To make an acquaintance, you need to engage. To foster a friendship, you need to embrace. To nurture a relationship, you need to encourage. To build a community, you need all three.
Businesses know how to engage potential customers and recognize the importance of embracing existing ones. Where they stumble is with relationships, failing to recognize the need to encourage interaction with their clients and by extension, encourage their clients to talk to others about their business.
Building a community of faithful followers takes time and energy. It is an investment in which the returns are not realized overnight. That should not come as a surprise because everything that is worthwhile takes time.
Here are three steps to building a strong community:
Engage — Share your personal story with your target audience. People want to know about you. It is difficult to get people interested in what you are selling until they are interested in you.
Embrace — Let the people you are reaching out to tell their stories. Understand their viewpoints. How else can you address their needs without knowing them?
Encourage — Communication is not a one-way street. Don’t deliver your message without asking for feedback or comment. The response may not always be what you want to hear as a business, but it is important that you encourage interaction. Think of the trust your business will build if you are willing to listen and respond to both the good and bad comments coming your way.
All of this involves a solid content strategy that creates and promotes a personalized, authentic message to connect and strengthen your brand with your community. There are no gimmicks involved; there are no fast-track options to this business-to-consumer relationship.
Content strategy consultant Rick Allen writes: “When you develop meaningful connections with your audience, they become a partner — willing to share your message (promote your brand) and forgive you when you mess up.”
You have a community when this happens. You have a following that trusts and is loyal to your business, your product or service, and your brand.