‘The Money is in the list’, is one of the most inaccurate money making quotes online, created by Internet Marketers of yesteryear!
There may have been a time in the early days when consumers were less internet savvy that this may have been true. But times have changed.
The internet is growing up. Social media transparency means that those wishing to simply exploit the systems have and are being exposed.
Potential customers not only have much more choice now, but are also far more educated as to how it all works and they don’t just want to be a name on a list.
Email marketing is no longer the be all and end all, it is part of the bigger picture. And that bigger picture my friend is your ‘community’.
Your community is made up of paying customers, subscribers, readers, listeners, watchers, sharers, commenters, likers, followers, advocates, and quiet observers.
It is much more than just your ‘list’ and each one has his or her own role to play in your success as a business, even if they never become a paying customer.
Think of the word ‘Viral’, it’s actually a horribly negative word, but I can’t think of one that better describes the process. Someone may be carrying the cold virus, but never actually get the cold, but happily pass it on to you who then has a full blown outbreak!
Well, that’s how it works. The bigger your ‘community’, the more people who appreciate and share your useful information and content. The more exposure you get, the more eyeballs you get on your products and services.
It’s your job to ensure the eyeballs are targeted and your products and services meet the needs of your marketplace. We’ll save that for another blog post.
For now let’s look at some effective ways to build your community!
1. Create Great Content
Content of course underpins everything!
No matter if you’re posting daily on your Facebook page, or tweeting every half an hour. Everything you publicly publish is content of some kind.
You need to think intelligently about the kind of content you’re publishing. Start by asking yourself:
- Is it useful?
- Will this help someone?
- Does it add value?
If you can say yes to these three questions then it’s far more likely that your content is worth liking, commenting and sharing.
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with all the content advice running around out there. Write long blog posts, be amazing, be completely unique, create extraordinary videos, be everywhere, etc etc.
The most important thing is to just start and consistently produce. You can improve and perfect later. I suggest starting with creating one piece of stella content every week.
- Write a blog post every week or
- Create a video every week or
- Host a podcast once a week or
- Create an interesting infographic every week or
- Publish a PDF once a week or
- Host a webinar once a week
You’ll be amazed at how fast your content library grows simply by consistently producing one piece of content each week. Give it a go!
2. Create a Solid Social Media Presence
You need to have somewhere to tell people about your great content and to create engagement and conversation.
The term community is defined as ‘a group of people who have the same interests’. Well I’d take that one step further and say a community is a group of people who come together to share and discuss the same interests.
You want to be the catalyst that brings them together and there’s nowhere better than connecting people than on social media platforms.
Building a social media presence however takes time. It’s not an overnight success and is becoming more challenging the more businesses embrace it and platforms become more commercialised.
So here’s my tips for building a community quickly using social media:
- Pick one platform and focus on that exclusively until you have a very solid base. Then you can expand. Trying to manage even 2 or more platforms is challenging and will result in you diluting your efforts and engaging with less people.
- For everything you post or share ask yourself the content questions above:
- Is it useful?
- Will this help someone?
- Does it add value?
- Be present! Don’t post something and then look at it 3 days later. The most important element of social media is engagement and interaction. You need to be there to respond to comments and questions.
- Be consistent. It’s better to post once a day, than 3 times one day and none the next. Think of it like a cafe that changes it’s opening hours every week. You’d never bother going as you’d never be sure when it was open.
3. Always Be Building Your Email Subscribers
As I said above, email marketing is part of the big picture and what an effective part it is! Of course you can send out details of your products and services, but you can use it for so much more than that!
If you’re not sure how to get started building an email list see my post here – How to Build a Simple List Building Funnel in 10 Minutes or Less
Here’s some tips on how to use email to build relationships and grow your community:
- Invite your subscribers to connect with you on the social platforms.
- Invite them to consume content and engage with you on your chosen social platform.
- Ask your subscribers to like, share and comment on blog posts.
- Ask them to watch videos, attend webinars, enter contests.
- Send out surveys or questionnaires, make them feel part of your brand.
- Invite them to join groups or communities you have started.
If you view email marketing as relationship building you won’t go far wrong.
Also as an advanced strategy if you have a presence on Facebook and are generating leads through FB ads, you can upload your email addresses into Facebook as a custom audience and target your subscribers that way. I’ll go into that in more detail in a separate post.
4. Give Away a Free Report
Commonly known as a lead magnet, offering a free report in exchange for an email address is a great way to build your email subscribers, get activity on your social platform and grow your credibility and authority as a content publisher in your niche.
Consumption is the key! If your target audience consume your content they’re far more likely to take action such as share it, engage with you, and/or become a paying customer.
If they download it and it sits gathering dust on their desktop, they’re more likely to move on and go elsewhere to get the answer they’re seeking.
- So keep your reports short and sweet.
- Focus on one problem and one solution.
