Building Your Community

Building a community can happen when you least expect it. According to a great article by Dino Dogan titled “How To Build A Community of Fanatics”, communities are great to have and there are many important tips that need to be followed in order to build a successful community.

Where to start

Many think that you start a community by planning and thinking about how you want a community. But in fact, many communities come about by not even having the intention to start one. Dogan stated,

It all starts with intention. It all starts with your intention, but not the intention to create a community.

For example, if we have a problem that we would like to solve, we intend to do something about that problem. We may start a blog to express our concerns, but we may not have intended to start a successful problem-solving blog about product X which has grown into a successful community.

Photo courtesy of Niall Kennedy via Flikr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Niall Kennedy via Flikr Creative Commons

Once the community has emerged, it is crucial to make it successful. How do we do that? Well, the first thing we need to do is get to know our audience. I often write about a project I worked on last semester regarding a start-up do-it-yourself auto garage business where I developed a social media strategy. The owner, Nick, had to get to know his audience and believe me, once he got to know them, it really helped. Nick has gotten to know his audience over the past year and their opinions are what have shaped the company. He caters to them and listens. He reaches out to the audience and sparks engagement. The audience will most likely be the customer’s in the future and by knowing them, you can already know a little bit about them before they come to the shop.

Some more basics

Also in Dogan’s article, he states that it is important to be human and to have quality customer service. We all hate having something automated spit back information at us. Nothing is better than having someone actually talk to you, not a robot. Having people like us communicate and interact with the community is key. Dogan stated,

In short, a community will expect a certain level of service from a real human. Be that human.

There are many different ways that we are expected to talk to the community. I think the biggest takeaway is that we need to be vocal with the community, and what we say has to have meaning. Is what we are posting important? Are we just posting irrelevant content?

That leads to customer service. There were excellent points in Dogan’s article regarding customer service. Some key points:

  • acknowledge people as soon as possible
  • treat people like humans, not just a number
  • do not lecture at people

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It seems that in today’s world, we do things a million miles an hour. We become impatient if we are not responded to immediately. Whether you can immediately fix the problem a community member is having or not, it’s important to at least acknowledge them and let them know they are working on it. In the example in the photo, a person asked about a problem with the server. IBM Redbooks immediately responded to let them know they are aware of the problem and are working on restoring it. I believe that they will appreciate the quick response and will be more understanding rather than not hearing anything at all. Great customer service can contribute to a successful community.

Anything else?

Well, this already seems like quite a bit when we are trying to build a community. But, one of the most important tips according to Dogan when building a community is to have fun! Be creative and think about what the community would like. Be spunky not boring. Find ways to attract the attention of the community. Obviously building a community is a ton of work, but it can be worth it. You have to have some fun, because the last thing we want to happen is it becomes a grind engaging with the community.
What are your thoughts on this?
Can you suggest other tips to build an engaged community?
Have you had an experience where you have dealt with an automated message rather than a human? How was that experience?


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