I have many Twitter followers – a while back it was even more but I forced thousands of inactive accounts to unfollow me. But all these followers are worthless when you fail to build and maintain your social media communities.
You can have a social media account with a couple of hundred followers that is worth more than an account with thousands of followers.
The social media community – or the lack thereof.
So, stop counting your followers and start looking for other signs that your social media audience is more than an audience.
What is the difference between a social media audience and social media communities?
When I started my Twitter journey everything was different.
- The feed was all chronological.
- Tweets were 140 characters – including images, links, and mentions.
- Providing value on Twitter was mainly about sharing links to external (blog) content.
Successful Twitter marketing often meant growing followers and sharing links to your blog content. More tweets with more links resulted in more blog traffic.
Some people were already building a community on Twitter. But the most common strategy was to grow followers, sharing links for traffic and turning that traffic into email subscribers on the blog.
Today, social media marketing is different.
- Feeds of social media platforms are algorithmic and rely heavily on engagement for the selection of which posts to show in the feed and which posts to bury.
- Social media users expect more value on the platforms before they are willing to click on external websites or take action.
- Follower numbers don’t count anymore as long as these followers don’t engage with the content.
The old Twitter strategy could be run largely automated.
I got to almost 220k Twitter followers and massive traffic, first to our startup website then to our blog. This traffic helped get signups to the publishing platform of the startup – and it also massively contributed to growing the email list for our blog.
Then things changed. We noticed a steady decline in traffic from Twitter. It got harder to convert blog traffic from Twitter into email subscribers and even harder to convert those subscribers into customers.
I ignored it for too long.
Today, my thousands of followers are worth much less than some audiences of a couple of hundred followers.
Why? two reasons:
#1 many of the old accounts following me are inactive and hurting my engagement rates.
#2 I neglected the Twitter community. Since my account was mainly running on autopilot I failed to connect with my followers. I ignored comments and people.
Now I have to build that all up again. Maybe it is even harder to wake up my old and sleepy account than to start building a social media community from scratch.
But I am getting there.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to succeed with community building on social media:
What is an audience?
It is a 1-to-many relationship where one person does the entertainment and action the many do the listening and some of them take the desired action.
What is a community?
A community is a many-to-many relationship where everyone can initiate a conversation and the interest is mutual.
While a social media audience is often larger, it is also more passive and does not engage much. An audience consumes your posts but it will not contribute to them.
A social media community does not have to be very large to make an impact. It is actively engaging with your posts – and with each other.
Why is it important to build a social media community?
In my personal experience above, I failed to build a community on Twitter even though I assembled a large audience.
The result was that I had traffic to a blog from Twitter for a while but this traffic did not convert very well and people were not ready to buy from me. Even subscribers to my email list needed some nurturing before they bought from us.
But social media communities also need more attention and input from your end. I ran my Twitter account mainly on automation, the website traffic we got was very cheap traffic.
But that free traffic generation from social media is getting harder and harder. Social networks want to keep the conversation on their platform. They don’t favor links.
A community is far more willing to share, help, and connect than a “mere” audience. It is like the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. A friend is more than willing to help you out while asking an acquaintance for help may or may not bring the result you are looking for.
According to a study by Hubspot, 90% of social media marketers say that it is crucial for success in 2023 to build an active community.
Try to build real relationships and friendships on social media. Build a community of friends and you are almost there!
Benefits of building a social media community
When it comes to building an online business a social media community (even a smaller one) has some significant benefits over a social media audience that makes it more important to build a small community over aiming for many followers.
A community will engage more with your posts. You will earn comments and likes. These discussions help to strengthen your community-building efforts.
Engagement helps with your reach. A community will also be more willing to share your posts.
Feedback and Insights
Conversations are the best way to gain insights into the needs and interests of your community. You will gain knowledge about what products you should create and what information people want.
Trust and increased sales
Trust is the most important emotion when it comes to selling. Community and conversations are the most effective ways to build trust.
An audience is only loosely connected to you. It may or may not remember you and your brand. A community knows you. Members of your community have already interacted with you. They are more likely to remember you and may even advocate for you.
How to build social media communities
Some people are natural at building social media communities.
I am not. I had to learn, watch what others do and evolve in my communication.
But there are some steps to building a social media community you can follow and you will get there faster.
Identify your target audience:
You have to know who you want to target.
- Where are they? What platforms do they use?
