Organize your feeds into folders and sort by category for easy scanning; you can combine topics you find in your industry’s blogs with your own commentary to create posts that stand on their own.
Encourage employees to contribute to your blog by writing posts on a topic of interest in your industry. Ask your customer service and sales teams about their most frequently asked questions, then have them write blog posts about the solutions. Creating a simple blog template for employees to use can be a great tool to eliminate any objections to writing a post.
There’s no shortage of opinions on LinkedIn. You can join up to 50 groups per individual profile. Find the most active groups related to your industry by searching the Groups tab. An easy way to tell which groups are most active is by the number of members and discussions. LinkedIn Answers is also a fantastic place to tap the knowledge of your professional network.
If social media has a grandfather, its name is Grandpa Forum. These open and free discussions are a fantastic way to find out what’s going on in your niche. A simple search on Google for “<your topic> + forum” will yield thousands of results.
Use entire conversations based around your relevant keywords to build a tag cloud. For example, find 15 tweets that mention your brand, product or industry and drop them into a tag cloud application such as Wordle. You’ll often find new keywords you may not have thought of as well as a few surprise topics of association. This is a great way to really stretch your content dollar and find emerging trends to blog about.
Be nosy. Listen in on conversations offline as well as online. Tune in to conversations while waiting in line at Starbucks or by ear hustling the table next to you at lunch. Find out what people are talking about, what they care about. Carry a small notebook or use Evernote to jot down and keep track of interesting points you overhear and the ideas they spark.
Post a social networking status or blog asking your audience for content topics and suggestions. Online survey and polling tools can be invaluable resources for collecting and prioritizing these ideas in an organized way. Embedding a survey or poll directly into your website or blog engages your audience in real time, and lets their voices be heard. You can also launch a survey or poll directly in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn asking for feedback.
A wise man once said “Why read when you can have someone do it for you,” and the audio book was born. Because everyone is severely pressed for time these days, audio books are a fantastic way to listen to books on the go. Just listening to 15 minutes in the car or 20 minutes at the gym can spark several ideas for content and enable you to “read” a book or two a month.
Want to keep your content relevant to current events and hot topics in the media? Sure you do. Google News aggregates headlines from news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalized interests.
Simply search for keywords related to your industry and click on the news. Scanning the results will immediately provide you with headlines to tie your topic to what’s happening in the world.
Meetups, Webinars, Tweetchats, Conferences. There’s a wealth of events hosted on- and offline on a weekly basis with many offering a free exchange of ideas and knowledge. Look for events with topics related to your industry and jump right in. Chances are you’ll leave inspired with new ideas and a new-found vigor to turn them into remarkable content.
“A Day In The Life” is one of the Beatles’ most influential songs and it came together with two seemingly unrelated bits, one written by John, the other by Paul. This is a perfect example of how bringing together two distinct segments written independently of one another can spawn greatness.
Every business should begin its focus on its audience, the customers. No online community can exist without a firm foundation and if your online community is to truly succeed, you need to know the demographics of your target audience.
What are demographics, you ask? Demographics are the characteristics of your audience. These characteristics are helpful in assessing the changing trends of audience behavior and narrowing down a wide audience into smaller segments.
General categories of demographics use age, gender, life-cycle stage, income, social class, lifestyle, education, religion and location and are collected by varying means of market research. These categories help give shape and definition to your audience and clarify who they are, what they do, their habits and more.
How does a business find out what its audience needs? Ask questions! Engage with your audience to determine what they want, need and desire from your business. This is not a once-and-done type of inventory. Audiences are comprised of dynamic individuals and with time their needs will change organically. Also, external factors applying pressure to the collective audience will also cause ebbs and flows in needs.
By asking and being open to the response from the audience, your business can benefit from knowing not only generically what is needed, but you can gather insighton trends and benchmarks; potential problems or issues; research and development opportunities; product, process and service improvements; crisis communication plans and more.
David Canty, director of loyalty at JetBlue Airways, explains how JetBlue discovers the ever-changing needs of the dynamic members of their TrueBlue community, “We are constantly in dialog with our customers, whether it be online, through email, or face to face. We host a number of customer events all over the country and we use these forums to have ‘human’ conversations about what we are doing well, where we can improve, what would they like and more.
All effective and successful businesses are customer-centric. Without your customers, your business wouldn’t exist. So intimately knowing the needs and wants of your audience can help shape and purpose your business and its future plans. Giving your customers a role and voice in the direction of your business lends itself to creating a sense of community.
As the focus and leader of the community, it is imperative that your business plan is known and understood
by your leaders and staff. How can you expect to rally a community of customers around your business if you
don’t know your own business?
Start with a strategic plan with the goal of mapping out the future based on the needs of now and the
lessons learned from the past. Do you know what your business’s plans for growth, contingencies, expansion,
product and service development, reduction and possible shuttering are?
You should know these answers about your business!
Knowing these answers about your business can lend itself to building credibility as a business within your online community. Audience members learn to trust those representing businesses that know what they are talking about.
You can build that trust by using your knowledge base to answer their questions, listen to their feedback, troubleshoot their issues and—if you can—fix the problems they have with your product or service. Every conversation you have with an audience member is an opportunity to build or destroy your business’s credibility!
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the following questions about your community-building efforts:
Remember, how you respond to negative comments and complaints is just as much a credibility opportunity as how you respond to the compliments and positive feedback!
While your business can certainly respond to many of the needs of the online community, is it wise for the business to dictate all of the interactions of the audience? Not always.
Consider the possibility that you may not always have the best answer for building the community and may need to let the community build itself. Your customers have the potential to be your best brand ambassadors.
The audience members should be encouraged to build relationships and connections with one another and grow dynamic interactions within your online community. The benefit to you, you ask? Your business is the commonality in the community.
Who can better attest to the viability and relevance of your product or service than the customers? You as a business representative are admittedly biased in your opinions of your products or services and this is limiting. Unbind your community and encourage it to explore the possibilities in the experiences of other audience members!
Recognize and appreciate your community members for participation, brand loyalty, solutions orientation, patronization and for any number of other activities that merit appreciation. Your appreciation will encourage them to come back and visit your online community more frequently, to encourage their sphere of influence to join and even lend itself to increasing their purchasing behaviors with your business!
A few examples of demonstrating your appreciation: