5 Tips to Jump Start Your Online Community

Whether starting a new community, or moving an existing one, the foundation is the strength of the conversations and content within it. Those conversations go a long way to assure longevity of the community.

Life, online or off, is built on a series of relationships, those with our family, friends, and fellow fans. Part of the process is the introduction and sharing of basic information, to establish a comfort level and open channels of communications.

Creating this comfort then allows the community to connect more with each other by sharing common interests, goals and ideas. Building upon the contribution of each member you will then see a more organic growth in the community as well as “natural moderators” will begin to establish themselves to help in maintaining the desired tone and direction of the community.

These 5 “no fail” tips and techniques will help you keep your focus, refine your tone and build a strong and engaged community with longevity.

East Fishkill Spurs

1. Be Welcoming, Be Disarming
Each time a new member joins your community give them the opportunity to introduce themselves. The best way to do this is to establish a set of between three and five questions for each member to answer.

Making these questions fun and non-threatening will encourage the new community members to engage, be at ease and “let their hair down”. Of course, the tone of the community will determine how “silly” these questions would be, but keeping it “light” will help gain more interaction from your community members.

Some sample questions along these lines are:

  • “Who is your favorite player?”
  • “Tell us how you became a fan”
  • “What was the best goal we ever scored?”

It’s like an online icebreaker. Ask silly, even ridiculous, questions of your members. Don’t be afraid, even in a serious forum, this allows people to connect in ways that are non-threatening and create a comfortable environment despite the tone of the serious topic that might be involved.

Believe it or not it is often more difficult for someone to share serious answers than silly answers.

2. It’s OK to Lurk
Everyone was new to online communities at one point. Try to encourage interaction and engagement, but recognize that some people might just want to watch (lurk) and adjust before they dive in.

Often times those that spend the most time lurking end up being the most engaged in the long run. Some people just need more time to adjust and acclimate to a new environment.

It is actually preferable to have someone lurk and acclimate to the tone of a community rather than jump in prematurely and risk being misunderstood, this could result in a lot of turmoil within a community.

3. Encourage Engagement, Be Appreciative, Be an Example
Actively engaged community members create opportunities for existing or new members to connect with each other, establishing a solid communal relationship. Be sure to thank people for posting, also try to positively acknowledge participation at any level.

Be a guide, or a sign post, direct your community to great content of community members, inside the community or outside, and bring the conversations to them. Be an example, by linking and sharing outside content but housing the discussion within your community.

4. Promote Great Community Contributions and Content
A solid community needs to be fed to continue to grow that community. That food is demonstrated by promoting the community and member contributions. Make it a habit to regularly promote your community members.

The conversations and sharing are the lifeblood.into other social networks. By doing this you will be promoting your community and the members, helping others find you and ensuring a continued growth in your community.

5. Appreciate Everything, Don’t Take Community for Granted
Appreciate your community. Understand that each and every member has made a choice to be a part of the community, and recognize that it’s a choice for them to remain in the community.

Never take your community for granted, if you do you will discover that they can quickly move on to what they perceive to be “Greener Pastures”. Keep it fresh, keep it lively. This is where building a community on a topic you are passionate about makes it a lot easier to grow and maintain.

If you keep these 5 tips top of mind, and try to make a habit of doing these things, you will guarantee your success is building and nurturing an amazing community!

A Lesson Everyone Could Learn: How to Listen Better

The problem with social media is sometimes we can be so focused on what we want to say that we are not focusing on what others are saying.

Listening is a difficult skill. Online or offline, listening requires us to focus on what we are hearing or reading, not in how we want to respond. Most people are not actively listening, they are passively listening and deciding how to reply. It’s similar to taking notes during a class, if you are writing down what is being said you are not actually listening, considering and learning.

The hardest part of listening is often relearning how to listen. We all think we are doing it, but most likely you are not. In 2014 many people have the attention span of a gnat. How do you relearn the skill of being a good listener?

