How to Develop a Loyal Online Community

by Michelle Salater on March 31, 2011


The first thing to remember when creating an online community is that people don’t want to talk about you. They really don’t care about you and your products. Rather, they want to talk about their interests, needs, and desires, and connect with others who share similar interests. When you develop a closely knit community of like-minded individuals, you become the leader, and they become your key influencers. And the opportunities that come with positioning yourself as a leader in your industry are infinite.

For one, having an online community enables you to visualize what your market needs and desires, based on their interactions and comments. In turn, you can create better products that connect with your audience.

Below are two questions to ask yourself when building an online community:

1. Who will be in my online community?

In other words, who is your target audience? For example, we don’t promote our web copy and marketing services to build a community—that just wouldn’t work. Instead, we’ve created a blog, Facebook company page, and Twitter account that speak to the interests and needs of our target audience (who are entrepreneurs, small business owners, and solopreneurs looking for online marketing tips). These social media platforms or communities work together to encourage our followers to share their interests and needs. Specifically, our audience uses our blog, Facebook page, and Twitter handle to share their marketing success stories, questions, concerns, and problems, and the community as a whole interacts around these topics of conversation.

2. Do I have an effective marketing plan in place?

In order to build your online community you need followers. Without followers, you’re in limbo—no community, no key influencers, and no one looking up to you for guidance. To gain followers you must establish and follow a proven marketing plan that allows you to position yourself as a leader in your industry. But in order to get in front of these individuals, you must first know where to find them.

To find out where your prospects are online, you must first understand their demographics and deepest interests and desires. This will guide you to understand where your audience is online, why they’re online, and what information they’re seeking.

After you know where your audience is, comment or guest post on blogs they read, follow them on Twitter, and be active on their favorite Facebook groups. This will enable you to get in front of them and illustrate that you’re an industry guru. From there, you can direct these individuals to your online community platforms (your blog, Facebook account, Twitter handle, etc.) and encourage them to interact and open up with others in your community portals.

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