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August 2013
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The One Thing You Need to Build Your Online Community

One of the most valuable things a business can have is a strong following. Community members who engage with you on a regular basis tend to be loyal customers as well as brand ambassadors.

To build a strong following you need just one thing: patience.

While creating a Facebook and Twitter page, sending out email newsletters and writing a blog all take a couple of hours, creating a community takes time. It’s more tortoise than hare. It’s not enough to just ask for likes or follows; you must inspire your members to keep coming back.

Here are four ways you can inspire your community:

1. Educate
Through your newsletter, blog and social media posts, you have the ability to share valuable information and educate your community. Some business owners worry about giving away too much, fearing that it gives customers a reason to not hire you. The opposite is true. Businesses that share value reap the rewards of a loyal fan base and increased sales. Gain the trust of your community by sharing your knowledge. Help them solve problems, and always give them something more than they expect.

2. Listen
It can be tempting to treat your followers like a fan base – especially on the Internet, where we all sit behind a screen – but you should treat your community like a meeting of peers. That means listening is more important than talking. If you are leading a community, be available to answer questions and engage in conversations in a timely manner. Make your members feel cared for. Visit their blogs and follow their social media pages. Care about them more than you care about their follow, like or email address.  And don’t take them for granted – don’t ask for a share or retweet, and never, ever spam. Just share information and then be open and willing to hear their replies.

3. Entertain
Businesses that effectively touch a person’s emotions will become memorable. To do this, be sure to know your audience. Post jokes or links to funny pictures on your Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter pages. Share stories on your blog or through your newsletter that will make them laugh or touch their hearts. By entertaining your community, you increase the chances that your members will retweet or share your posts with their own groups.

4. Be Relevant
Finally, know your community well, and give them what they need. What are their challenges? What are their strengths? What tugs at their hearts? What is important to them? Once you truly understand your audience, tell them stories to which they can relate.

If your industry has jargon that your customers might not understand, use words that they will know. Share your best stuff – a community based on value is a community that thrives and grows.

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