Focus on the person who is speaking and what they are saying, what their words are, the meaning behind them. If you focus in this way and truly consider those words, their meaning, and actively try to hear each word and intonation, you will find you understand faster and save a lot of time in many areas of life. This can even remove the word “What?” from your vocabulary.

Online, listening is a little different, it means that you are actually watching. tracking in preparation for interacting with your community. Use tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Searches and Hootsuite to monitor for topics of interest. This helps you keep up on what is going on and also to discover new people to connect to.

Online listening also means making lists to keep track of your community. Online listening can get overwhelming when you are trying to watch too many individuals, so breaking your community into smaller groups by interest, category or even time zones, helps to not miss something important they have to say that you might want to respond to.

What other measures do you take to be a better listener and community member? Tell us in the comments below.

Community Building: 3 Basics for a Solid Foundation for Success

To succeed in social media at any level means having a clear understanding of a few of the essential pre-game rules as well as the rules of engagement.

Our focus on the success of our community, and your community, is a top priority for us here at Follr, and in helping you succeed we want to offer tips, tricks, techniques and basics that will help you build a sustainable community and encourage interaction and growth.

The series begins today with 3 basics for building a foundation for success with your community, via social networks and the “rules of engagement”.

Success Starts with the Basics and a Solid Foundation
If you want to be ready for success with a Follr Communities Website, then you have to have a good foundation to build from. Whether you have been using social networking for years or are new to the digital world, it is important to learn the basics, or have a refresher course on what they are.

3 Basics for Building a Foundation for Success

  1. Understand the “Why”
    Before you can focus on the how, you need to have a basic understanding of the why. What this means is “Why are you here?” Just as with any good business plan you need to have an objective or a mission statement. Stop rolling your eyes, and realize that it actually helps maintain focus on the goal of being active in social networking and building your community.

    Spend time considering your purpose and objectives for the community you have built, be sure to write the ideas down. Brainstorm, don’t be afraid to make a long list and then narrow down the focus. If you start with the end in mind it often helps you figure out how to begin and gain momentum.

  2. Determine the “Which”
    Once you understand the Why, you need to figure out the “Which” meaning what networks or platforms work best for your purpose and to attain the goal you identified in the “Why” section. Determining which are the ideal platforms for your community, will help you achieve traction and community growth, as well as quality interactions.

    Being on the bleeding edge won’t necessarily help you – it’s not a race to be first, it’s a marathon of focus and engagement in the right places. If you are consumer focused you want to go where you will find your target demographic, your new audience. Take time to research platform use and study the most successful users, that will help you understand whether the platform will give you a good return for your time. Investing time in the wrong platform will negatively impact you costs in time and resources, be focused and efficient.

  3. Connect the “Distribution Points”
    The purpose of engaging on social networks for a budding community, or any entity, is to build relationships that will lead people back to you community, which is your home-base. Your Follr Community Website is Website 3.0 – it’s the new black and most fashionable way to provide information and encourage interaction. Consider it your hub, the social networks you select to engage on should all be connected back to your community and included in your social wall and links.

    Create the social network accounts, customize the profiles are you are nearly ready. Be consistent with user names on the various platforms, a unified identity is powerful. Then begin linking it all back to your Follr Community website. Next you will need to set up the social sharing feature so that your new posts and content are pushed out to the networks you just connected.

    You’re nearly ready to go…

Join us for the next post in this series to continue connecting the dots and bringing it all together for the most success with your Follr Communities Website.

Your success is our priority. We make it simple so you can focus on what matters, building your community.

Take your Follr Communities Website to the next level with upcoming coaching and webinars for our members. Make sure you watch for your Follr updates with information on upcoming enhancements and new features. Don’t have a community yet? Build your own, it’s Free and Fun!

Social Media Community Building 101: Get the Essentials Right

Everyone can use a great new idea for building engagement and growing online community, right?

How you build and grow your community will depend on the topic, niche or interest of your community. It’s no different here at Follr Communities, we are always interested in tips & techniques that will benefit our community, and our Communities.

