Online communities are powerful tools that can boost your online presence. They help people build businesses, market products, services and sell out events. They are an important tool for people who want to become a thought leader. For example, take Sean Ellis. He introduced the completely new term, “Growth Hacking”, and built a massive community around it. He now has over 55 thousand followers on Twitter and is worldwide known as thé growth hacking expert.
So if you think that starting a community is not for you or you think it doesn’t fit your business, here are 7 reasons to make you think again.
1. Thought Leadership
Starting a community is a great way to connect with people in your industry and raise your profile as a thought leader and expert. Choose a group name that relates to your specific topic of interest or profession rather than your brand name, as more people will relate to it and it will encourage engagement on that topic.
It is important to spend some time building your community membership. Invite your connections to join the community and promote the group (and its discussions) on your website, email signature, newsletter and social media accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Provide your members with interesting content and have them discuss issues within the community. This way your community becomes a valuable source of information for your members. An interesting article on thought leadership is “Thought Leadership Is The New Strategy For Corporate Growth” by Glenn Llopis.
2. Generate Traffic To Your Website
An online community can help you get traffic to your website. This can be done by linking your community to your website. People who join the community will associate the community with the website. You can also spread messages through your community and share articles that are located on your website.
The most important aspect you have to remember is that you cannot bluntly ask people to visit your website, you have to provide them with a reason. Once they are on the website the content they find should be relevant and engaging. The idea is not to generate unique visitors but get people to value your website for what it is meant for.
REI does a great job sharing both promotional and engaging content. By consistently publishing interesting and relevant content, they have created a community of dedicated fans who love to engage with and share their posts, leading to more and more traffic.
3. To Help Grow Your Business
Being online is a necessity nowadays. There are very few companies that can survive without some form of online presence. Starting an online community can help your company become more influential and help you get the attention of your target group.
It doesn’t matter what platform you use or how you promote it, as long as you reach your target group and can deliver value to your members. Building valuable content builds a valuable community, which will help your business. Different cases have shown just how important an online community can be for a business.
Douglas Quenga wrote that a study by the University of Michigan shows that branded online communities can lead to sales increases up to 20%. The following was published in the journal Marketing Science:
“When customers join an online community, does it really lead them to spend more with the particular brand?” asked Puneet Manchanda, a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan and co-author of the study. “There’s very little evidence actually documenting the existence of these ‘social dollars.’ We think we are the first to provide some fairly robust results that these social dollars do exist.”
4. Knowing Your Target Group
Identifying the needs of a target group can be difficult, but also crucial for success. This is not only true for businesses but for every entity with an online following. Communities offer you insight in what is really important within your community. As a community leader, you can start group discussions and talk to members individually to find out what is relevant information to share.
5. Start A Movement
There are an unlimited amount of reasons to start an online community, but one that is proven successful in many cases is the promotion of a movement. The promotion of a movement means that your community is focussed on a subject like social media marketing and through your community you try to provide members with information and convince interested people to use your methods.
As we mentioned, a good example of a movement promoted through community building is “growth hacking”. Coined by Sean Ellis in 2010, he stated that a growth hacker is “a person whose true north is growth.” Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.” Andrew Chen introduced the term to a wider audience in his blog post, “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing”. In 2013, the second annual Growth Hackers Conference was held in San Francisco set up by Gagan Biyani. It featured growth hackers from LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube among others.
Growth hacking is a perfect example of how building a community around a term, product or movement can result in a mass following.
6. Expand Your Network
Most of the reasons mentioned so far are aimed to generate business, but it is okay to think of how building a community can benefit you. Having a vast personal network can help you with your current and future ventures. Every entrepreneur will agree that you cannot succeed without the help of others. It is very important that you surround yourself with like-minded people who can and want to help you.
By starting a community you can attract interesting people, discuss important topics, build your influence, and you can encourage people to collaborate. These are the key ingredients for building a big and valuable network.
7. Let Members Collaborate
Last and arguably the most important reason of all, help members get together and collaborate.
The ultimate goal of an online community is not that people discuss recent matters, or that people find your article interesting, but that your members find each other and start a fire.
Every community wants their success story and having people meet and build a business, organize an event or co-create is the highest achievable goal. It means that your community not only provides information that is relevant for your target group, but that people also want to interact with each other.
To create such an environment you will have to listen, deliver great value and listen again. It is an iterative process that will pay off if you do it right. Always keep in mind that you are starting a community to help others, not just yourself. Getting people to join your community is not the important part, delivering value to your following is what counts.
If you are interested in learning more about communities, thought leadership and growing your business? Follow me and these amazing people to stay up to date on new articles.
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