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Monday, April 15, 2013

Identifying your Business's Online Community with Social Media

In Mackenzie Fogelson's blog post at SEOmoz, she explores how to identify an appropriate online community for a business. Many of my posts have emphasized how important it is to leverage local, or to understand those following a page on Facebook or Twitter, as doing so enables you to develop more relevant, and hence valuable content.

Most important in understanding one's community is understanding one's own business, or look into the mirror. Knowing the details of what you're trying to sell, why your business exists, what your values are, and what makes you unique will be crucial in who you reach out to and how you do so. Once you've identified how your business creates value, and crucially, who it creates value for you'll be able to proceed. Any community that one is reaching out to needs to be one that the business does not just talk at, but a community that talks back, engages, and responds to the businesses ideas and services. Though no one expects everyone in a community to constantly engage, there needs to be some level of excitement and participation from those involved with the brand.  Otherwise it would seem that either there is no value added, or there is a failure to reach the appropriate audience.  

The battle between quality and quantity is another key component of the community. Just because a page or someone on twitter has a lot of followers, doesn't mean they are producing value for those individuals. I'm sure many can relate to this if they are to look through the pages, bands, and idiotic groups they "liked" on Facebook when they were in high school. You are no longer in those pages communities, despite your being a number on that pages statistics. Building relevant contributors is always the goal and is time and time again shown to correlate with long term growth. "Your goal in identifying community is to come out of this with a list of people, companies, and knowledge sources that will serve as your road map for growing your online community".

Key to this conversation is that those who are desirable in one's online community are similar to those who one wants as friends in the real world. Those who listen, communicate, and are honest in their feedback, both positive and negative.  Developing an online community is all about rallying people who want to spend their time on your pages.

A good place to start is by answering the following questions:

1. Who is your target demographic?
2. What specific industries or individuals do you cater to?
3. Who are your partners and colleagues?
4. Who are your competitors and allies?
5. Who do you respect in the industry (people and companies)?
6. What organizations are you a part of?
7. What industry blogs do you currently read?
8. Who do you follow on social media (people, companies)?
9. What events do you attend?

Answering these questions gives you a great starting place for people and places to promote your online presence to.  Sharing your content, products, and opinion on these locations will create reciprocal engagement and awareness on your pages.  Key here is to not come off as spam.  Whatever you post on other sites must bring value or others will quickly see through unwarranted promotion and dismiss or block your content from appearing on that site again.  

The post then goes on to suggest the following tools to boost your community and earn awareness from others, tracking where relevant material comes from and who that material is produced for. 

1. Create a spreadsheet to track other leaders in your community, the size of their influence and target audience.  Input all relevant information from the following ideas into that spreadsheet.
2. For Twitter use the following site to search for and track leaders in relevant areas:
3. Find community blogs and the blogs they follow that contribute to the conversation in your industry.
4. Follow a similar process on Facebook and Google+, following the pages that the industry leaders follow and determining ways that you can be relevant to those sites.  
5. Repeat continually as your content becomes relevant to a broader audience, or as your community's demographics change and expand.

In turn this WILL return more links for your site, generate more page views, likes, comments, shares, and returns in SEO.  It takes time and determination, but the results will follow.

This article can be found here.


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