In today’s video, SplashU gives you some of the basics to beginning an online community, building engagement and seeing growth. Be sure to be familiar and comfortable with the “etiquette” of social media, but we’ll have more on that in a future post.

As my friend Jeff Pulver often says “You live or die by your Database” which he has proven time and again. To have a successful online community start with your database. Send email to notify your network about your new Follr Community.

If you are a business get the by-in of your employees, who better to know and love your brand than the people who work with you?
Are you a hobbyist group, a non-profit, it’s just as simple, you already have the passionate members just encourage them to join in and interact in your new Community.

Be sure to get involved yourself, sometimes we get so caught up in building a community we forget that we are still a part of it. Lead by example as an essential part of community building.

3 Quick Steps to Find and Connect with Your Community on Twitter

You built a community, now what? Sitting there by yourself isn’t a lot of fun. How do you find others to join you and share your community?

Since most communities are based on interests, hobbies or brands, they will usually appeal to a fairly widespread audience. The question is how do you find that audience? Twitter is the perfect place.

Use Twitter Search to find people talking about topics your community is built aroundThere are tons of searchable conversations happening on Twitter every moment of every day. There is no better way to find people who want to talk about a topic than on Twitter.

To keep it simple and quick, since we would rather have you building your community and enjoying it, we present…

3 Quick Steps to Find and Connect with your Community on Twitter.

  1. Identify Your Community Keywords
    Think of these as the 5-7 best words to describe your community focus. Write down the key words you would or those that someone interested in your community might search for.

    If you aren’t sure what words are best, refer to the tags that you included when you initially built your community. Those would be the search words or terms that someone would use to find your community.

    If you need help just stop by the Follr Support Community and post a message, we will be happy to help you identify your perfect search terms and keywords.

  2. “The Twitter”
    Twitter is the holy-grail of search. If it is out there being discussed, you will find it on Twitter. Twitter has great search features, whether it is the standard search on any Twitter page, or the advanced search, you will get some amazing results.

    Some people like to search for hashtag specific topics. It’s an option but results are limited to the words only with the # in front of them. An open search without the hashtag will return many more choices. Try to search without the hashtag first, then use the hashtag if the results are overwhelming. To refine the search, add additional words to the search to focus more on the target conversations and people.

  3. Follow and Share
    Now that you found people, follow them. When you follow them you might also want to reply to the message that led you to them, you could retweet it, or reply to it, and mention the common interest. But don’t ask them to join you just yet!! Wait until the individual replies to your message, then keep the conversation going. When it feels right mention your community and share the link, ask them to stop by and tell you what they think.

Be a conversationalist. Include your community in your conversations, the topic, and even share posts that are there, invite people to the conversation.

Add your Community link to your bio, and become an authority on your Community focus. In no time instead of looking for your community, your community will be finding you on Twitter.

Happy Community Building!

The Lost Art of Social Media Reciprocation

Originally published at Clayman & Associates, by Marjorie Clayman.

One of the first books I read when I first started tweeting and blogging was Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. I had been fairly puzzled about how to approach the online world, especially because I was going to be using social media to try to promote our agency. Trying to raise awareness about a business without seeming sleazy or pushy was something I was not sure how to do. Reading Trust Agents offered me some valuable insight in particular regarding how to start building your community. One of the integral points in Trust Agents is the concept of “Give to get.” In other words, people will be far more inclined to help you out if you help them out. You can’t get the best results if you do things specifically to get the payback because nobody likes that kind of scenario. However, if you go out of your way to promote other people, help them with what they are trying to accomplish, and answer questions as they come up, when you need something you would be likely to get help back from those same people.

Nicola Corboy image via Creative Commons on Flickr

So the reasoning went when I first started.

I have done my best to abide by this rule. If I notice that someone is regularly sharing my blog posts or liking my content on Facebook, I make a concerted effort to go over to their online outposts and see what they are up to. Maybe they have recently written a blog post that I like so I decide to share that. Maybe they just started a new page, so I check that out and promote it to my own community.

