It's time to leave that old Angelfire blog behind. Your small business deserves better.
You can thrive as a brand with a small community. I know it's hard not to think that the path to brand success follows one track. It's as if the only goal is to attract thousands of followers and sell them a product. Then repeat the process until your business is booming. That sounds a little familiar, right? So, does a big audience hurt? Of course, it doesn't. But here's the thing, a gigantic audience isn't necessary to be successful. Today we'll focus on what small versions of success can actually look like.
If you're a small brand, you most likely have found the perfect niche for your business. In fact, niche brands have a lot of benefits. The perfect niche brand focuses on creating deep connections with smaller audiences. The theory is to provide excellent value to a small, but extremely engaged community. A community that is made up of like-minded people. In exchange, you can charge higher prices because you solve specific problems.
Granted this approach is pretty different than the usual push to create a giant community. Or one where you spend thousands of dollars on advertising. Instead, a niche approach to business focuses on creating a community around your brand that is small but highly engaged.
Benefits of A Small Audience
A smaller audience means that you can easily build loyalty. People will listen and buy from those they trust. As well as stay more engaged because they feel it's more than just a transaction. Whenever you build a relationship with a small audience, you gain a lot of authority. What makes it more exciting is that you get to know your audience on a personal level. But the biggest factor of all is the dedication that comes with a small audience. Deep connections can be made within your brand's community. This isn't something that can't be done (with as much ease or grace) with a larger audience.
Whenever you stop trying to be everything to everyone, it's possible to connect with each person individually. You have the ability and opportunity to take an interest in their situation, listen to their story, and serve them in a more meaningful way. A business focused on less makes it easier to thrive with less. You can work with fewer clients and make a greater impact. While at the same time, command premium prices.
HOW TO BUILD A SMALL & ENGAGED COMMUNITY
Step 1: Make Your Brand Easy to Find
This is so, so important. You can't grow your community if people can't easily connect with you. It seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of people don't consider this first step until it's too late.
Here are a couple of tricks you should use to make sure that your brand is easy to find:
- All of your social sharing icons should be visible on your website
- Feature the URL of your website and social media handles on business cards and other print media
- Include a link to your brand's website in social media channel descriptions
- Personalize your email responses: don't solely rely on automated messages
- Track all associated hashtags and mentions to know who is talking about you and your product. And engage with those who are!
Step 2: Find Your Advocates
This is crucial, you need to find advocates for your brand and recruit new members to your community. Think of it this way... every one of your followers has the potential to become an advocate for your brand. It just requires some attention. Some are more obvious than others. They're the ones that consistently like, share and comment. These are the ones you need to reach out to and let them know they are valued. You might even ask them to invite friends to visit your social platforms. It's time-consuming but effective.
However, there is another approach that involves finding fans on other networks and letting them know about your brand. One tool that you can use to find out where your online audience is currently hanging out is Mention. Mention allows you to track specific keywords in real time, anywhere on the web. This is helpful for both content and audience discovery.
Step 3: Solve Their Problems
By now you know that social media isn't just to promote your products. It's to interact with your community and learn what their issues are. If you want more results, you need to do your best to solve the problems they might have. There are plenty of brands out there that offer similar products to yours, so you need to stand out. That's something you can do by building trust in your community and helping your followers with their unique issues.
It doesn't hurt to invite your community to join you too. You could share user-generated content on your social media channels. This is a great way to build loyalty and offer real value.
Step 4: Listen to Your Audience
In order to build a small but engaged brand community, you need to have content that your audience wants to see. That's why you really need to find out what they want. Luckily there are a variety of ways to do just that. You can create a post or Instagram story poll where you ask what THEY want to talk about. Or ask them what they like seeing most on your account. Just make sure that when your community provides answers, you follow through. You can even create new initiatives based on what they request.
When it comes to engagement, it's important to put your followers' needs or desires at the center of your social media strategy. The trick is to actively listen to what they say in order to build further engagement. So, instead of asking your followers to share photos of your product, ask them to share content of what your product has enabled them to do.
Ultimately your social media channels should focus on lifestyles, not just on products or services. Because honestly, purely promotional content WILL reduce engagement. Go ahead and share behind-the-scenes content that shows them a side of your company they normally wouldn't see. You can even share how your product is developed. That is what really takes your brand to the next level. Because it makes it easier to develop a community of people who share a sense of purpose.
