Challenge your thinking
Building a community from the ground up is a feat, not a buzzword. Instead of forcing a community built on passions you’re crafting, look to the customers you already have and cater to their passions. Why are they drawn to your product? Is there are a correlation? What do they love most about it? Build your community around what motivates your customers; odds are they will refer people who are similarly motivated and your community with only strengthen.
If possible, get outside
Engaging with your customer online is one thing, but going offline does wonders for brand building. Communities exist both online and offline, by spending the time to host events in real life or hop on the phone with strong customers - you’re introducing them to a new side of your business. People are more likely to engage with a brand when they’ve made an active connection with someone that works there. Moreover, people are more apt to respond positively to engagement emails, tasks, or programs if they feel more connected to a company and its team.
Yelp Elite (Community Example)
Think about Yelp for instance. Their Elite program is one of the largest and most engaged online communities to date. Stretching across the globe, Yelp has managed to create a powerful machine of influencers that continues to grow through referrals. The Yelp team starts by identifying critical reviewers within their platform (power users) and inviting them to join their Yelp Elite crew. Next, Elite Yelpers can identify other potential Elite members and nominate them to join their city chapter. This referral process not only builds a strong community off the bat but fosters additional community growth through referrals.
In addition to Yelp’s nomination process, their Elite rewards naturally engage and reward their top community members. Offering a variety of free dinners, events, and badges, Yelp’s elite program sparks organic connections with their users both online and offline - increasing their reviews/user and sparking real-life connection within their community.
Customers want to feel like they’re providing value, but also receiving value from your community. It’s simple to toss a badge up on someone’s profile and call them a community member. What’s hard is making sure that that badge means something. Focus on adding value to your audience before asking anything from them. Make sure that they feel like they’re part of something special and you’ll quickly realize how much faster your returns will pile in.
There’s no substitute for being active within your community - if you’re lucky enough to have customers opt in to join your community, make sure you actively engage them. Stay present with up-to-date news about your product, make sure that your rewards match their unique motivations, and stay engaged with them no matter what.
A community is built on relationships and relationships are built on interactions. Much like your product itself, a community requires proper management and iterations. Be sure to listen to your customers and if possible, provide a platform for them to engage with each other. The more that your community can build within itself, and strengthen organically, the stronger your community will be overall.
Never fall off the map. It’s not to bombard your customers, but also important to make sure they know you’re around. Keep up to date with posting on social media, make sure you’re posting quality content, and stick to a content calendar. Bear in mind, however, that different topics will appeal to different customers, so make sure you’re posting consistently but with a variety of interesting subjects.