For the past couple of months, I’ve been working hard on growing a community. Beforehand, I’d publish posts to the painful sound of crickets. There were people there reading it (so Google Analytics told me), but no one was interacting or connecting with it.
So I decided I needed to change something.
Since then, I’ve been really getting to know my audience and figuring out how I can help them. I’ve stepped down from being just a “publisher”, and started creating conversations that MATTER with my content. Conversations that my audience can be a part of.
The result has been pretty phenomenal. Just the other day two people highly recommended my site in the same thread on Facebook, and I now have to set aside an afternoon after I send an email out to reply to each and every response.
The best part? I’ve really, really enjoyed growing my community. It gives me great pleasure helping others out and knowing I’m creating a place that’s really turning peoples’ lives around (too soppy?!).
And it’s totally replicable, too. In fact, there are just a few things I do differently now, but they’ve become such an ingrained part of my schedule that I don’t know what I ever did before!
Here’s how you can grow a loyal community with your content.
1. ASK Your Audience Questions
Do you know what the easiest way to create connections with your audience is? Simply asking them questions, whether it’s something as small as asking them how they are, to something bigger, like what they’re struggling with in their life/business at that moment in time.
For some reason, we often overlook the simple act of asking questions because we’re too busy worrying about how we can project OUR message to our people.
It seems so simple, right? But so, SO effective in letting your audience know you’re thinking about THEM and that you’re both in this together.
Where and what should I be asking my audience?
- At the end of blog posts. Ask your readers meaningful questions at the end of a post, not just “what do you think?” Give them something specific to answer, something that you really want to hear their opinion on.
- On social media. Shooting off quick questions on social media is a non-invasive way to get your audience’s opinions and ideas on things. Even simply asking your followers how they are can create conversations and open you up to making connections with your readers.
- In your emails. In a LOT of my emails to subscribers, I turn the tables round ask them for their opinion on things like what kind of posts they’d like to see, or what struggles they’ve faced that week. Since including questions, I’ve received 10x more replies from subscribers, which strengthens our bond and their trust in me.
- Surveys. If you really want to take your ask game to the next level, you could always set up a survey to get laser-focused answers to your questions. This is great if you want to know what kind of blog posts would resonate with your audience, or what kinds of pain points they have in their lives and businesses. Make them short and focused for the best results.
Now, my blog posts are mostly based off answers my readers give to questions (or questions they ask, but more on that in the next point!).
Even better, I can create an editorial calendar that I KNOW will cover their pain points because I’ve come straight out and asked them – so much better than guessing and hoping!
Sample questions you could ask:
- What are you struggling the most with in your business/life at the moment?
- What do you think about X topic?
- Do you prefer X, Y, or Z? (Great for determining what kind of content your community enjoy consuming, or what products and service packages would work well for you)
- What’s your favorite X and why?
2. LISTEN to Questions
This obviously follows on from asking questions. You want to really take note of your audiences’ answers.
We make connections in real life by listening to others and sharing our stories, so creating a two-way relationship between you and your audience ensures deeper connections and the feeling that you’re on the same page.
This is GREAT for building trust and a community that’s loyal.
Think about it: Say your local pub asks for feedback on their latest themed night (those are still a thing, right?!) and you offer your thoughts on what they could do differently and what you liked, and they implemented those changes. You’d be pretty happy, right?
You’d feel like part of the community and you’d be way more likely to go back time and time again than if they had ignored your feedback (making you feel unimportant).
By asking focused questions like we discussed above, you can determine the problem areas a lot of your audience face and create content that really taps into solutions for them.
When your audience sees that you’re openly answering the questions they have, they’ll feel involved and like they belong – an invaluable method for gaining trust and building loyal fans.
3. SPEAK in Your Audience’s Language
I don’t mean choosing between English, Spanish, or any other ACTUAL language. I mean using words your audience can connect with. Language that resonates with them, inspires them, and makes them want to be a part of what you offer.
Sometimes we think we KNOW what kind of language “speaks” to our audience, but more often than not we’re way off. In fact, there’s a quick and easy way you can determine the exact words to use.
– Step 1: Find where your audience hang out, whether it’s on social media, forums, real life events, or wherever. Find them and join in their conversations (or eavesdrop, but don’t make it obvious!)
– Step 2: Note down the words they use (particularly the ones that crop up a lot). For example, do they use “fab” instead of “great”, or maybe they use “biz” instead of “business”. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just pick up on the quirks and note them down somewhere.
