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Are You Engaged With Your Audience?

Is your business creating a community that people want to be a part of?

Among the mass of things that you need to consider in running a small business on the web, this question is seldom asked. We spend our time with target audience, branding and marketing strategies. We focus on the design of our website and spend hours editing the copy we put on it. Yet how often do we consider the whether our product or service is something that people really want?

Yet in today’s online marketplace, what is it the people want?

Sure, they want great products that meet their specific needs or solve their specific problems. Yet many are also looking for a community. Doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about large companies like Apple, BMW or Harley-Davidson or smaller ones such as 5000BC or Teaching Sells, people want to feel part of a tribe. They then resonate with other like-minded consumers to form a community.

This is one of the reasons, I believe, that social media has exploded the way it has. People are simply looking to connect with other people of similar interests. With the web and social media, they’re now not just limited to local groups. Now, they can find their tribe with other people from all over the world.

In the pre-social web, you would market your products and services to where you audience existed. Hopefully they’d buy, use your product and come back for more.

Now, with the social web, you can offer them so much more then just your product or service. Now you can offer them a place to hang out. You can use social tools to create a community space in your business. This allows people to come, hang out, interact and engage in your business and buy when they’re ready. It gives much higher value than just selling. And the added value creates a much more compelling reason for your ‘community members’ to share you community with people they know – increasing your reach and potentially your business.

As Larry Kramer, founder of MarketWatch, in this short interview (video 3:17):

“Social media is what I call the new ‘local.’ Where in the old days you’d try to reach people where they are with their town, their workplace, (etc)… . This (social media) is trying to reach people where they spend their time.

People interact…their communities aren’t geographically based any more. They’re built around communities of interest. And more often than not, you join that community on a digital platform.”

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This begs the question…are you using social media to create a community around your business? If so, how well is it working? Even more interesting to me and possibly others is what have you learned about your target audience using social media?

And if you’re not using social media to create community…what’s stopping you?

(note: image from whizchickenonabun on Flickr, some rights reserved)

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Comments

  1. I’ve been using a blog (not the blog I list here) to build community of loyal readers. I think you’ve been doing it successfully.

    I also receive group invitation in Facebook almost every day. That’s annoying. I am accustomed to click on the “No” rejection button.

  2. In the beginning of my blogging (6 month ago) I wanted to make more traffic; as I get more knowledge, I found that user participation is moe important.

    Thats why I created user inspiring posts like asking them to leave linke, comments. Building mentality to make them to leave comments. Asking their advice. etc.

    Blogs are more interesting and someday self made blogs could even become popular than social sites than facebook.

  3. Hendry,
    What sort of responses are you getting from Facebook?

    Tamal,
    And how has focusing on user participation changed your blog’s success?

  4. I am not in any kind of business, web based or otherwise. I am a consultant. I do not use social media for the simple reason that I do not have time.

    I have a question. Why is there so little blogging about normal non web based business?

  5. Well, people are enjoying to read my articles and they are feeling like that are in their own blog. They have started to interact with each other

  6. Ramana,
    Great question. My guess is that most ‘serious’ bloggers are deeply entrenched in the internet. For that very reason, I think, you see most business blogs focused on web-based business.

    For myself, I’ve helped business both online and offline. And while I do focus on web-based business myself, much of the content on my blog applies to any business – online or not.

    I know you mention you don’t have the time to engage in social media. One consideration, however, is that if you see a hole in the blogosphere regarding offline business, try to fill it. It does take time and effort to write and to get known, yet I’m confident you could find a strategy that would allow you to blog in a manner that’s manageable for your business.

    Tamal,
    That’s a pretty nice feeling, isn’t it? Personally, I enjoy when the readers of my site answer each other’s comments.

  7. Social media is good because you directly connect with your customers. While the Internet does offer a lot of benefits, it has separated businesses and consumers somewhat. Engaging with your customers on a personal level is important to retaining their business.

  8. I have taken an active by not participating in the conversation directly but indirectly – by listening.

    I’ve done this to see what the conversation is really all about. How are people in a variety of demographics, businesses, organizations, etc, communicate and interact with each other? What I have learned is that you can learn a lot by people watching online.

    You see what works and what doesn’t. You get a feel for how people can become passionate about certain subjects and how they express this online. Or better yet how they want to express this online.

    Though I don’t have a business of my own – I feel right now my business is to learn how communities work or don’t work. Maybe that’s the key – the communities that don’t work, don’t listen to what is being said by its members.

    Further study is required – is there such a thing as a Social Mediaologist?

  9. communities media is very important

  10. Too often communities created by businesses seem “fake” and everyone person can feel it.

    I think the main difference between fake and non-fake is openness… openness to listen and acknowledge what the people are saying and understand that they can be right.

  11. I am blogging to make money online. Do you think promoting products in my blog will do needful to reach my goal?

  12. Sales Trainer says:

    For startup sales mentor, my site on sales training for the small business, the startup, and the entrepreneur, the main focus was my blog. Initially I got the word out through LinkedIn and Plaxo. Then I started sending an e-letter. Now I am working on twitter and built a linkedin group. Slowly but surely I am also working on links from do follows and squidoo. Bottom line, my marketing is 100% social and it is moving along nicely.

  13. Dawud, deciding on the consumer brand relationship in advance is critical, which includes how intimate you will be with consumers. There is a great brandchannel article that addressed this topic several months ago. You must then be true to that relationship which means if you build a community, don’t stop listening to them.

  14. @Dawud

    It is still too early to say anything good about content promotion using Facebook. I’m not very active with it.

    I’m still building my profile page and befriend people who share the same interest.

  15. Same with me Hendry Lee. I am not really active too but I can say that promotion content using facebook is really good.

  16. Mistchelle says:

    I think that engaging the audience involves receiving feedback from them and taking it seriously so that you can implement the feedback and use it to improve.

  17. You can also use ‘Real Life Media’ to get your message out there! Don’t forget that traditional marketing methods aren’t dead. Practices like public speaking and even television advertising still serve many markets well.

    Whether it is your market that it serves is the pertinent question :-)

  18. It’s really hard to break into social media as a company because no one likes spam. Building a reputation and trust for your brand is essential for succeeding in an age where people aren’t as likely to hunt down the “best” deals. I know Amazon isn’t always the cheapest option, but I know I’ll get my package if I order from them.

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