On a basic level, a successful business is one that generates enough sales to turn a profit every year. However, if business owners want to maintain that success over a long period of time, one strategy that’s often helpful is creating a positive community around your product, service or business. Doing so offers your customers a place to interact with each other as well as with you and your team, and fosters loyalty and passion within your fan base.
However, building a community around your business doesn’t happen overnight, and it will take time and a well-thought-out plan to achieve. To help, 10 members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their best tips for building a community—online or otherwise—and why doing so is so impactful for your business.
1. Create An Open Space For People To Connect
The term “community” is used a lot these days, but one thing is clear: If you're not creating meaningful connections between people, you don't have a community, you have an audience. It's important to create an open space for your members to talk, and to encourage an open dialogue that doesn't always involve you or your business setting the tone. Also, remember that, at its core, a community is a basic human need—people naturally want to belong and feel that they belong. Regularly let your community know that they are valued. Remember that there is no substitute for in-person connection. Online communities are a great starting point for ideas and new friendships, but real-life conversations are where those relationships become real. - Greg Ashton, GROW
2. Rally Around
A CauseIt is easiest to build a community around a social cause related to your product or service. For example, if you're in the business of manufacturing or selling beauty products, you can start a community where participants share their favorite makeup looks and build each other’s self-esteem. When there is a common social cause, people respond to it and uplift each other. You can start building this community within your work family. Encourage your team members to interact with your online audience. They have to believe in the cause to be able to sell the brand to the community. Be patient. It takes time and effort to establish community connections. Share educational and impactful content within your shared space, and soon enough, more members will be encouraged to share their own stories. - Bryce Welker, Crush The GRE
3. Leverage User-Generated Content
One piece of advice I have for building both an online and offline community around a product, service or brand is to source content from real customers. The cost of creating content from scratch can be debilitating for new brands, especially with the ever-increasing demands of content frequency. Paying for professional photography on every social media post is simply not viable for the vast majority of businesses leveraging these marketing channels. Instead, have someone in the organization with a good eye for design and storytelling curate content from real customers. Tons of folks post high-quality content on social media about brands. Reposting is usually welcome, helping to not only build brand loyalty with the creator, but also show customers the brand truly connects with them. - Richard Fong, Disability Help
4. Solve A Problem Without Selling
Most businesses these days strive to build communities to gain traction from their respective audiences and promote their products or services. This is a common mistake you must avoid. Engagement is the prerequisite for creating a powerful community. Whether it's people assisting others or businesses helping users find fitting solutions, the core objective of a community is to solve the problems of its members. So, if you strive to build a community, create one that helps people seek the answers they're looking for—not one that advertises how great your products or services are. This will help you create a community that people will gladly want to be a part of. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
5. Appoint A Dedicated Community Manager
The most important thing you can do when building a community around your product, service or business is to hire the right community manager. This is someone who will be responsible for fostering relationships and driving engagement within the community. The right community manager will have a deep understanding of your product or service and be passionate about its success. They will also be able to effectively communicate your vision for the community and rally others around it. Furthermore, they will be skilled in managing difficult conversations and be able to resolve conflicts quickly and efficiently. An effective community manager will be the glue that holds the community together and ensures that it is a positive, supportive environment for all. - Abhijeet Kaldate, Astra WordPress Theme
6. Turn Customers Into Brand Ambassadors
Create a dedicated brand ambassador program and encourage your loyal customers to join. Brand ambassadors are passionate about your product and can help spread the word about it. They can help promote your product on social media, at events and through word-of-mouth, as well as build a community by creating an online forum or Facebook group where people can ask questions, give feedback and share tips and tricks. All of these need to happen to build an interactive community around your product. Create a website or blog and offer exclusive content for members only. This will give people an incentive to join and become active members. You can also hold events and meetups for members to get together and interact in person. - Candice Georgiadis, Digital Day
7. Encourage Customers
To Interact And ShareI believe the best way to build a community is to encourage others to share their thoughts and experiences. People are looking for brands to help with their problems, but they also want a place for open discourse. I recommend sharing interactive posts that encourage your audience members to speak their minds. For instance, you could ask a probing question, share a startling statistic or invite users to share their experiences with others. - John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
8. Be Genuine
The first step to building a community is to be genuine. I've seen a lot of people try to leverage the power of social media to grow their businesses and build their brands, but they don't seem to understand the importance of authenticity. They just post generic messages, or they try to be too clever by half. But if you're not being honest, who's going to trust you? The best thing you can do is simply be yourself and share what you love with the world. People will feel connected with you because they can see that there's a real person behind the product or service—and that person cares about what they're doing! - Brian Greenberg, Insurist
9. Provide Educational Resources
As business owners, we can’t only focus on the here and now. We must focus on disrupting the industry, effecting change and offering products and services that stand the test of time. What better way to do this than to build a community that supports and believes in what we’re selling? This is why it’s incredibly important to create advisory and educational services to help customers develop and refine their strategies using industry best practices. Whether you do this through online events, free assets or online forums is up to you. What’s important is knowing that being a successful entrepreneur is sometimes less about selling something and more about sharing your industry knowledge to help our communities achieve more. - Riccardo Conte, Virtus Flow
10. Find The Right Platform For Engagement
First, find a way to distinguish your brand. The more you set your company or product apart from your competitors, the more interest current and potential users will take in it. Then, set up the building blocks for your community. Target social media platforms or marketing channels that are interactive and allow you to dive deep—and allow your users to dive deep with you. It could be Twitch, Discord, Pinterest, a branded podcast and so on. Lean into channels that your audience already uses or that seem to work well for your competitors. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.