Call to actions are another great way to increase engagement.
Step 5: Be Honest
People like to deal with businesses they trust. So if you ever make a mistake, take that opportunity to admit to it. This is a tried and true way to build trust. Because we all know that no brand is 100% perfect. Unfortunately, some forget that it pays to be open and honest with your community.
If you admit your faults and offer transparency (even in the face of criticism) you will win points among followers. When you admit to your mistakes you show a willingness to listen. As well as an ability to adapt. Just keep in mind that if you try to cover up a bad situation or avoid the problem, you will more than likely destroy their trust. Go ahead and show them the human side of your brand. It's the best way to win their loyalty.
Step 6: Share the Love
Your fans show you love all the time. It's time to reciprocate! It's always a good idea to showcase fans who show you the most love. You can share a post of theirs, mention them in an Instagram story or give them some incentives. Whenever you provide incentives to members of your community, they have a tendency to go above and beyond in terms of engagement.
To show your fans how dedicated you are to them, respond quickly to their posts and questions, and don't forget to feature their user-generated content. It’s definitely a personal touch that builds relationships and helps fans feel connected to a community. Which is what your goal should always be. Making a connection is key when it comes to building an engaged community.
So now that you know how to build your community, how do you keep them engaged? It's easier than you might think...
How To Keep Your Audience Engaged
It's a good idea to assume that your audience shares the same values that you do. Whether it's connection, emotions or aesthetics. Whenever you share content, make sure that it lines up with those shared values. If you think your community thinks differently, be intentional about the content that you share.
Another tactic is to make sure that every e-letter you send includes a personal invitation for people to reach out to you. Even if it's just to say hello. More than likely your followers want to connect with you. Even if they are new or long-time readers who want to update you on their lives. When your audience is small than average, it's easier to respond and genuinely get to know your audience.
Deep Conversations Matter
In the business world, many of us try to stay safe. We hide our most controversial (and memorable) opinions in order to attract as many potential clients and customers as possible. We make our wisdom more palatable and we shy away from bold statements. Instead, we should create deep conversations where a good, solid message can be shared. These types of communication create meaningful connections between people and brands. So how do you benefit? You'll stand out from the crowd! As a result, it makes it easier for your best customers to find you.
All of the tips listed above are a great way to build a community. However, even when you are crossing your T's and dotting your I's there is something else you might be doing that could hinder your engagement. You need to stop being polite in order to effectively build your community. I know this sounds scary and a little out there but trust me - it works! If done correctly...
STOP BEING POLITE & BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY
If you want to build relationships with the people in your community you have to move beyond safe, polite conversation. I know that for a lot of people this way of thinking goes outside our comfort zone. Most of us try to avoid offense at all costs. But the problem is that eventually, you don't engage anyone. You have to shake things up and start real conversations.
Naturally, you probably have some pretty strong opinions. And like most people, you don't share a lot of those opinions in public. In fact, those opinions are probably known only to those who you are close to. But sometimes those opinions are actually wisdom in disguise. It's what we call expertise, and it's something you SHOULD share.
Sharing your insight could challenge your audience to think deeply about things like their:
- Conversations about everything from sales to problem-solving to customer service.
- Expectations about business based on “the way things are done around here.”
- Assumptions about the issues they address, problems they solve, and their worldview.
I know that shaking things up feels a little reckless or scary, but it's actually really good for your business. Why? Because people remember what they feel and the people or brands that sparked those feelings. These are moments where relationships are built. The goal is to retain your followers.
When it comes down to it, advertising is all about emotions. That's why we remember certain television commercials that make us laugh or cry. Advertising that gives us a reason to stop and think are the ones that people remember most. Emotion is the difference between polite, forgettable marketing. It forges a deep, lasting connection. Just make sure to take the emotion out of marketing.
We hope this helps to build your brand's community and an engaged one at that! We know that it takes time and dedication, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy. Now we'd like to know more about you. Are you just starting to build your brand's community? Are you worried about running out of ideas to keep them engaged? Or do you already have a thriving community? And if so, how have you managed to keep your community engaged? Are there any tips that you do that we haven't mentioned? Let us know in the comments below so we can discuss.