By Sharon A.M. MacLean
You’ve spent months designing your website. All the bells and whistles have been hung by an impressive group of technical geeks, writers, photographers, graphic designers, and SEO consultants. The company history is explained…your vision and values stated…product descriptions are brilliant.
You’ve also got a community just waiting to follow your every word. Right? Not so fast.
Something’s missing. It’s the reason anybody should care about you or your message. What’s absent is the “why” of your existence and how it relates to your audience.
Fever Bee, the people who study website communities, reports that none of the technology released in the past five years has made us better at building communities. I believe them; a few companies I’ve witnessed blew up hundreds of thousands in website-making hubris. As a publisher, I also saw this many times: just because writers wrote the words did not mean a reader cared a lick about their prose.
There is a far better approach to making our communities more successful. It doesn’t involve big technology overhauls or spammy marketing pushes.
It’s creating a sense of community.
Sense of community has been shown to significantly increase activity, increase customer loyalty and buying behaviour, higher levels of brand advocacy, increase knowledge exchange, and a reduced tendency to engage in negative behaviours.
“The only people in a community are those that believe they are, not those that have completed a registration form in 30 seconds,” cautions FeverBee.
Most of us are grounded in efficiency patterns: how many vehicles can we sell, how fast will customers order their shipping supplies, how wonderful are you for being so skilled in your particular trade or profession. In fact, much of it has proved a costly distraction that has reduced the chances of us succeeding.
Here’s three archetypes that need to change when it comes to presenting your story for all to see in a digital universe.
1. It’s not about you. Today’s bottom line is what makes a difference in other people’s lives. Your website visitors can go anywhere they want in a click, so we need first to discover what’s important to them.
The problem at the moment, says FeveBee, is most community professionals completely ignore the need for a strong psychological connection. “Those that do don’t understand the principles of doing so,” laments FeverBee. “They hop from one idea to the next hoping each new idea will give them the sense of community explosion they crave.”
2. Walk your talk. If you value educating your customers, it’s important to value employees in this way, too. Noted community expert Dr. Candace Tangorra Metalic describes how important it is to invest in processes for staff: the systems that people use for work, how decisions are made, and how everyone is involved in the big picture.
3. Leadership has nothing to do with authority or control. It’s more about working together, about collaboration. It’s different than the “me” leader and focuses more on an empowered team who work to achieve a higher purpose. And how everyone is encouraged to tell the company story online.
The four foundations that help to achieve a sense of community were highlighted in a landmark article published David McMillan and David Chavis in 1986. They are:
1. Membership: The feeling that an individual has a right to belong in the community and can identify other members who also have the right to belong in a community.
2. Emotional safety: Communities should be a place where they can talk about things they can’t talk about anywhere else.
3. Personal investment: Members want to feel they have earned their place in the group. The more they have invested their time, resources, energy, emotions into the community, the more they do not want to be ignored.
4. Inauthentic marketing: This means using expressions unique to the community. It also means replicating their tone of voice and language style. It does not mean pushing your brilliantly described products under pretense of an “important message for the community.”
Finding your “why” and putting others first will help you to find those life-long customer relationships.
If you want to talk more about building a community for your business, email me here: email@example.com