It seems that over the last couple of years especially, however, this approach to social media is becoming a rarity. Now the adage seems to be get to get.

The advantages of reciprocation

The notion of reciprocating support online may seem antiquated, but if you need more incentive, consider the fact that social media reciprocation can actually be rewarding for you, not just the person you are promoting. You can find out that someone in your network is doing something truly amazing. I have discovered people in my online community who run amazing nonprofit organizations, for example. I am happy to promote them and what they are doing because I know the benefits will spread to many people beyond our direct interaction.

Even more beneficial is that when you promote someone else or share content from someone else, you look better, ironically enough. It’s easy to share your own thoughts all day. Sharing something someone else has done shows that you are interested in engaging in your community in a positive way. You may just find that in promoting someone else, more people are drawn to you and your community.

This is just common sense

Typing a tweet that says, “You should follow xyz” takes approximately 30 seconds. Reading a blog post and deciding to share it (because of course you read everything before sharing it) may take a little bit longer, but we are still talking just a few minutes. If someone spends a few seconds or a few minutes helping you out, why would you NOT return the favor? The investment of time very quickly is surpassed by the rewards you gain. It is one of the few scenarios in life that is a no lose proposition.

When was the last time you actively paid back support you have received in the online world? If you have to think about it or if it has been quite awhile, you should ponder addressing that. It will help your own online presence grow, and it will make you feel good to boot!

Authors Bio:
Marjorie Clayman is the Director of Marketing, B2B Client Services at Clayman & Associates, LLC. For more marketing tidbits you can read the agency blog at claymanandassociates.com/blog or “Like” them on Facebook at Facebook.com/ClaymanAndAssociates.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/n_corboy/4921290518/ via Creative Commons

Building on the Basics: 3 Steps to Be an Online Community Builder

If you are already an online community builder or aspire to be one, our goal at Follr is to make the experience as simple and fun as possible. As we continue our series on building a solid foundation for success with online communities we will focus on creating the community identity.

Become an Online Community Builder with your own Follr Community - simple, easy and freeWhen creating a community you should have a clear definition of the community focus and purpose. Creating the community mission statement, as well as a comprehensive list of related keywords, is more important than many understand. Focusing on the recommendations here will result in an increase of online community engagement, interaction and posting, once you’ve opened your doors to your new community.

As soon as people read the term “key words” their minds automatically connect the term with search engine optimization (SEO), in this case that is a secondary benefit of your primary purpose. The primary purpose is to help focus on the content and direction of the online community you are building. Once you have a good list of 10-15 keywords, or terms, related to the community you are building, and the mission statement you defined, you will see a true community begin to form.

3 Steps to Be an Online Community Builder resulting in huge Online Community Engagement

  1. Define your purpose: A Mission Statement

    It might sound tedious but taking time to plan and focus will help create a more viable, and vibrant, online community. When the purpose is clear then people will easily be attracted to the community, don’t allow confusion to be a barrier to community success. A clear definition and statement of purpose make a transition into a new community much easier for a potential member.

    People are hesitant, they resist change, for maximum engagement in a new community being clear in the focus and purpose will put them at ease. By defining this in the community description, and even seeding content into your community, will result in seeing conversations begin at a significantly faster rate than the average online community builder does.

  2. Keyword: Success
    Identifying keywords which relate to the community topic and purpose allows for powerful online community building tricks. The first is that now potential community members can be found via social search. Use your key words/terms to search and find those potential community members. The second is that if the goal is to ramp the interactions up in the community even faster, you can use those same words and terms to invest in SEO and purchase Adwords via Google.

    Notice the focus on sharing the community with people on other social networks. By being “discoverable”, and in turn discovering, a rapid decrease in the odds of community survival shift in the favor of the community builder.

    Using social search tools, you will find people who are “talking” about your topics and focus, and get into the conversation with them. If you have seeded enough content and encouraged your community members to do so as well, you should have no problem bringing the conversation back to your Follr Communities website.

