In the age of social media madness, you’ve probably been scrambling to sign up for various social networking profiles and have implemented a blog or forum for your website. You’re creating content, responding to your users and engaging with them, which is a huge part of what social media marketing is all about. But what about the community aspect? How engaged are your users with each other? Have you fostered an environment where people come to your site and want to come back again and again so they can not only interact with you and your brand, but with everyone else?
See, even these little pegs have their own little community…
Some of the most successful websites have a strong community, whether it’s an actual community or just a sense of belonging. A few weeks ago Lisa Barone wrote about how a community is like a family, and she’s absolutely right. Why do you keep going back to your favorite sites? Some probably offer great products, while others have interesting content, but I’m willing to be that a few of the sites you love the most have a strong community aspect that you identify with and appreciate.
The Internet’s a big place, and for you to want to stick around in one spot for a long time, there has to be some sort of appeal that makes you comfortable and makes you want to stay. It’s exactly like picking a city or neighborhood to live in. There are millions of places you can move to throughout the US, but you’ve picked where you are today because you love the location, or maybe your neighbors are great people, or because it’s near a lot of parks and cafes. Whatever the reason, it resulted in you thinking that this place is where you want to settle down. It made you feel happy and secure, and it created a sense of belonging.
Not the safest looking community…
If you’re a big city person, you’d hate living in the countryside. If you’re a small townie, maybe a big city overwhelms you. And that’s exactly how the Internet is for most people. We turn to online communities to make us feel comfortable and secure. We share via Twitter to receive instant gratification and timely responses. We turn to Urban Outfitters‘ website because we like fashion and value the feedback the community leaves on the store’s clothing and products. We log into a study abroad website’s forums to interact with other students who have experienced study abroad programs and can share their experiences and help us prepare for our journey.
Thanks to the community of followers I have on Twitter, I was able to reach out to them and raise money for The Big Climb in Seattle last spring (enough money to win a camel pack!), as well as receive donations for a training buddy of mine who got in a bad bike accident and had to endure multiple surgeries to reconstruct her lip and teeth. The strong community on Reddit recently banded together to create the world’s largest Secret Santa gift exchange ever, and they often donate money and advice to help fellow redditors in need. Why are people willing to give money to help out a friend of mine who they’ve never met, or to buy a gift for someone they’ve never talked to in real life?
“Hell no” in person = “How can I help?” in your favorite online community
It’s because a successful community has created a sense of belonging. You’re helping out someone who’s not that different from you. A strong community identifies with one another because they are a single entity, and tapping into that presence successfully means you’re strengthening your brand and developing a target audience with similar tastes and opinions. By creating a place where your users can interact with like-minded individuals and establish a sense of belonging, you’re enjoying one of the biggest successes a website can have.
The next time you log in to fire off a tweet, or when you think about authoring up a blog post or implementing user reviews, think about how you can develop a sense of community that’s tied to your website and brand. Whether you reward your users like FourSquare does with their badges and mayoral standings, highlight the best of your community like Yelp does in their newsletters, actively respond to and interact with your customers via Twitter or Facebook, or even if you create a platform that’s entirely community-driven like Reddit, establishing that sense of community is one of the most valuable and important things you can do.