, profits, and recognition. By using social media as a tool in your toolbox, you’ll be able to fuel your rise to the top of your industry.