When you're a growing company, building a community around your brand is a great way to drum up business. Community engagement can help convert followers into repeat customers and, eventually, lifelong brand advocates who will spread the word about your product or service.
This, in turn, will bring in even more customers--after all, many consumers trust peer reviews of a company over advertisements from that same company, and are thus more likely to engage with your business if you have great word-of-mouth marketing. To help you foster a community around your brand, eight successful entrepreneurs share their top tips.
1. Highlight customer stories.
Customers trust each other most, so let them do the talking, says Kyle Wong, founder and CEO of Pixlee. As a brand, you can facilitate that discussion and encourage sharing.
"To build sustainable engagement, do your best to highlight authentic customer stories--with permission, of course," Wong says.
2. Encourage leaders to speak directly to your audience.
If you want to foster a community, says Kelsey Raymond, co-founder and president of Influence & Co., that community needs to hear from the people behind your company.
"People connect with other people, not brands, so it's important to establish the leaders on your team as the face of the company," Raymond explains. "Create content coming from each of them to connect with your audience."
3. Build content pillars and publish regularly.
Rishi Sharma, founder and CEO of Mallama, recommends that growing startups build "content pillars" so customers can engage with content they're interested in on a regular basis. Whether they include a podcast, newsletter, IGTV series, or other content type, these pillars should build awareness and community around the topics discussed or people interviewed.
"Consistently publishing content in multiple mediums will build brand affinity and value," says Sharma.
4. Create a newsletter.
Newsletters are a great way for your audience to stay up-to-date on your business and know all the latest information that's coming out, says Stephanie Wells, founder and lead developer of Formidable Forms.
"Most of the time, newsletters publish information that isn't out to the public yet, so it makes subscribers feel like they're part of an exclusive community," Wells adds. "You can use newsletters to ask your subscribers questions and get to know them better."
5. Give away valuable information.
According to Eng Tan, founder and CEO of Simplr, the foundation of any successful community is trust. To build that trust, offer easy, ungated access to some of your most valuable content, such as webinars, courses, articles, and events.
"Community members who have been on the receiving end of a generous and valuable experience are much more likely to engage, upgrade membership, or recruit new members," Tan says.
6. Create events that lead to impact.
Brands that want to build a community must show how they go beyond the norm of "buy and sell," says Nicole Munoz, founder and CEO of Nicole Munoz Consulting. These brands must show how they create a real-world impact, and that they have a larger vision for their company.
"An event is a great way to help a large group of people deeply connect to the vision of your company through an experience they won't easily forget," says Munoz.
7. Consistently engage with customers on social media.
Active engagement with your audience is a cornerstone of a brand-based community.
"Consumers want to support businesses that have a distinct brand identity and presence," says Chris Christoff, co-founder of MonsterInsights. "By engaging with people on social media, offering help to people with questions, and participating in community events, you'll get more people mentally invested in your company."
8. Be authentic in all communications.
Authenticity humanizes a brand and helps build genuine connections within your community, says Kristin Kimberly Marquet, founder and creative director of Marquet Media. That's why you should aim to be authentic in all brand communications.
"Being authentic will help separate your brand from the competition," Marquet explains. "It shows that your brand isn't for everyone."