Over the last few years, I’ve experimented with virtually every platform out there: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest… the list goes on and on. The team and I have been posting, creating native content, measuring metrics, and creating and correcting to see what works for clients and ourselves.
I’ve found that there’s just one important thing that all of these platforms have in common: audience interaction is what builds a community. It’s the individual follower or fan that matters most when you’re looking at any social media platform.
The problem is that most brands are treating digital marketing less like a conversation and more like a posting platform. Most brands are active on social media when it comes to posting, but their engagement ends there. Then they’re surprised when they don’t get the engagement they were expecting or hoping for. The difference between brands that are struggling and brands that are immensely successful on social media comes down to the effort that they put into actively engaging with their audiences on an individual level.
Developing Brand Equity by Building an Online Community
When I talk about developing brand equity on social media and in online communities, I’m talking about short-term actions that will have long-term results. Social media has the power to build your brand up to the point where you can access hundreds or thousands of engaged followers who are already tuned in and listening. As long as you continue posting good content and interacting with your audience, this is an asset that is not going to disappear.
What counts most is building that asset one follower at a time. It might take you time right now, but every follower you add is another set of eyes on your brand. Plus, every person brings an entire network into your sphere.
Keep in mind that when you’re just starting out, you already have an active audience, however small that might be. I’ve talked before about focusing on your sphere first, and that applies more than ever when you’re building your audience out person by person.
Start with Building on One Platform
If what you’ve taken from this so far is that you have to be posting and interacting on every site and platform constantly, let’s back the conversation up a little. Even brands with small budgets or one-man teams can build brand equity on social media. The trick is to start small by building an active audience on a single platform. Focus your entire effort on building up that platform first. Once you have an engaged audience, you can start putting more time into another digital location.
It’s the same logic you’ll use for building a community. Start small, and eventually, the results will be overwhelming. But you have to put the time into the micro-level of your marketing before that happens. So choose a platform and stick with it until you have the time or resources to invest in building out a second one.
Find Time to Engage with Every Single Person
Most brands see their social communities as a whole. That’s one of the main reasons they struggle to build an audience. Communities aren’t built overnight. It’s a slow process that starts by adding a single person at a time to a bigger group. That’s the level to focus on: the next single person who’s going to enter your community.
Think about it the same way you’d think about a networking event. Just because there are hundreds of people in the room, it doesn’t mean you can connect with every single one of them in a meaningful way. Sure, you could walk around spraying your business cards left and right, but are those people likely to get in touch with you a few years down the road when they’re looking for your product? Not likely.
Experienced networkers focus on a few individuals. More specifically, they focus on adding value to those individuals through meaningful conversation and engagement. They know that at the end of the night, connecting with a single person and adding them to their network is more valuable in the long-term than shoving a card in a hundred people’s faces and hoping they’ll get in touch.
So, with this in mind, do not overlook a single person who interacts with your brand. They are all important individually. Message people back, reply to their comments, follow their pages — do whatever you have to do to show that one person that they matter to your brand.
Build Your Online and Offline Communities Simultaneously
If any digital marketing expert tries to tell you networking is dead, don’t listen. Belly to belly networking and shaking hands like our grandparents used to is still effective. The difference is that we now have greater opportunities than ever before to build an online audience — and to bring our in-person audiences into the online conversation.
Some digital marketers are calling this “conversation marketing,” but really, it’s just about taking the same strategies you’d use offline and building them into your digital platforms.
There are plenty of ways to accomplish this. I’ve seen brands using hash-tagged “Instagram walls” at their locations that encourage customers to snap a selfie and share it. Other brands get interactive people by sharing pictures of live events and tagging each other. It can even be as simple as having your social handles on your business card. No matter what strategy you decide on, just make sure it focuses on one person at a time.
No Follower Left Behind
If there’s one thing you take away from this blog post, I hope it’s this: if you show every follower that they matter to your brand, they will matter to your brand. Each person you add to your audience will have a major impact on your long-term brand equity. So, put in the effort now and keep focused on the people who will help you build bigger.