A guide to building a digital strategy: Part five

Last week I covered the methodology of how to find an audience online, this week I am going to cover how you build momentum and an online community.

Getting people to participate in your community is critical to building it. Peer-to-peer shared and common interests drive participation.

A good example of this is the different small business online communities.

Small business owners join because they seek to learn from other small business owners. For example, asking one another how they go about contract terms, chasing late payments, good courses to attend and so on.

They turn to their peers to improve their business and care about what they think of their business. This drives connectivity, influence and return visits.

The financial services companies that run these groups best, facilitate as opposed to sell and have an understanding that the transaction will follow the investment in the relationship.

It is this strong peer-to-peer value exchange that drives the community momentum.

However, you need to understand what drives community motivation in different channels.

What people want (and don’t want)

Facebook communities – it’s all about stuff!

Facebook is full of people we went to school with and, consequently, a lot of brands don’t get that we are only motivated if there is something in it for us.

What people Like is “Free”:

  • Around 50% of people state they like companies on Facebook for free stuff or discounts.
  • About 25% are there for sneak peaks of new stuff, with 20% wanting to gain access to exclusive stuff.
  • 23% are regular purchasers of the brand.
  • 21% are showing support for friends and family.

What turns them off:

  • Bombarding them with messages
  • They only signed up for a one-off freebie
  • Irrelevant content

And as I said last week, it is a small percentage of real advocates that will drive the community (the 3 C’s). See chart below for split of audience type.


Twitter cCommunities – it’s all about me!

Top 5 motivations:

1. Information related to my hobbies and personal interests.

2. Quick way to stay on top of news which is of interest to me.

3. Sneak peak/advance notice of things that interest me.

4. Exclusive information to me.

5. Show my support to my family and friends

Top 5 de-motivations:

1. My circumstances have changes.

2. I have become disinterested.

3. Bombarded by messages.

4. Irrelevant messages.

5. I signed up to take up a single offer.

LinkedIn communities

  • Top level executives primarily use LinkedIn for industry networking (22%) and promoting their businesses (20%).
  • Middle management professionals primarily use LinkedIn to keep in touch with other people (24%) and industry networking (20%).
  • Entry level employees primarily use LinkedIn for job searches (24%) and co-worker networking (23%).

Overall, the top activities on LinkedIn are industry networking (61%), keeping in touch (61%), and co-worker networking (55%). 90% of LinkedIn users say it is useful.

The downside, in my own experience, is that I don’t visit groups I have joined that have irrelevant content and bombard me.

These are common themes for disengagement on all the main social network communities.

The Four Strategic Pillars

Whether you build community through any of the main social networks (remember there is Google + and Pinterest too!) or build community on your own site, there are key strategic pillars and a checklist you must address in building audiences online:

  • Why
  • Value
  • Motivation
  • Ongoing commitment

Your checklist:

1. Be concise and clear
a. Why will people come and join my community?
b. What’s the value exchange?
c. What will I offer and how will I facilitate?

2. Think long term
a. What motivation will ensure they participate and continue to participate?
b. Drive online commitment, make sure you are also committed for the long term, not the short term.

3. Build out your editorial calendar to make sure you know when, who and with what to jump in with
a. Understand what motivates them and don’t bombard with irrelevant messages for example
b. Respond to customer service issues
c. Build reputation through thought leadership

4. Let your advocates lead

5. Service is the new selling – what service value add are you offering?

6. Be informative

7. Don’t hard sell

8. Be personal

9. Listen
a. The brands and businesses that build strong, small, highly engaged communities, listen to what their audience say they want, need and desire.
b. Consider where your audience are spending most of their time online.

10. When engaging: ‘Use two ears and one mouth’ in that proportion

11. Don’t forget to integrate email marketing into your community efforts

Research Sources:eMarketer Exact Target ®Lab42

Fi Bendall is the managing director of digital and interactive consultancy company Bendalls Group. With over 20 years’ experience, Bendall has worked with global brands including BBC and Virgin, and is an expert in how businesses can approach strategy in the digital world. You can follow her on Twitter at @FiBendall, and can contact her through Bendalls Group.



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