Community building is a great way to find new customers, build a loyal following of brand evangelists, and provide more value to current customers. Traditional outbound marketing tactics aren’t working like they used to. So, how can you get in front of your target audience and capture their attention?
The answer: provide content that’s valuable to them.
So then comes the question, “what type of content would be valuable to our audience?” The types of content that usually get the highest engagement are: Training resources, short blog posts that solve customers pain points, how-to guides, videos, etc.
In this step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through the best practices of how to get in front of your audience, build a loyal community, and turn your website visitors into paying customers:
1. Identify your target audience– This is the first and most important part of the community building process as this is what will determine what kind of content you’ll need to produce, what resources you’ll need leverage and what platforms will be the best to get the content you’re producing in front of the right audience. You’ll want to know as much information about your target audience as possible- for example: you might want to know the industry sites they read, what their interests are and what their pain points are in their job and outside of work.
2. Develop a content strategy- Now that you have a pretty good idea of who your target audience is – you’ll want to figure out what content is going to attract them to your site. A great way to start is by creating a list of common questions your clients or prospects have on sales calls or when pitching prospects, and creating short blog posts using the question as the title of the blog post. Chances are if one of your clients or prospects has a question relating to a prospect or service, others have the same question. Nowadays, where are most people going when they have a question?
By creating blog posts and/or video posts that answer a specific question, you’ll have the most relevant article/video when someone types the question into Google. By helping people solve common problems or by answering people’s questions- you’re building trust with your consumer.
Also, another way to figure out what types of content to produce would be to look at what industry sites your customer is currently visiting and seeing what the most shareable content has been on that site and creating your own content around the same topic.
3. Create your community brand– Typically you’ll want to have a blog on your company website that is branded towards the audience you’re going after. You’ll want to pick a name that relates to your audience and speaks to the information they are seeking. For example the B2B company Vistage International has a target audience of business owners of companies with 5 million+ in revenue and typically are dedicated to ongoing learning and development in their business. The name of their blog “Executive Street” relates to their audience of business owners and has the tagline “Your daily resource for CEO thought leadership.” This way when people land on the site they can instantly get a feel for the community that they are a part of and what the content on the site will be geared towards.
4. Choose the right social channels to interact with customers- Some social channels won’t make sense for your business and this is why I said identifying your target audience is the most important step in the process. For example: If your customer base is primarily males, then the social network Pinterest might not make sense for your business since the primary demographic on the site is females. Creating a following would be challenging and probably wouldn’t achieve much ROI. Typically for B2B businesses you’ll want to focus on building a following on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, your Blog RSS feeds, have a presence on Facebook and possibly a site like Quora. For B2C businesses your main focuses might be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, etc. It really depends on your target audience and where your audience is however, it is better to have more focus when choosing the social networks to build a community on- going after 2 networks to really focus on is better than having a mediocre audience on 5 networks. Your social channels should be used to get the content from your content hub (aka your blog) out to your audience, to interact with your audience, and to share other valuable pieces of content with your community. Remember, the most important part of this is to always provide value (interesting information) to your community. Self- serving content typically gets lower engagement.
5. Leverage your resources – Typically there are other industry experts that have valuable information that they can share with your community. Do some research to figure out who the movers and shakers are within your industry and invite them to take part in the conversation. Great people to look for would be people that have a lot of respect and influence within your industry- they can help create new, interesting content and help you build your following by providing exposure to your brand from their own loyal following.
6. Track and Measure Results- There are a few different ways to track and measure the success of your community. The first thing to measure the success on is how much traffic you’re generating from your site. If you’re writing valuable and interesting content typically the first thing that you’ll see happen is an increase in traffic to your site from the specific pieces of content you created.
For your social channels, while the amount of people that follow you is important to grow- numbers shouldn’t matter (too much). What’s more important than the number of followers is the amount of engagement you’re getting and the quality of your followers. A social channel that has a few thousand people that are highly engaged with your brand is much better than having 30,000 followers that don’t like, share or interact with your content.
If you’re looking to measure ROI from content to customer, you’ll need something more than just Google Analytics to measure your success. You’ll most likely need some sort of marketing automation system such as HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot. These tools can help you keep better tabs on your community with lead intelligence about the people visiting your site, the content that each user is reading and closed loop reporting to see how your visitors are turning to customers.