Building a social community that sticks

If you managed to escape the COVID-19 pandemic without participating in a Tik Tok dance challenge, we commend you. The video-based social platform reached new heights over the past two years as those stuck in quarantine forged community connections through the creation and sharing of viral content. This trend also filtered through to other channels like Pinterest and Reddit, which saw a growth of 32 and 30 per cent respectively.

If your brand is looking to build or boost an engaged social community, there may be no better time than the present to get started and take advantage of increased online buzz. Not sure where to start? That’s what we’re here for. 

What is a social media community?

A social community is an online community created by a brand, organization, or group of people to share ideas, images, videos, discussions, and have interactions about their mutual interest(s). For brand social communities, the audience is normally comprised of three main groups: prospective customers, current customers, and brand advocates. They may have many differences, but your brand gives them something in common. A successful brand will use its community to nurture interests, forge meaningful connections, and encourage engagement.

An engaged social community can increase brand visibility, build interest in your brand, and even assist in sales. They can also help to build brand trust and provide you with opportunities to learn more about your community members. In contrast, failing to establish a strong social community can limit the reach of your social content and leave you at risk of losing out to competitors. Remember, each person is usually part of several online communities so failing to create engagement means you'll get lost in the digital shuffle. 

The recipe for a great social community

Step one: create a strategy

You’ll need to have a plan in place that will guide you as you progress throughout your social journey. This strategy should contain:

  • Mission and vision statements 
  • Key messaging and brand voice
  • Goals and objectives
  • What you want to achieve by the end of a certain timeframe
  • How social will support you in accomplishing these goals

The contents of this strategy should align with company-wide policies and goals to ensure consistency. As you create content, you’ll be able to reference this plan to make sure you’re on track with overarching company goals. 

Step two: begin persona development  

Developing personas can help you better understand your audience and determine what they need from you. Create profiles that represent your core audience groups – who are they? What makes them tick? To do this, use the analytical tools at your disposal, ask questions, and listen to your audience. Go through your existing social platforms to view high-level demographics showing who engages with you and what content they engage best with.

A word of advice: personas have (justifiably) come under fire for being over-simplified and occasionally biased. To avoid this, lean into psychographics (a buyer's values and beliefs) instead of assumptions or just demographics wherever possible. For example, if you're an organic diaper brand, is your audience really just 30-year-old moms, or is it any parents or caregivers who care about using natural products?

Step three: understand your platforms

You have a plethora of social media platforms to choose from when building your strategy, but don’t feel pressured to use all of them. Use your personas and analytics to determine what channels are best for communicating with your audience. Your analytics will tell you what content they want to see, and where they want to see it. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by trying to be active everywhere without the data to back up your decision. Free guides and reports like this one can help you understand where your target audience will be, and where your time is best spent.

Step four: build out a content calendar  

Now comes the fun part – developing the content! Using your strategic roadmap and demographic analysis, create a content calendar to proactively plan visual and copy content. They could be a simple spreadsheet or a more in-depth planner like those available in Sprout Social. Each entry in your content calendar should contain the topic, the date it will be posted, a posting time, a snapshot of the visual asset, and the post copy. Planning your content this way helps you understand your entire strategy as a whole prior to launch, and can greatly assist you in reaching strategic objectives.

Some things to consider as you work through this:

  • Don’t get ahead of yourself

Try not to plan your content for more than a month in advance. The digital world is always changing- what was relevant last month may not work today.

  • Create content buckets

Separating your content into topic buckets in alignment with your brand goals can help ensure you’re hitting your key messages every month. Each post should be both engaging and strategic. Remember to always ask: what is the purpose of this post?

  • Let the data speak

The data you gather throughout the month can show you how your audience is reacting to your content and what posting times generate optimal engagement. This data can then be used to improve later content.

Step five: monitor and engage

Once the content is posted, your work has only just begun. You’ll need to engage in conversations, respond to comments, and reply to brand mentions. Be an active participant in your community by driving conversations and showing an interest in your audience. Social community building is a two-way process, and your audience members will appreciate seeing your brand put effort into establishing meaningful relationships with them.

Whenever you enter the online community in any way, you’ll need to prepare for negative feedback. Negative comments without any meaningful criticisms or complaints can often be ignored, but others may require a response. Remember to approach each issue with a compassionate mindset and your brand voice in mind. This can help to minimize any frustration within your audience and show you care about resolving customer concerns.

The key to good audience engagement of any kind is authenticity. Be true to your brand voice and values, but don’t be afraid to take a light-hearted or funny approach to personalize your brand and have fun with your audience. Language-learning application Duolingo has made quite the name for itself on Tik Tok by doing just that; generating millions of followers with meme-based content and hilarious comments on audience member posts and tags.

Building a social community is a cycle: rinse and repeat

To build a strong social community, you need to be an active member of that community. Creating and posting content is only the tip of the iceberg; you’ll need to put the extra work in to make the cut. A full-time social media manager or agency may be required in order to do the necessary legwork, especially if you’re looking to leave a lasting mark in the social space.

As you progress through this journey, continue to cycle through this process to see what can be updated based on feedback or data. Monitoring tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Later can help to provide in-depth audience analysis and scheduling assistance to further improve your systems. Your social audience will be as diverse and unique as your brand, so you’ll need to listen and continually evaluate your processes to craft a perfectly tailored strategy.

Remember – this process will take time and often requires mistakes and failures for you to learn from. Roll with the punches, learn from feedback, and continuously move forward. The social game can be difficult, but seeing it all come together is a rewarding (and fun!) experience. 

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