- Make it as long as you need to spell out the solution in an easy to follow way.
- Ensure it’s downloadable on all devices.
- Keep it simple and easy to print! (Yes some people still like to print it out, so if you make it too fancy shmancy it will use up all the ink cartridges and you won’t have a happy camper).
5. Run an Exciting Contest
Who doesn’t love a good contest!
As with the free report above, a contest is a great way to build your email subscribers and get activity on your social platform. Depending on what you offer as the prize means you’re either building your own authority or creating great relationships with other content publishers in your niche.
Let me explain:
- If you offer a prize created by you, such as a product or service people would normally pay for, you’re building your authority as a product creator and content publisher.
- If you offer a product or service created by someone else, then you are then giving their brand further exposure through your contest thus building a positive relationship with them which could come in very handy in the future.
With either option you’re building your subscriber database at the same time, win win!
Tips for running a good contest:
- Keep it simple, sweepstakes are the easiest – enter your email for a chance to win a prize!
- Ensure the prize is relevant, you want to attract targeted entrants.
- Keep it short. 1 – 2 weeks is enough time to build up a bit of anticipation and excitement. People have short concentration spans though, so any longer than that and you’ll lose the viral effect.
- Use the thank you page to further build your relationship with the entrant and get more exposure for your contest. Once they have entered, offer them a free report or video on the thank you page as an incentive for them to share the contest with their friends.
- Make the contest visually attractive. Contests are exciting! So make it so with fun and playful graphics.
6. Present Regular Webinars or Hangouts
Webinars ROCK! There is no other way of putting it.
I owe probably about 80% of my community to webinars.
Webinars are a fabulous way of building your email subscribers, getting activity on your social platform and growing your credibility and authority as a content publisher in your niche.
Second only to physically being in a room with someone, webinars build rapport faster than anything else online. Attendees get to hear your voice, and now with hangouts see your face and really connect with you as you train them, answer questions, give useful information and solve problems.
All webinars do not have to be sales webinars. You can run a webinar simply to build your credibility and your email database. (I attracted over 18,000 email subscribers following that philosophy in about 5 months).
Tips for running great webinars:
- Just start. Fear will always hold you back from doing a webinar. The only way to get over it is to do a few. Start by just inviting friends and family as the more practised you get using the technology, the more comfortable you will feel.
- As with reports focus on one problem and one solution. It’s very easy to stuff a lot into a webinar, but you’ll simply leave your audience feeling overwhelmed, so keep it simple.
- Use mind maps to organise the content you’ll be presenting.
- Use registration pages or platforms that sign people up to your auto responder as well as the webinar platform. The goal here is to build a long term relationship.
- Have fun! The more you enjoy presenting, the more people will enjoy listening.
- Recognise Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will take time to build up your audience. Be consistent, run a webinar a month and gradually your audience will grow.
7. Start a Blog
You’re not too late!
The internet is still so young and there is so much growth yet to come. Millions of businesses still have static, leaflet style websites and no dynamic content or interaction whatsoever.
So stop worrying about saturation and it’s already been done, just get out there and share your knowledge and experience. In fact I’d go as far as to say, if you have useful information to share in your marketplace then it’s your duty to share it and help those around you who need it!
Like social media, it will take time to build your blog. You won’t write a couple of posts and the crowds will come flocking. It doesn’t work like that. But the sooner you start, the sooner it will grow!
If you’re unsure how to quickly and easily get a blog off the ground, see my post here – How to Start a Blog, Customise It & Publish Your First Post, All in 10 Mins or Less
Tips for starting a blog:
- Don’t get caught up in a technical haze. It takes minutes to create a self hosted wordpress blog, but if you’d rather not do it yourself, go to upwork.com and pay someone to set it up for you. Or ask in one of the many communities you’re part of, someone somewhere will be happy to help you!
- Don’t spend weeks on your branding or graphical images. Choose a name, go to fiverr.com and get a decent professional looking header made. You can improve on it later.
- Don’t worry at this stage about monetisation, you can come back to that later. For now it’s all about building your community through great content.
- Do focus on creating great and useful content.
- Use other blog posts, comments on blog posts, social media questions and customer questions as inspiration for your posts. Try to think of every single question a potential customer could ask you and answer each and every question through your posts.
- Don’t set unachievable goals that will stop you before you get started. For example, planning on writing a blog post every day before breakfast, getting the kids ready for school and working your day job, may actually be too lofty! Why not start with writing one solid post a week. You can build from there.
- Remember that writing the post is only half the job. You will need to promote it also, starting of course with talking about it on your social platform / sending it out to your email subscribers. But I will talk more about promotion in another blog post.
- Make sure you have an opt-in form on your blog, so you can start attracting email subscribers from Day 1. Never miss an opportunity to build on your subscribers!
8. Create a Podcast
I hate to show my age, but I remember the excitement when I was able to take my favourite cassette tape, put it into a little box (walkman) and listen to my fave music on the go!
