If you are just beginning to build a social media base of fans or friends, trying to bring one back to life, managing a thriving one, or wanting to become part of one, one thing is certain; none of those tasks can be accomplished without building strong, solid relationships with the members of the social community you're trying to engage.
Unfortunately, building that community doesn't happen overnight. It takes time to build solid relationships that will help you manage a community. Those relationships, those bonds of friendship that form, are built on a lot of trust. That trust builds when you are both reliable and valuable.
That value can take many forms, so you need to learn what your customers like and give it to them. That value can be videos, PDFs, photos, infographics, and many other very simple things. With the Internet and social sites today, there's no limit to what you can give. Even just being there to answer their questions, along with being consistent with your words and actions can have a huge impact. Most of all, always say thank you and let your consumers know you appreciate their time and contributions.
The first thing any marketer needs to do when they are first stepping into any social media environment, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or a niche forum, is be transparent about who you are and why you are there. If you aren't honest from the start, you won't be able to build any relationships, let alone the kind that produce advocates and brand ambassadors. Members of thriving social communities are smart; they can smell a fake a mile away and when they uncover your true intentions, there's no repairing those relationships that have been destroyed.
Be Consistent With Your Words and Actions
Everyone on your team as well as within your company needs to be consistent with your messaging. You can't have the email team saying one thing and your social media team promoting something totally opposite. You also can't have one team offering something and another team saying that offer expired. That does nothing for your credibility with the communities at large and makes members think your company has no clue what's going on behind its own doors, and that does little to build the trust you need to build those solid relationships.
Don't Blatantly Market to Them
Resist the temptation to just start posting about the latest sale you're having or pushing your products the moment you set up shop in a community. Relationships aren't built by constantly asking your community to do something for you. To build solid relationships with key members of social media communities, you have to realize that they are there to share their own experiences. Second on the list is to gain or acquire knowledge that they might not have had before. They don't want to be marketed to.
Appreciate Their Time and Contributions
It takes time to share, but people who are passionate consider that time well spent. Whether they are building an awesome board on Pinterest about your product, writing a blog post, shooting a video, or taking pictures, that is still time the community member could have taken to do something else rather than share her experience with your product or service. Even if it's not the experience your company wants to hear about (no one likes bad news), you still need to be very cognizant of the time the consumer took out of her day to contribute her experience. Keep in mind, these community members wouldn't be doing it unless they really cared about your brand at some point in time.
Always Say Thank You
There's something to be said for taking the time to say "Thank you." There's even more to be said about taking the time to write "Thank you." It takes only a few seconds to post a comment on a picture that a fan uploaded for you to say, "Thanks for contributing," or "Really awesome picture, so thankful you shared it with us." Making sure you thank the community and reward its members is a very important factor in building a solid relationship with them - not only does it show you appreciate them, it shows you aren't taking advantage of them either.
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Liana "Li" Evans is the author of the award winning social media marketing book, "Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media" and she is the president and CEO of Da Li Social, as well as an adjunct professor for Rutgers University's Mini MBA Program. Liana has also been featured in the books "Online Marketing Heroes" and "Video Marketing An Hour a Day." As an established online marketing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience she's focused her unique skillset to specialize in integrated marketing and how companies can successfully strategize integrating all online marketing channels as well as offline traditional media. Her deep technical combined with a public relations background enables her to partner with clients for establishing successful online marketing campaigns that combine cross-channel tactics cohesively.
Li was the search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing architect for such companies as QVC and Comcast (Fancast) and has consulted with several other different sized companies such as AOL MovieFone. Her wealth of knowledge in dealing with large e-commerce and content sites allows her a wider perspective into what it takes to launch successful marketing campaigns in the online space.
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