Author’s Bio: Craig Robinson is a professional writer for Qwaya, a technology company specializing in Facebook marketing. If you have more social media marketing questions, feel free to ask Craig on Twitter
A lot of marketers hear talk about constructing Facebook communities, and their minds instantly gravitate toward groups. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that groups and communities are different things. With a Facebook community, you’re looking at a wide and varied range of users, from fans and customers to everyday visitors and even critics.
Creating a community atmosphere will not only help you extend your Facebook footprint, but it will also help you keep a line of communication open with these many different individuals. The importance of a community cannot be oversold here. You’re not the head of it; you’re not in charge of it. It’s simply an organic community built using your brand’s openness and willingness, wherein channels remain open and healthy relationships are fostered.
Constructing such a community is a long and ongoing process for any brand. But, of course, one must get started somewhere if one hopes to be a participant in such a community.
Community-Building Tips for Facebook Marketers
1: Be Open to a Community
The first thing you have to do is actually be open to the idea of participating in a community. Not every business finds this appealing. Some just want to sit behind their computer screens, playing the big boss, and dictating terms to their fans and customers through material they release. Others, however, want to participate in the social experience and want their brands to grow and spread. Being open to the idea of a community is the first step in making this a reality.
2: Be an Open Brand Presence
Approaching Facebook from a technical standpoint, you undoubtedly have some Facebook software, a few analytics hubs, and a good idea about how to approach your advertising and your posting habits. But as a brand, you need more than technical know-how to achieve a real community. You need to be open as a brand to the idea of letting people get a look at the person/people behind the screen.
Posting photos of events, providing some personal information, speaking with people informally, mixing in personal and humorous material with your business-specific stuff – this all helps to foster the community atmosphere. It works to build a real social network and not simply a one-way advertising service.
3: Be Willing to Reach Out
A community in this context is completely voluntary and completely organic. It’s not like you ask people to join a community; it’s more or less a feeling of comfort and trust with open lines of communication. For this, you should be willing to reach out to people. Let your fans know that you’re open to communication by speaking directly to them. You can create specific material that thanks your fans. You can consistently ask people if they have any problems or need any issues addressed. You can ask for suggestions about how to improve your page and your overall brand. Being the one to reach out to people puts the ball in their court.
4: Be Engaging
Any Facebook marketing strategy worth its salt is going to require a lot of engagement. You shouldn’t only engage with people in order to increase your fans and profits. You should do so to build your community. Running a sweepstakes might be a great way to attract a lot of new fans and leads, but posting questions, puzzles, tests, and other interactive items is a great way to keep people hanging around your page for fun.
When people are enticed enough to spend time on your page, they start to spread the word around. Being the proverbial hangout, if only for a few minutes a day, creates much more of a communal atmosphere.
5: Be Creative Yet Focused
It takes a little bit of craftiness to build a community while still marketing the way you want. After all, you’re not in this for sport. You want the community to serve multiple purposes. You want to build brand trust and overall loyalty, but you also want fans to stay fans and to become customers. So this is where your creativity comes into play. You need to stay focused on your business goals while being innovative enough to launch noninvasive promotions and ads to lure people in.
In other words, you want to advertise to people and get them into your sales funnel without making it seem overt. Mixing in a contest and building leads from members of the community will help you separate your business, so to speak. Off-site, you will communicate via email and/or mobile messaging with leads. On-site, you can keep things social and not so much in the business realm.
6: Be Cordial
Politeness is truly a virtue on Facebook. You’re going to encounter people who are brash and rude. You’ll run into people who just want to spam other members via the comments section of a post. And you’ll inevitably find that some people want to trash you and your brand.
Never engage with these people at all, unless you’re being polite. “Please” and “thank you” are words that you need to keep on the ready. And when things start to get too out of control, remove people for the good of the community. Yes, it’s a little dictatorial, but you have to operate a polite atmosphere.
7: Be Patient
It’s impossible for a great community to be built overnight. It’s going to take some time. The best thing you can do is stick with your engagement tactics, your quality posts, your ad campaign, and be a cordial, inviting, personal brand. It may sound trite to say that the rest will take care of itself, but as long as you’re walking that line and doing things correctly, the community really will grow itself.
Having a large, strong community of solid fans participating with your brand in an open manner will help you greatly increase your reputation, your recognition, and your reach. Not only will you pick up more fans and customers, but you’ll also be able to save money on advertising and other costly methods. Building a thorough community will greatly help your brand thrive.