How To Build Your Online Community

Happy New Year Everybody! Glad you made it. 2012 was a good year for social media (incl. social giving), and having looked at the Nigerian Facebook landscape for 2012,  with focus on Engagement Rate (ER) for brands and pages, I have decided to delve-in to how you can optimize ER for your online community – whether it be a personal brand, project, company, etc.

This decision came about, having gotten a comment from my last post. I did mention the importance for brands to focus more on ER as compared to the size of the community, and this is applicable to any social network: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, etc. The comment reads:

Does this change how individual content creators interpret their engagement when seeking sponsors? Rather than submit pure quantitative metrics, should one analyze their own info and include this in a narrative. I wonder what others think – Patricia Patton

And my reply:

Yes, that’s right. ER is more of a qualitative metric, showing you have a right audience ever ready to engage with you and that’s a winner for any sponsor. Not to say quantitative metrics should be thrown out of the window. Numbers matter a lot, as that gets the attention of the sponsor too. I suppose my next post will be on how to best strike a balance – quantitative and qualitative metrics (especially when trying to win a sponsor over).

In my next series of post, I will attempt to show how to best have that balance. However, I believe it’s best to go through how to build your online community first – and yes, that is quantitative, and then ‘how to engage’ in my next post. Let’s get started.

3 steps to build your online community:

1. Create Social Accounts And Have A Presence

It is not good enough to have social accounts but to be active on them, i.e., have your presence felt though your activities. Cast your seeds in many places, be on as many social networks as possible, as long as you can manage them – you don’t want to be active is some and dormant in others, a first time visitor on one of your dormant account may perceive your brand as been nonchalant.

Some social account you should consider having: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare, Scribd, RebelMouse, Blogger, WordPress, Nairaland, NaijaPals, Vimeo, etc.

2. Always Build Big Data

Make it a priority to always gather data of some kind, especially users or prospective users that get to interact with your brand – product or service.  For Nigeria, three things you want to get from any body showing some sort of interest in your brand are: Email address, Telephone number, and BlackBerry PIN.

It’s highly recommended you allow people to voluntarily give up this information, as you get to build an audience of people that are really interested in your brand. Do not go buying email, and telephone databases from third party vendors, as that leads to building an online community where a large chunk may have no interest in what you are selling or communicating, and in turn very low engagement rate.

Allow people to opt-in via subscription forms that can be embedded on your site or shared via a URL. You can also put in place a referral system for existing subscribers to invite people in their network. Moreover try to implement call-to-action features e.g. social buttons such as Twitter ‘Follow’ button, Facebook ‘Fan’, button, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, WordPress, Google+ share buttons. Feedback and download button should be put in place.

3. Your Landing Page

This is not necessarily your home page but could be if it can double as one. This page should be able to give brief information, using text, photo or video, about your brand, as well as capture all of the above: collect data, allow users opt-in for update, and call-to-action.

That said, try not to have the page cramped up, and this is best linked to your share buttons, and web ads. I have taken the liberty to share a landing page I recently help make for a friend at Genii Games.

As seen above, the page holds all mentioned in #2. This a good format for a landing page, and not necessarily a home page since its just one product from Genii Games.

What’s The Takeaway?

In summary, plant your seeds in many places with your social account and presence; always think of building big data, as it gives you guaranteed reach to people interested in engaging with your brand, and finally, have a good landing page – that’s your go-to place where a first timer can get the important information, and a means to engage with the brand via call-to-actions such as: subscription, download, feedback, social share, etc.

Next post will be on ‘How To Engage With Your Online Community‘. Till then, try out building your community, and be sure to ask your questions, and share your recommendations using the comment box below.

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