- What are they interested in?
- How do they interact on social media?
- Do you already know some of the people in your niche?
Find them and follow some of them. Get a feeling for their tone and what they are talking about.
From there you need to expand: Find more people from your niche. Check the followers of the people from your niche you already know – and the people commenting on their posts.
Look for tweets mentioning specific keywords and phrases.
Choose the right social media platform
I strongly recommend that you focus on one or at most two social platforms when you start out.
When I first turned to social media to grow a business, I had no clue. I did not know about social media and had no idea how different the various platforms are.
I did not choose one platform for my efforts, because I was more or less clueless about which would be the best for me. I was afraid to miss out on a big opportunity when I did not do every social platform.
Nothing. I was posting into the void. Nobody listened, nobody cared.
Because I did not know how the platforms worked.
You need to figure out the specifics of your chosen social media channels. Only then can you succeed.
That is why posting to every platform without an idea how to get it right, is the totally wrong way to do it.
Focus your efforts on ONE platform and find out how that works. You will see success much faster than when you use ALL the platforms wrong.
Some platforms are considered easier for building social media communities than others. But in the end, it depends largely on your audience and where you are comfortable in communicating with your audience.
Consider this when you choose your favorite social media platform:
- it is not only about where your audience is, it is also about where you feel comfortable and like to post, comment and connect.
- You need to be comfortable with the post formats and the way people interact. For instance, so far, I have never been very comfortable with long-form videos. So I never tried YouTube.
Create content for your target audience
Keep in mind that you want to make your account interesting enough for your target audience to follow you.
That means you need to focus on providing something on your account that they want to have.
Posting on social media needs to focus mainly on what your audience wants and not what you want them to know.
Focus on being valuable to your target audience.
Make it valuable
If you want people to listen to you and follow you on social media, you have to provide something they want to have.
If your posts deliver valuable tips, interesting insights, and engaging discussions – that is a good reason to follow you.
Make it stand out
There is a ton of value out there for free. If you want to compete with this value you have to stand out. Providing more, better and highly valuable posts is not so easy with all the competition. If people can get the same value somewhere else, many of them will do it.
Include your personality and your personal stories in your content.
Stories can make a difference. Your stories, your experiences, and your successes are unique to you. If done right, your stories can help you stand out and help you build a community on social media.
Learn about hooks – you have to stop the scroll
We all have done it: scrolling through social media and merely skiming the content. If you learn how to use hooks to make people stop scrolling, consume your posts, and notice you, you have already won.
Learn about hooks. Hooks are social media post headlines that will make your audience stop scrolling to consume your post.
A great hook can multiply the reach of your posts.
Encourage engagement – and engage
That is why you need to monitor your notifications and always respond if someone comments on one of your posts.
You can also start the conversation by asking questions, provocation, or posting out-of-the-box opinions.
Community is a two-sided relationship. It includes listening, empathy, and responding. You need to engage with your audience if you want your audience to engage with you.
Help your community out
This could easily be the most important step in your community-building efforts.
Community building is not for selfish egomaniacs. It is also not a hero-to-worshipper relationship where the big mass hangs on your every word and you need nothing more than to display your achievements.
If you are only looking for your own advantages, you will lose out on community benefits.
A social media community is a give-and-take relationship. Figure out how you can help your audience: share their posts, engage in their discussions, and help them spread important messages.
If you pay it forward without always looking for a payback, you will earn many friends and grow your community.
It’s like building friendships. You offer help if you can – and eventually, when you are in need, your friends will not hesitate to be there for you.
That is what community is all about.
Make your community feel special
You can take it a step further. Create special offers for your community, organize a community meetup, run Twitter spaces, or offer a Facebook group for your community. There are many ways to offer additional benefits to your community and it will strengthen the group effort.
Not all of this takes place on social media but some of it you can do with your email list.
When and where can you start building your social media community?
The short answer is: right now and everywhere.
Building a community is about engaging with people and building deeper connections. You can practice that everywhere – in real life as well as in social media.
Building a social media community starts with showing interest in posts from other people from your niche on your chosen social network. Listen to others and get to know them.
While it may feel contradictory at first to look for helping others instead of promotion opportunities it will pay off in the long run.
Trust and friendship are the most powerful emotions when it comes to making sales. And a community is built on these two emotions.
A social media community will pay you back for a long time for the effort you put into it.