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6 Non-Traditional Ways to Build an Online Community

Marketing Strategy

Jul 24, 2019

Marketing TangoIt’s no secret that marketing has gotten increasingly complex over the last few decades. Integrated marketers have to work harder than ever to capture audience attention and encourage engagement. Even with all of the traditional (direct mail, radio, TV, print) and digital (search, social, email) marketing avenues available for outreach today, marketers still have to find the sweet spot for reaching customers, where they are.  

SmartInsights has proffered six non-traditional ways to reach audiences and build an engaged, active community using demographics, content, inspiration, and authenticity.

Start a Course

While an education course may not apply to your business directly, what is at its heart certainly will. You and your team are experts in your field, so give users the opportunity to learn from and interact with you. Whether the platform is online or in-person, free or paid, use it to establish your leadership in the space. 

The course can be as simple or complicated as you’d like using video, PowerPoint, an online presentation platform, or a lunch-time get-together in your office. Whichever path you take, use this time to build authority and trust with your customers and prospects. 

Develop an Awards Program

Celebrating the achievements of those within your community is a surefire way to build engagement. Recognizing excellence, boosting brands, and bringing in well-known names from industry as judges, sponsors, and participants will bring you recognition, attention, and interaction.  

Think about what you want to recognize and how; the way scoring will work; and the type of event you will hold (gala, awards ceremony, luncheon, etc.). There are any number of programs available to use as models, so look around and see what suits your business, industry, and abilities.

Work with Micro-Influencers

Most integrated marketers are familiar with the work of influencers—those powerful personalities boasting hundreds of thousands of viewers (and more) who advocate for companies, especially on Instagram. Because people are swayed by passion, value, and word-of-mouth from those they trust, influencer marketing has really been enjoying a heyday.

Unfortunately, those celebrity influencer endorsements can be quite pricey—how can your small business get in on the action? Try targeting micro-influencers, those with fewer than 10k highly-motivated, engaged, and active followers. Micro-influencers are more affordable, sometimes willing to work for trades or free services. Gen Z in particular love these brand leaders for their authenticity, relatability, and straightforward advice. 

Design a Webinar (or Series)

Much like with course development—or possibly in its place if a course is too ambitious—is a webinar. By providing valuable, practical tips to current and prospective customers, you can offer education on a subject that you dominate in your industry. Make it free or low-cost to attract likely audiences for an interesting and educational discussion. Allow time for Q&A, and consider recording the presentation for later reuse via email or social media distribution.

Remember that customers are transactional. To get them to give up time and personal information you will need to give them something valuable in return. So, make sure your webinar is relevant, thought-provoking, and instructive. 

Create a Podcast

In case you’ve somehow missed the phenomenon, podcasts are a huge thing right now. Providing voices of authority in business, humor, service, storytelling, and much more, podcasts are an excellent opportunity to reflect your brand’s values. Bring in industry experts or demonstrate your own mastery of your field—but whatever you do, remain authentic, honest, and straightforward.

Use Social for Its Intended Purpose

With all of the emphasis on boosting and pushing out content on social media, we’ve forgotten that the original intent was to actually provide a platform for conversations at a distance. Communications are a hugely significant portion of building your community, so make sure that you get active on your platforms.  

Follow others; engage with your followers, competitors, and industry leaders in your space. Build a personable and friendly presence on aspirational sites—those of your “someday” target audience; as well as on the sites your current audience follow most. Take a little time every day to ask and answer questions, and talk to the people populating your platforms of choice. 

If You Build It…Well, You Know

Most of all, remember that you are building a community. Provide a webinar or course, offer an awards program or podcast, and facilitate conversations, all with an eye toward being helpful, truthful, and open. The more followers and friends you accumulate on these platforms, the greater your likelihood of being seen and treated as the authority you are.

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