It’s the new year. A lot of people are thinking up ways to look better and feel better: cutting out bad habits and instituting new ones.
May as well do it professionally too eh? Unfortunately, gym memberships are unavailable for communities and brands, so you’ll have to look at a few other options for making your community healthier in 2014.
Here are five of the most common problems that brands struggle with when they’re trying to work out how to do community.
1) It’s static
I love Woody Allen. Basically, everything he says is my mantra. Here’s one of my favourites:
Communities are like sharks. It’s true that they have to move forward constantly. I guess that there are many reasons but predominantly it’s because people get bored quickly and when there’s a bounty of other entertainment/content/writing available from other sources, they’re likely to look for something else if you fall behind.
Want an example? Take Fast Co’s Design and Entrepreneurship publications. When they were first launched, the content was brilliant and the community around those brands was very stimulating.
However, not that much more than a year on and the glow has faded. It’s rare that you see someone saying something positive about what was once the darling of the design and tech world.
Too bad. It’s a dead shark.
2) It’s a relationship – A one way street
Back to Woody and his analogy about dead sharks. He’s referencing his character’s relationship with Di Keaton’s Annie Hall. (If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out).
The story is basically that Keaton and Allen fall in love and for a while everything’s great. They’re having a fantastic time together and it’s all very entertaining in an endearingly neurotic fashion.
However, after a while, Allen’s habits begin to annoy Keaton and his refusal to do things that she wants and value her efforts to become a singer result in the breakdown of the relationship (don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled it for you).
Communities get like that too. It’s so easy to forget that there’s a relationship to be had with community: you take the interest of the reader and use it to benefit your brand in some way (financially, influence or just for your own delight). What many people forget about that is that in a relationship you also have to give back to the other person.
Community giving comes in many guises: recognising a particular fan/follower on your social media accounts, rewarding loyalty with discounts, giving free access to premium articles.
It’s so easy to give something back to your community, which brings us to our next point.
3) You’re thinking too narrowly
Another pitfall that people succumb to is the temptation to narrow their community down to a single platform or even medium.
There are so many places that community can take place.
For example, when I first started running Plastik Magazine full time, the community was based predominantly on Twitter and the website. However, it soon became apparent that there was a large portion of followers who were spending most of their time on Instagram.
It’s so easy to react to that realisation. Thinking a little bit about where your audience is can save your community from becoming too narrow.
Top tip: Don’t forget to create different kinds of content for different community venues e.g. a user on Twitter likes a different kind of content to a Facebook community and also to someone who prefers to interact in the real world through events etc.
4) You’re limited by your website – mini sites are super useful
Recently, I’ve been following Usvth3m with quite some interest. It’s actually quite hard to not notice them because they’re quite literally plastered all over Facebook etc.
What they do with such great effect is to blow away the stereotype that all a computer user wants or all a website is capable of is publishing linear content or pictures, images and video.
Largely, their success is due to the virility of their non-linear content.
For example, using interactive mini quizzes (easy to build and deploy) such as ‘How Hated Are You By The Daily Mail’ (http://games.usvsth3m.com/are-you-hated-by-the-daily-mail/) has enabled the website to shoot from 0 to 7M users in just under 6 months.
That’s impressive. Your website is not your only asset.
Maybe it’s time to consider where you could be using the canvas and creating great interactive mini sites or one off features.
5) You’re too concerned about acknowledging others
Finally, a smaller but still noticeable problem is that community managers and brands are often so scared about acknowledging their competitors that they miss out on the chance to interact with them.
It is, quite simply, dumb to believe that a person who engages with your arts centre doesn’t know of the existence of other arts centres in the same city. You can substitute arts centre for your own business.
What matters is that your business could pick up momentum by rewarding value from other similar communities. Congratulating a great product launch by someone else’s brand is a good way to encourage favour from your own clients.
People don’t like tension. Break the ice by acknowledging things that other people do well.
And that’s it. 5 quick tips for improving your community.
I’m writing a master class course on how to build a brand around your community. If you’d like to improve your business and gain more followers by creating great community, sign up to be notified: