Building a community around your business and blog is fantastic and beneficial for so many reasons. Yes, it’ll help you grow larger and more successful, reach more people, and make more money. But more importantly, it will make everything you do feel suddenly so much more worth it. You’ll make friends, build a support system, feel more valuable, and feel more connected. Being an Internet entrepreneur can be lonely – don’t underestimate the importance of making real, solid connections.
But, how do you get that community? It’s overwhelming when you start a business online. The to-do list seems never ending, so how do you also work in time for building friendships? How do you get noticed, find your way in, and become someone that people recognize, like, and want to talk to? (Cue awkward high school flash-backs!)
Well, I think the Internet community is easier to figure out than high school (thankfully) and building a strong community doesn’t take a lot of work – just work with good intentions.
This might seem obvious, but it needs to be said! You are awesome. Transparency is something that people value more than you may realize. Sure, stay on brand – if you are a positive, perky, uplifting company then try and maintain that and be cohesive, but also, it’s okay to say, “Today I am overwhelmed, anyone have any tips for dealing with stress?” to your community.
Your community will value that you are authentic, human, and willing to reach out for support. In return, you will get that support.
I am generally a positive person. My brand voice involves lots of exclamation marks and sweet words – but a few weeks ago I was having a bad day. Like a really bad day, and I knew other budding entrepreneurs would understand, and I needed that support. I turned to my favorite Facebook group and asked for support, and you know what? I received a ton of comments of people saying positive things, telling me to keep my head up and offering funny graphics.
Being cohesive is, honestly, everything to me. But, being transparent and making real connections with people is even more important. Think back to those college days, when you made some of the best friends you’ve ever had because you both had too much to drink and shared secrets and fears and hopes and dreams.
I’m not saying throw back a bottle of wine and divulge everything on the Internet! No! But just realize that people really connect with others that are honest, true to themselves, and transparent with their struggles, hopes, and passions. People can relate to that more than a picture-perfect, never-faltering person.
It doesn’t just have to be in those moments of need, either. Share funny stories, share silly stories, share things that other people in your community can relate too. I would rather read a blog post that started with a small anecdote about a funny moment we all face as entrepreneurs, which then led into content, over a blog post that just stated facts. There are situations that happen to you everyday, that happen to other people in your community, and talking about them will make your bonds stronger.
Share The Love & Make Connections
If you are trying to break into a community and be noticed, then you need to start acknowledging other people. By that, I mean interact! Get on social media and post, re-post, and link to people you admire and want to connect with. Like their tweets, comment on their Instagram, and re-pin their pins. You might feel obnoxious, but people appreciate that you find their content interesting or inspiring and choose to share it with your followers.
This accomplishes a lot of things – it helps get you noticed, it gets those people to interact with you in return, and it helps establish that you are someone who is in the know. Being seen as an expert relies quite a bit on your content, but I also admire people who show me new resources and new blogs to follow. So your ability to bring that to your audience will only help secure you as someone worthy of following.
It shouldn’t be a mindless act though. Don’t just go down your twitter feed and repost everything you see. Be authentic and choose ones that are useful to you, or would be useful to your audience.
On your own accounts – answer people’s questions with detailed and elaborate responses, offer resources that will help them. Thank people for retweets. Comment back to blog comments. Answer emails in a timely fashion. Make those connections strong and meaningful to the people that reach out to you, so that they come back for more.
Make A Good Impression
This is a tough one for me, because I can be very scatterbrained. I got sick of knowing I’d seen a screen name somewhere, but couldn’t remember the details of the person behind the website, so I actually made a physical list.
That might sound totally creepy, but I’d rather be able to respond to a tweet and thank the person by name, and make that connection stronger. My name isn’t in my screen name (It’s TheCrownFox on everything) so when someone remembers my name?! I am SO honored and amazed and impressed. You want to have that same effect on people. Remember their names. Remember details about their story or their business. Ask follow-up questions alluding to the last time you spoke with them. These are the same things you do in person, with friends, or co-workers, or the gal who rings up your groceries every week (maybe that’s jut me; I am from the South…). So do it with your online community, too! People will value you even more if they know that you value them.
It seems hard to establish yourself and build your community and a following. I get it. You see people that have so many followers, so many fans, and think that can’t be you. The fact is – if you are thinking of it as just followers or fans, then yeah, it can’t be you. Change your mindset and acknowledge that there is a person on the end of every like you receive on Twitter or Instagram, that there’s a person behind the comment on your blog. There’s a person who thought you were worth reaching out to – so return that favor and grow that connection even stronger.
Be yourself, be transparent, be polite, interact, and share and you will see your community grow quicker than you ever imagined. The people you look up to and admire for their communities, they are willing and ready to let you in, you just have to take action and showcase your awesome self.