  3. Target: Locked and Engaged
    Once you begin to identify people who are conversant on the topic for your community you want to begin to have conversations, on the topic with them. Create saved searches (eg Google Alerts) to monitor – blog posts, tweets, shares, statuses, etc. that have already happened or are happening live.

    Take time to review the conversations, be sure there is something relevant posted within your community. If not, consider posting something – take the topic and spin a question out of the conversation or post. Try to build a few responses to it from your community before you get into a discussion with the target of your attempts at engagement.

The goal of these key steps is to create a community alive with conversation and engagement. Searching for people and focusing on being found is a very genuine way of finding people who are like-minded and want to participate with you and your community. Don’t feel as though you are being “sneaky” – there is nothing sneaky about connecting and sharing with other people, it is the entire purpose of building an online community.

Show us how it works for you, create your Follr Community – they are simple online communities to build, with an elegant format similar to a template, and all you do is fill in the information and voila you are up and running.

There really is no simple way to be an online community builder than with Follr.

Why Sustainable Community is an Ecosystem

An ecosystem, in it’s simplistic form, is about balance. All the parts working, existing, interacting, together to create a balanced ecosystem. The result of that magical collaboration is a sustainable ecosystem.

An online community can be described as a type of ecosystem. The ideal balance between the members of the community and the value of the community, among multitude of other factors, results in a sustainable community, functioning as an ecosystem. Today we are taking a look at the reasons why an ecosystem is the perfect analogy for an online community and some touch points to remember when you are trying to reach “sustainable” within one.

Buzzword and hype, or valid analogy?
Ecosystem has become a business buzzword, partially for it’s universal representation of a successful system of multiple parts functioning as one. The analogy is accurate and possibly underutilized in communicating the relevance of many life processes and business processes.

What is an Ecosystem?

In an enlightening post by J-P De Clerk on the topic of social networks and organizations, Mr. De Clerk utilized a childrens website called KidsCorner (side note, interesting project in conjunction with the USDA Forest Service, do check it out) to provide the clearest and simplest definition of what an ecosystem is. The above image is from that website and gives you the definition of ecosystem.

Mr. De Clerk has me considering this. I have always understood and considered many things ecosystems in the precise and delicate balance in which they successfully exist. As I read his post, it got me thinking about all the ways in which the analogy is truly a wonderful way to convey the concept of an online community. A community is no different than any other ecosystem.

The Ecosystem we call an ‘Online Community’
In seeking to create a vibrant and sustainable community, you work with many potentially fragile parts that together create the whole. In this analogy we are specifically referencing the human interactions, as well as the contributed content, that builds the foundation of the sustainable community.

These relationships may require precise and measured amounts of encouragement, support and nurturing to ensure a truly balanced and therefore sustainable resulting ecosystem.

Understanding and Patience
As with any young plant or creature, a minimum level of focus and care is required to permit for the proper development and growth. If any of the necessary elements are withheld, you will see a failure to thrive situation in which failure is inevitable. Sometimes it can be recoverable, but many times it cannot.

An online community is no different than a living organism in this regard. It takes time and effort to reinforce the community interaction and engagement. If you even step away for an extended period of time, you risk the collapse of the entire ecosystem, as the caregiver aka ‘the custodian’ is no longer there to nurture and encourage the community.

This is essential the job of a community manager, whether you consider yourself one, or not, when you work with any form of network or community, there is a symbiotic relationship that is develops and along with it a form of dependency if not need or requirement, of the ‘nourishment’ you will provide that community.

Making an ecosystem accessible
Yes, this analogy can make it sound much more complicated than it really is. The simplest way to explain this is to suggest that if you contribute, monitor, engage, and encourage others to do the same, you will establish an interdependence among the members, establishing an ‘addictive’ pattern (aka habit) among the member of the community. Relying upon you, and the community that they have now embraced, as a trusted resource for whatever the particular focus is.

It returns to the basic rule of all social interactions – online or off, build a relationship, establish trust and give back to others to see the best success possible for your network or community.

What other ways do you help to nurture your community to grow a sustainable ecosystem?