– Step 3: Incorporate these EXACT words into your content. Use the word biz if your ideal audience do, and swap great for fab. It might not seem like it makes a major difference, but when you mirror what others are saying it instantly makes a connection (and encourages your audience to think, “wow, it’s like this was written ESPECIALLY for me!”)
– Step 4: If you want to get specific, you can always reach out to 3 or 4 people you’d consider to be in your ideal audience and ask them to describe something in their own words, or ask what language they prefer (offer “would you prefer” questions)
4. SHOW UP Consistently
As creatures of habit (us humans are like that, ya’know?!) we like routine and consistency (no matter how hard we try and fight it sometimes).
People like to know what to expect so there are no nasty surprises or weird happenings that crop up.
If you really want to build a loyal community around your content, you need to be consistent with it. That involves:
- Publishing content on the same (or similar) topics time and time again (you’ll lose your audience’s interest if you hop from one thing to another too much)
- Creating an editorial calendar that promises a strict publishing schedule. Will you post once a week, three times a week, every Wednesday? The quantity of posts doesn’t matter, as long as you stick to a regular schedule. So, if you publish every Wednesday, make sure you publish every Wednesday! Simple, right?!
- Working within consistent themes. If you want to write about a number of topics, you can batch them into themes or categories to make things seem more streamlined. Then your audience can pick and choose what content they are or aren’t interested in
5. EXTEND Your Reach
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about building a loyal community in the past few months, it’s that email is SO important. That’s where I reach out on a personal level to my audience. It’s where I show my vulnerable side, offer personalized advice, and really get to the nitty gritty.
It’s where my audience reach out to me with their problems, their fears, and their successes.
A lot of it goes on behind the scenes, but that’s where most community building happens – behind the scenes.
Sure, your blog might be the hub of all your content. It’s where you publish your posts, where you direct people, and where your business comes to life. But the conversation can happen in multiple different places OUTSIDE of your, and you need to be there to be a part of it!
Where you can extend your reach to:
- Your peoples’ inboxes. Email is one of the best ways you can create loyal fans. They’ve given you permission to enter their inbox, so they already like what they see. Take things one step further and offer value, value, value with every email! Don’t forget to ask questions and listen to the responses, too!
- Social Media. Let’s face it, social media is a great place to connect with people. Twitter’s perfect for short conversations, while Facebook is awesome for making deeper connections on a more personal level. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but choose 3-4 platforms that you can give your full attention to.
6. HANG OUT
With Your AudienceOne of the biggest problems I see businesses face when it comes to promoting their content and growing communities is that they don’t know where their audience hang out.
They don’t know where to find them to show them the awesome content they’ve published and to get involved in conversations.
Don’t worry if this is you! It’s never too late to figure out where your audience is and hang out with them on a casual level.
Consider places like:
– Forums. Places like Quora are great for finding conversations in your niche. If people are asking questions your services can answer, then you need to be there, answering those questions (in a personable, helpful way, of course!)
– Social Media. We’ve already spoken a bit about social media (which just goes to show how important it is in creating a community!). Think about which platforms your audience are more likely to hang out on, e.g. if you’re a photographer, you might go for Instagram, but if you’re audience is corporate, high-end businesses, Twitter or LinkedIn might be a better option.
What to do when you find your audience:
- DON’T spam them with your business, whatever the heck you do. This is not okay!
- Instead, be super helpful. Answer their questions in detail, ASK questions, and LISTEN to their responses. You can see where I’m going with this, right?!
7. BE HUMAN
When you’re interacting with your audience (which, at this point, is a solid community), it’s important to always be human. Sounds so simple, but I see a lot of business owners starting stiff conversations with their audience, who then quickly lose interest because they can’t relate.
Remember that people make connections with other people. We’re drawn to people that are similar to us, and we champion people who champion the things we believe in.
How can you make real connections in an authentic way?
- ASK questions
- LISTEN to the answers
- SPEAK in a language that your audience can understand and resonate with
- SHOW UP consistently to let your audience that you’re there for them
- CREATE conversations, be helpful, and show your community that you’re approachable
See what I did there?!
So there you have it. Seven tried and tested ways you can create a loyal community around your content, which in turn willbuild trust and bring you customers who can vouch for you and are willing to buy from you time and time again.
Meet The Author!
Lizzie is a professional business and lifestyle writer who helps brands grow loyal communities around their content. She also runs Wanderful World, where creative freelancers can find detailed guides and courses that will help sky-rocket their businesses.
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