I was even more excited when I could do the same with a CD.
Imagine my excitement then when I could load thousands of songs onto a little device that could fit in my pocket. And now we can listen to music, podcasts, books, the news anytime and from any device.
It’s incredible how things have developed!
So, if you like the sound of your own voice and think others will too, become your very own radio presenter! Move over Howard Stern – YOU have arrived!
Tips for creating a podcast:
- The fastest and easiest way to go live with a weekly podcast is to use soundcloud.com or spreaker.com. These are dedicated audio communities which host and play your audio. All you have to do is press record and away you go!
- If you would like to feature on iTunes, I recommend reading this great article by Pat Flynn on setting up your podcast. But, don’t caught in a technical haze! If in doubt – outsource.
- Create your content as you would a blog post. List out every conceivable question a customer might ask you and answer it.
- Invite friends / colleagues to come and be interviewed. Audio aways gets a little more interesting if there’s a bit of banter.
- For easy interviewing use Skype and call recorder for mac or pamela for PC.
- Don’t worry about the length of your podcast. Make it as long as it needs to be to make your point.
- Don’t concern yourself with having an intro and outdo, you can add those in later if you really want to.
- Always have a call to action. Ask the listeners to take some action at the end of your podcast – go to your blog, sign up for a free report, subscribe to your podcast, like, comment, share etc.
9. Get Involved in Forums in Your Niche
Forums are like an older version of a Facebook group or a linked in community. A community of people all interested in the same things, can go to a forum to ask questions, engage in conversation, answer questions, give advice and just generally have a good chat!
The great thing about forums however, is that many allow you to add a link back to your site or url of your choosing. What a great way to build your authority and build your email subscribers at the same time!
Once again, similarly to social media, blogs, podcasts etc, it will take time to build up trust and authority, but you are more likely to meet your targeted audience quicker as this is a much more concentrated group of people. It’s already a community, all interested in the same thing.
You just have to become a trusted member of that community.
Tips to getting involved in forums:
- Google – Forum – “Your Niche”.
- Look for forums that are active, have lots of members and lots of threads / discussions happening.
- Look for forums that allow you to add a link back to a url of your choice.
- Start by asking and answering questions on a daily basis. Maybe 2 or 3 a day.
- As you become better known, start adding some small articles that incite discussion and expand your answers to questions to showcase your expertise.
- Rinse and repeat in a daily / weekly basis. The more time you give to helping others, the more you will reap the rewards!
10. Get Networking!
Getting to know ‘influencers’ can give your business a huge boost. Imagine if just one person with a community in the hundreds of thousands talked about you, or shared your content. It wouldn’t harm your efforts to build a community of your own much would it now!
One of the best ways to do this is to attend live events.
This is where I miss out a bit. As a bit of a sun chaser, I spend most of my time between Phuket in Thailand and Cairns in Australia. Not too many marketing events happening in either of these fabulous places!
I do my fair share of networking online, but there is nothing more powerful than meeting people in person. Networking with peers and potential customers alike.
If you live in a town or city where there are any kind of business networking events that suit your niche, or if you’re a train ride or a even a short plane ride away from attending a weekend seminar of some kind, I highly recommend it.
Not only are you likely to meet people who have already built a community and can expose you to their subscribers giving your brand and content an almighty boot in the right direction, but you’ll also be surrounded by the energy of like minded people.
I almost dare you to come away from a weekend networking event and not be incredibly inspired and motivated to conquer the world!
If, like me however, getting to events is quite difficult here are some tips for networking online:
- Focus on your customers first. I know it would be nice to be part of the celebrity circles and rub shoulders with the ‘influencers’, but if you focus on your customers and provide the very best information you can, growing your community into a huge hub of raving fans who talk about you all the time, believe me, the influencers will find you!
- It wouldn’t hurt though to make a little list of all the influencers you would really like to get to know and putting them into an interest list on Facebook or a twitter list, so you can keep on top of what they’re sharing and help them spread the word. A little reciprocity goes a long way.
- A great way of getting to know influencers, while also helping your customers is to interview people. Be aware though, people have very busy schedules so not everyone will say yes. But plenty will, so get out there and start inviting them!
- Guest blog. People are always looking for great content, so approach blogs in your niche or complimentary niches that you know your target audience frequent and become a guest blogger. It’s a very powerful way of instantly getting in front a ready educated audience!
So there you have it, 10 steps to building a powerful community of raving advocates who love you, your content and your products!
Get this bit right and the rest of your business is plain sailing.
Most importantly. Be Yourself! People warm to authenticity and integrity. Embrace your voice and don’t be afraid to expose it to the world!
Thanks for reading!
I’d love your thoughts on this. What are you doing right now to build your community? What other effective ways have you found to grow relationships and build your business.
Let’s chat in the comments below.