Guest Post: Move Beyond Followers to Friends
You know why you need to find your digital community — those unique groups of fans, friends, and followers who resonate with your message.
This message can be sent through a blog, video spot, email or speaking engagement. But in reality, the medium you choose is irrelevant; what really matters most is the trust you establish with people.
“The difficulty isn’t defining your message; it’s creating a community that is interested and wants to hear from you.” (Click here to tweet that.)
If you asked Steve Jobs how to build an audience, he would say you need a message that is personal, experiential, and anticipated. Apple's ability to transform customers into dedicated fans (known as fanboys)
Myself, along with the majority of marketers agree. But what does this look like, practically?
Here are three important steps to building your online community:
Step 1: Be personal
If you are interested in reaching other humans, then act like one.
Sound simple? Hardly!
Often, people become robots when they begin a social media campaign on the Internet or step onto the public state. Either they transform into complete stiffs or they turn into international correspondents of snobbery. SO, ACT DIFFERENT!
Engage like a real person (even if that means slang or breaking a grammar rule),
Continue to be accessible (try answering as many emails as possible as soon as they come in).
Admit mistakes (don’t be afraid to be vulnerable).
You don’t need to expose all your dust under the rug or air your dirty laundry to do this. Just avoid being someone that you’re not. Be you - and incredible outcomes will happen.
I like what Steve Jobs says about this:
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They [customers] somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
People want to connect with other people. It is human nature. If you give your fans and customers the opportunity to feel comfortable, they’ll open up and start supporting your brand like never before. As they do, you’ll earn permission to be involved in their lives.
Step 2: Create Experiences
People don’t care about products; they care about how the products make them feel. If you want to attract an audience, you need to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about how you can help customers and fans experience more, because what people really want is the ability to experience life in new and meaningful ways.
An online community allows similar-minded people to find each other online. It gives them an immediate talking point. So how do you build this intentionally, instead of stumbling through the process?
Here’s one idea: Be generous.
Consider the following:
A new buyer’s guide is out and being given away for free, the writer could charge nothing in exchange for an email address.
An edgy, alternative energy co-op offers a sample organic cleaning solution to help promote the product to a larger audience.
An established transportation application that has yet to promote itself in the southeast releases a driving game set in Nashville for all to see.
Over-the-top experiences are the best marketing you’ll do, nothing builds an audience more quickly.
All of this is not free. It costs the marketer something — a lot, actually. But in return, it earns something even more valuable than money. Trust!
Trust. That’s what we’re going for here. When you are willing to help people experience what they want, they’ll return the favor. (Caveat: This is NOT why you do this, but it’s a nice byproduct.)
How do you become relevant in a world full of noise?
Find a niche with a worldview, and create experiences directly for that audience. Exclude all others and focus on making them feel special. Do that enough, and you won’t be able to keep them away.
Step 3: Create anticipation
Every day, someone posts something new on my Facebook wall.
I have never asked for this, never paid money for it, and never read it. Not once. And still, people feel compelled to drop a picture and news clipping onto my computer screen. And I promptly scroll past.
“If people aren’t anticipating your message, they’ll just tune you out.” (Click here to tweet that.)
You have to earn permission and deliver what you promise. Only then will we care about what you have to say.
You need to do what you say you will, and if expectations change, clearly communicate them. And please, please, give people an easy way to opt out when they lose interest.
What this means for you
If you do the work to respect someone’s time, you will earn the right to speak with them. You will learn that they are now tuning in and showing up, eager to hear what you have to say.
This is the paradox:
“When you make your community about other people, they’ll make it about you.”
Respect creates respect. Generosity is reciprocated. Being helpful is noticed. Honor these principles, and you’ll never have to worry about getting someone’s attention again.
Have you found your community yet? Share your journey in the comments.
Author Bio: David Wright Smith is a writer, tech-enthusiast and middle school teacher in Nashville, TN.
image credit: feelart/freedigitalphotos.net