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While building a community around a brand is viewed by many as a business tactic, the manner in which you build your community has very little to do with business. Building a community has a lot more to do with people.
In order to build a strong community, a business must treat their community members like friends. Here’s the why and how:
1. Engage with those who have similar interests. You become friends with a person when you have some interest in common. Imagine trying to become friends with someone that you have nothing in common with…awwwkward!
- Community: Don’t reach out to people just because you want them to join your community. Reach out to people who might be interested in your product or service . . . or you’re fighting a battle already lost.
2. Friendships come and go. Depending on how your life’s circumstances change, friends will come and go. You may stay in touch with old friends, but you don’t spend nearly as much time with each other. It sucks, but it happens.
- Community: If a community member evangelizes your brand for a while, that’s great, but don’t expect them to always be there. Brand evangelists will come and go based on their circumstances. It’s good to check in with them occasionally, but don’t be surprised if one day, they’re not there.
3. Be a good listener. When a friend needs to get something off their chest, you listen. Even if you don’t really care about what they have to say, or you disagree, a good friend is a good listener.
- Community: Listen to your community members. You may not agree with their feedback or suggestions, but the important thing is that you listen and acknowledge.
4. Support each other. More than just listening, when a friend faces hard times, you support them. When they face adversity, you have their back. A true friend is someone you can rely on when you need them most.
- Community: Support your community members in their challenges and endeavors. If they ask for help, help them. If they’re working on something new, help them spread the word.
5. Entertainment. Friends make each other laugh, share fun stories and provide each other with entertainment when they hang out.
- Community: If you can entertain your community members, you’ll find it to be a lot easier to keep them around. Give them something funny to talk about. Make it fun!
6. Built on trust. Friendships are created by interest but sustained by trust and can be lost if you abuse that trust.
- Community: You can build customer loyalty with trust, and you can lose an entire community if you abuse their trust. Trust is the core of your community.
True, a community is built for a business which means money is involved, and that can sometimes cause brands to lose sight of what’s important. If you want to build a strong community however, remember that you’re dealing with people . . . you’re dealing with friends.
Have more ideas on how building a community relates to building a friendship? Share them in the comments.
David Spinks is the Community Manager for Scribnia, the definitive source to discover and share opinions about bloggers, columnists, and reporters whose work is available online. You can connect with him on Twitter, or on his blog about social media.