Building an engaged community that is sustainable, profitable and with purpose takes a lot of different elements to make happen. You simply need to consult those who have grown successful social communities and will be inundated with tips and ideas. However, one element that is often overlooked is probably the most fundamental to online community building: your audience.
This blog post will delve into the crucial community element in a little more detail and show how by starting with your audience, you will be on track to see your community grow, flourish and thrive.
First, let’s define exactly what an audience is:
An audience is a group of people who could be your customers, your employees, your prospects, your partners and so on. These are the people you want to attract into your online community – the ones you want, hope and need to be actively engaged in the community.
To enable these things to happen, your planning has to start with them.
As a marketer, you may think of audiences in terms of segments and personas. Online communities allow you to take this one step closer. People are complex beings, and when first starting to build an online community, it is important to think of them as individuals. For instance, when people make choices about how to spend their time online, many considerations come into play. Some of them are fairly predictable, such as products, price and service, or brand sentiment, but others may be random or irrational.
So, to create a community space that attracts people that want to have dialogues with you, know you audience well, properly interact with them, and use the right language and tone.
To catch and sustain their attention, be open about what’s in it for them. If these things are done right, you are on the right path to building lasting relationships.
The Internet is a huge place where everything is just one click away – you have to work harder than ever to sustain any level of interest from any audience. People choose to visit your site or community space over your competitors because they want to. So, in terms of online communities, being better than your competitors on the web means being aware of the things your audience is trying to achieve online. What are their motivations? The 4 Roads, Social Business Cookbook states that it is “being somewhere people feel they get satisfaction.”
When starting an online community project, you should always start with the audience motivations.
For a community, audience motivations break down into:
- Purpose - completing a task
- Interest - fulfilling a passion
- Practice - meeting a need
- Circumstance - sharing an emotion
You can build a community using any one of these motivations, however, the most successful online communities, in terms of engagement and sustainability include a mix of all four!
So, who is your audience and what are your audience motivations? Knowing exactly whom you want to talk to and the motivations they have will determine the type of communication requirements your online community has. It will also enable you to design a social community platform where the right sorts of conversations happen and one that builds the relationships your business needs with your audience.