If you are just beginning to build a social media community, 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 want to become part of. This is true in any type of social media community whether it’s a Facebook fan page, TweetChat, niche message board or forum, Flickr photo group, or a channel on YouTube. In order for your engagement with these communities to thrive and grow, you need to build solid, trusting relationships with their members.
Members don’t have to be the people you actively see engaging either. There are many spectators or lurkers in communities that derive value from getting information from trusted sources within the community. Spectators and those community members that are actively engaged are both vital to a successful social media strategy’s success.
It takes time to build solid relationships that will help you engage in a community. Those relationships and bonds of friendship that form are built on a lot of trust, and contrary to popular belief (or Charlie Sheen), it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens by continually being of value to the other individual. That value can take many forms, such as answering their questions, offering informative content, being consistent with your words and actions, and most of all, rewarding your audience, as well as always saying thank you.
Tips to Successfully Engage in Social Media Communities
- Appreciate your customers’ time and contributions. Time is a precious commodity and it takes time to share what people are experiencing with your products or services with a community. Whether they share it in a review, give their opinion in a blog post, create a slideshow of photos, or even shoot a video, that is time the community member could have taken to do something else.
- Be transparent. One of the major things any marketer needs to do when engaging in a social media community is be transparent about exactly who you are and why you are in the community. If you aren’t honest about your intentions from the start, you won’t be able to build any type of trust, which is needed to build solid relationships.
- Be consistent with your words and actions. Everyone on your team and within your company that is active in any form of social media needs to be consistent with your company’s messaging. You can’t have the public relations team saying one thing and your social media team promoting something totally opposite. That does nothing for your creditability with the communities you are engaged with and can make them think your company has no clue what’s going on behind its own doors.
- Respect the rules – both written and unwritten. Rules are generally posted on info pages or rules sections. It’s best to take the time to read them and understand what might annoy the members of the community. Understanding this before you jump in can save you a lot of wasted time and also endear you to the community. It takes time to understand the unwritten rules, so invest the effort to get to know the community first and understand those unwritten norms that could get you in trouble.
- Always say thank you. Thanking someone is saying “I appreciate you.” Taking the time to write a “Thank you” stands out in a community members’ mind. It takes only a few seconds to post a comment or a picture on a fan page that a fan uploaded for you to say “Thanks for contributing,” or “Really awesome video, we’re so thankful you shared it with us.” Ensuring you and your team members always thank the community and 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 their valuable time either.
- Don’t blatantly market to them. Resist the temptation to just start marketing your company right away. Pushing your products or services as soon as you step foot in a social media community does little to instill trust. To build trusting relationships with influential members of social media communities you have to share their experiences. They are also there to gain new knowledge. They really don’t want to be marketed to.
Without solid relationships being built within your own community, you’ll find it extremely difficult to build any sort of community around your brand, product, or service. So take the time to work on building these relationships; they can become quite invaluable in the future. Think of it this way: how do you put a price on an influential evangelist you built a relationship with in a social media community?