By Sweta Patel
Does your brand rely on social networks to build your community? Building community starts with your own website. Social networks recruit people and build interest. But if a social network goes downhill a whole audience base could be wiped out. So I recommend building an audience on your website through video–selling based on value-added content.
Here is how you get started:
Three Stages of the Community
As I mentioned, social networks attract people to your website. Think of social networks as a search engine that you data–mine for the right audience. Once you have your audience, you can equip them to drive others to your community. My business primarily uses value–based content through video to drive leads to our website. Once readers see all the value we have to offer, they automatically grow interested in learning what more we have to offer.
For example, we use cutting-edge marketing content to help small business owners grow their businesses. We use for our backend to help us monitor analytics and payments we receive for the content. Then we use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to search for people and connections that may be good fits for our content. We invite prospects to book appointments through our website, so we can show them how we can help them.
So let’s get started.
1. Friends of Friends
Start by emailing friends and family with a personable email. You won’t scale using this method, but it’s good to start by inviting friends and family. This will give you a chance to test your video content to see how it can be improved before you broaden the approach.
2. The Movement
The second stage of community-building is to build a movement by having friends invite their friends to test and evaluate your community. Send them screenshots of almost every iteration of your community. Ask them if your video content appeals. We want the buy-in from our initial seed community to feed into the movement stage. In addition, every time someone joins the community; make sure you send them a welcome email and an animated gift to engage with them. This email should stand out — I suggest using stories and mentioning individual community members to make the email
memorable and to make participants feel involved. For example, when we see that one of our members has reached a milestone within the community, we feature the person in our newsletters. I often share mock-ups with community members with a request for feedback. Members usually are excited to be involved with the changes because the process encourages them to interact with like-minded people and feel involved at the same time. As a result, the friends will invite their friends of friends.
3. The Destination Community
Now the inviting phase is over and you are getting traction on your website. People are seeing the value of your videos, but they want something more. What else can you add? You can try sending them some swag such as t-shirts to make them feel they belong in the community. You can also mail out stickers and have them opt-in for a free gift. We tested a technique in which we mailed out free wristbands if they opted-in for a free gift. Even though it was a small gift, recipients were enthusiastic.
We added personality to our community by podcasting conversations with industry leaders. Then we created stories around our community so we could educate our community and teach them how to invite others to the platform.
In my company, we wanted our community to express its identity so we gave members user profiles. Once our community was well connected we held networking events all over the U.S. so we could connect the people in live venues.
Best Practice: We syndicate updates filled with value–added content using . Try at least five updates a day on each network. Second, use to find out who your biggest advocates are. Then send them a friendly message. To track updates and clicks, use Then use to optimize the campaign. To schedule updates, we use Hootsuite, and to track analytics we use .
How to Invite People to your Community
Now that you have people interested in the community, i.e. traction, here are a few quick tips on how you can increase the number of views of each video and expand your community:
A. Goal Invite
Only ask members to invite a friend or associate to join after they have reached a success milestone. For example, using , we wait to ask members to invite others until we know they have monetized their video. Why? Proven results activates the community’s trust factor.
B. Specific Invites
Get specific on criteria for whom you want members to invite. This will guide your community to recruit qualified people. For example, if you only want marketers within your community, then simply ask members to invite three or four of their best marketing friends.
C. Limit the Number of Invites
Remember, scarcity triggers desire. So limit the number of invites each member is able to send. The exclusivity factor will enhance the value proposition of the invitation.
D. Test the Video Content Community
Opinions and reviews matter so ask members to invite others to test the platform and report back.
E. Follow Up
Just like anything else, you want to ask them to follow-up with their invites. In most cases people don’t act with the first ask. If they don’t respond to the first invite, then send a reminder email to follow up.
Best Practice: Create a trailer and other marketing materials around your video content that your community members can use to educate those they invite. The less work they have to do, the better.
Maintain and Expand the Community
Once a community is well established, here a few tactics to help you maintain, expand and keep your community entertained:
A. Set an Appointment or Reservation to On-Board Members to your Community
Now, get real personable with members. It is a lot of manual work at first, but it is worth the investment. You will be able to build long-term relationships if members trust your platform. Committed members will come back and be loyal.
B. Give Swag
Create multiple ways for members to remember you. One great way is by frequently giving away swag.
C. Social Network Specific Promotions
We don’t want to build our communities within social networks, but we want to use social networks to attract people to our community. Social–network–specific promotions work well. For example, if you create a promotion just for your fans on Facebook it will help differentiate and create exclusivity around the promotion. Instead of using the same promotion on every platform, try to get social-network specific.
Best Practice: After you have expanded your community then it is time for partnerships. You have a list of all the community members. How can you partner with complementary businesses to achieve like-minded goals together? Get creative!
I hope these guidelines help! What is your biggest challenge when it comes to marketing? Tell us below in comments.
Sweta Patel is a San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur whose company is Global Marketing Tactics.
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