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One of the basic premises underlying the concept of Profitable Popularity is the idea that you will appropriately identify, nurture, care, and feed your online community. This means that you must do a thoughtful job of selecting just who are your fans, and then, once you’ve identified them, do all you can to nurture, care and feed your connection with them.

When we look at building online communities, what we’re really looking at is how to answer the question: “How do I bring more people- my people- into my circle, and give them what they need, so they stay – (and, maybe even tell their friends about me too?)”

There is a delicate balance between being fully self-serving, and then not self-serving enough. The overly self-serving model is all about what you can get from your fans. The not self-serving enough model is all about what you can give them.

As with most things in life, the ideal balance is somewhere between these two extremes. When we look at the concept of properly caring for your online relationships, I think there are a few areas to consider, and a few tips to make it easier to accomplish.

When you’re seeking to build your online community, you may first want to focus on giving. You’ve heard a lot about the “free-line”- and that has moved- again. Today’s visitors are more savvy, more connected, and your free content needs to be as good as it can possibly be. You might attract with great headlines, but you need to hook them with substance. It used to be that you could grow your email list by offering almost anything as a giveaway. Today’s users are more discerning and looking for high value before they part with their email address. You need to demonstrate that value first (the giving) in order to encourage them to join your community (the getting).

Another area to consider is that of targeting your market very well. With the rapid growth of technology, it’s becoming easier and easier to attempt to market to everybody. However, even though technology is making this easier to do, this doesn’t mean it’s a better marketing strategy than it ever was. Increasingly, the internet is becoming more and more microfragmented, and you must harness this for your marketing to be completely effective. Your goal is not to appeal to everybody (it never was)- but to keep narrowing in, more and more, to find the people you can assist better than anyone. Sometimes, you won’t know who these people are right away- and that’s ok. But pay attention to the people who seek you out and who want to engage with you- they may be more of the people you want to cultivate.

A third area to consider is that your message make take longer to root. This means that you shouldn’t give up too soon. Especially if you are trying to create a new conversation (like I am, for instance, with the concept of Profitable Popularity), it may take longer than you expect for your ideas to catch fire and take hold. So don’t give up too soon. You should be willing to commit to sharing your ideas in as many ways as possible, for at least 6 months before you draw conclusions that your community building just isn’t working.

In terms of tips to make it easier to build your online communities, here are just a couple that are in the front of my mind today.

The first is that familiarity breeds likeability. This comes from a psychological research study (Swap, 1977) which says that people like you more when they see you more, IF you are seen as providing something of value. This offers us marketers two challenges- first, we have to have something valuable to say- and then we have to find as many venues as we can to share our message. The more people see us, and appreciate our value, the more they will like us. And liking is an important component in terms of generating fans.

The second tip is that you must be consistent in your approach. It requires some discipline to show up regularly, engaging, interacting, and involving yourself with your community. But if you want to care and feed your community appropriately, you need to be consistent in how you interact with them, in what ideas you share, and in your opinions and stance about issues which are important to you and to them.

When you focus on the care and feeding of your online community, you can build strong ties and a strong presence- both of which you can utilize to bring even more value- and get value back- from your fans, friends, and followers.