How do I build a community? Though not word for word, this is the question I received recently from a long time member here at BizSugar eager to cultivate a better relationship with other users on our small business social media site and (like the rest of us, I suspect) to get better comments and more votes for his link submissions.
Without pausing to think when answering his e-mail, I wrote what I always do when responding to this question…”comment often and vote often.”
But the more I think of it, this advice really doesn’t go far enough when explaining how to build community on BizSugar or any other social media site. So, here’s my more detailed answer.
Start with a firm foundation
Just like building a house or any other structure, building community requires some basics, if what you construct is to stand the test of time. Most important is a firm foundation, the basis upon which everything else you create will be built. When creating community, start with genuine interest in what others have to say. Don’t simply comment on other’s links to get them to comment on yours. Read and get to know their thoughts and ideas and those of the others who have commented before you. Become part of the community and make a strong investment in its members. Don’t simply play along for what you can get in return.
Use the proper materials
Skimping on the proper building materials will have a negative impact when building anything from a new home to a pottery shed, and the same goes for social communities. Paying attention only to a small clique of friends and commenting or voting only on each others posts or contributing sporadically and rarely to the rest of the community’s submissions or simply visiting long enough to post your own links and move on is unlikely to build a strong community for your personal brand.
Follow your blueprint carefully
Building anything without a blueprint or other plan to help you see the finished product and how all the pieces fit together is generally an act of futility. Similarly, good community building requires a good plan. What do you hope to get from other members? Even though this should not be your only consideration, you presumably are interested in becoming part of the community for a reason. What side of your personality or aspect of your brand do you hope to promote? Are you seeking to attract more readers and traffic for your own Website or blog, to network with future partners, customers and clients, or trying to present yourself as a good source of information and expertise in a particular niche or industry? Depending upon the kind of community you hope to build, your blueprints and the way you approach building your community will vary.
The right tool for the right job
You wouldn’t use a hammer to cut a two-by-four or a saw to drive a nail into one. You couldn’t get by building a house with a single tool, so why believe you can build a community with a standard set of responses, brief but standard comments on every link you encounter (Great job. Thanks.) or a strategy that involves simply voting for every link hoping that everyone else will vote for yours? Just as choosing the right tool for the right job requires consideration, so leaving thoughtful comments and voting on the links you find the most valuable will build better community than a one-size-fits-all approach. When other members learn to trust the links on which you have voted as worthwhile and value your comments as relevant and meaningful, you will be one step closer to receiving the same response and feedback from them.
Hope this helps and let’s start building community!