The Social Media Marvels talks to Janet Machuka, who is big on building interactive communities online. She runs her own Twitter chats, collaborates with other marketers, and has been in the niche since three years. In this part of the podcast, we discuss the various aspects of creating engaging online communities, what should a business do, and what a business should avoid in order to build a stronger community in their respective niches.
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The world today is moving towards a more customer-centric approach. In order to build a stronger online community, one needs to listen to what the audience says. Incorporating user experience, and charting out a user journey should be one of the pressing priorities of any marketer.
- Where do I identify my target audience?
- How do I capture their attention?
- What activities should I undertake?
- Why should I mold content to specific customer funnels?
If you’d like to know how to build a stronger community online and have the following questions, be sure to listen to the podcast.
Q - How is building an online community something that caught your attention?
A - When you look at community, let me start from the aspect of the general. Social media platforms are communities, and currently technology has evolved to a point where if you don't have a smartphone, you're missing out.
If you're not on social media, having some accounts, using WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, you're missing out a lot. Communities are so dear to me because they help me connect to people, as much as they are my close friends. Some of them are my family, relatives, and marketers meeting their customers. Another thing that most of the time we usually forget, people meet their lovers on social media. So communities are very important. Yes.
Q - Since how long have you been actively contributing towards this cause?
A -It’s been three years since I started. Of course, as a marketer, I had previously also dealt with community interaction. With communities, it’s all about recognizing that niche, finding them for specific reasons. Yes, it is fun as well but mainly it is very targeted.
The best thing about being a part of the community is getting in touch with like-minded people and building relations with them over time. The online aspect of it has diminished the geographical distance a community has.
Q - How do businesses ensure that community they are building is engaging and has a communication channel that they follow-through?
A - Engagement and content comes in various forms - text, image, video, GIFs. It can be a like or a share or a comment. The reasons why brands engage and why an audience engages is very different.
For example, a brand wants to boost engagement on its content via more share. It wants the content to spread like wildfire. The audience response could be in the form of comments or likes. With social media algorithms in place, the brand needs to focus more on the content resonating with their audience over worrying about creating engagement through various channels.
A brand trying to boost it’s engagement needs to keep in mind - it is dealing with people. There is a real person, real emotions involved behind the virtual account. So as a brand, work on showcasing a humanized personality. Show emotions in your messaging, in your content, show that you care.
If the audience views you as a sensitive brand, engagement is bound to rise.
Jagruti - Yes, I completely agree with you that what businesses should always not forget is that they're talking to the person at the end of the day.
It's going to be psychological, it's going to be emotional. Sometimes people are going to have conflicts and you'll have to make conflict mediation because if two people are talking with opposing opinions, it's going to be a problem. Yeah.
Q - Our online community members are at different levels of the sales funnel - some are interested in getting information, some want to engage with others in the niche, whereas some are high-intent buyers. How does a business recognize and sort the potential audience from the potential customer?
A -Well it depends on the marketing goals of the company. As marketers we engage in various activities that align with our goals. Your reasons for doing a certain activity might be different from mine.
The same reasoning goes behind your audience as well. Some want to be a part of the community, a few want information, some want to understand your product better and genuinely convert to customers.
In order to leverage a customer’s journey, a brand needs to engage differently with the audience in various stages of the journey. Do you as a brand work towards only selling or engage with the audience on an informational level as well?
The content that you share everyday has to appeal a variety of audience-base. You can’t simply write content for the middle funnel and keep sharing it. Your content, your engagement should have a human quality attached to it. This ensures the audience being attached to the brand at a human level rather than a superficial level.
Q - Besides being human, by the brand, what are some of the features or aspects of a very strong online community?
A - The brand also needs its content being spoken about via its community, influencers outside of it, and content being reviewed by third parties as well. This way when someone comes across your brand, they hear a voice which is other than yours as well.
The other thing you can do is to share content which isn’t yours. This shows you appreciate other people’s work too. You are not self-involved. Collaborating with other brands, knowledge-based partnerships are also an aspect that brands can incorporate.
This way the audience can view a brand as a whole - views of its own, views of influencers, and collaborative attitude towards other niche brands too.
Jagruti - Yeah, I don't know why people or businesses are skeptical of talking to people who are a part of their niche but might be a competitor or something. They just want to keep a close tab on them but not get involved with them. Because I'm sure we are dealing with the same kind of community, so we might have something that the competitor doesn't know and we might be able to share that.
A - This lack of openness is what can damage a brand. There are times when people leave genuine reviews, interact positively with the shared content. This can increase a brand’s value by manifold. You may never know how many ambassadors you might have around the world.
But a brand, when it fails to acknowledge the genuity of its patrons, doesn’t recognize their reviews or comments, it works against their engagement efforts. Then it is just viewed to be a brand that wants to be an authority and wants only itself to speak about it.
On social media, always talking shop might not be a good idea. You also need to interact with the content your audience talks about. It can’t always be about you. For example, dealing with negative comments towards your brand. What would you choose to do? Crack a light-hearted joke or take offense and get all aggressive?
The #SocialMediaMarvels is a podcast series that invites digital marketing influencers from across the world to celebrate their journey and get a glimpse of their contributions to the field. Get actionable tips, learn directly from the practitioners, and imbibe it to help your business.