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12 Tips to Growing Online Community

Sustainable Online Community

An online community is one in which members rally together because they have shared values, common goals or similar interests. Most brands would love to foster a strong relationship with members who support its business goals and strategy.

But how do you engage, grow and build a loyal community of ethical and sustainable brand followers?

Here are 20 surefire ways to grow your conscious consumer community:

12 Tips to Growing Online Community

1. Go to them before you get them to come to you

Before you start your community, ‘live’ where your community lives. If they are on Instagram, Facebook, Google + or Twitter, go there first before steering them towards your own platform.

2. Engage in offline behaviour that mirrors your online sentiment.

Community members can tell when you are authentic so if you are being fake or yours is a pseudo ethical fashion or green blog, you will be found out. I can sniff out a fake a mile away and there are ‘ethical’ brands I keep my distance from because they aren’t genuine and seem only to be interested in increasing their brand and blog following.

3. Provide value

It is increasingly difficult to ‘win’ people over in the digital space, especially when we’re bombarded with constant messages from left, right and centre and people have a so many choices about where they best spend their time. But if you offer value, whether you are educating people, entertaining them or giving something away for free, you’ll have won over the customer.

4. Foster real relationships

I can’t tell you the number of times I have sent a personal email to a brand or blogger and received zero response. While I can forgive someone for a delayed response, a nil response has me beginning to question the legitimacy of the brand and bloggers claims for ‘unity’ and ‘collaborative efforts’ to change the world.

5. Be a part of real-time conversations

Monitor social feeds and be sure to take part in any trending hash tags and topical discussions to show that you are an active member of the wider community at large.

6. Engage with members consistently

Whilst it may difficult for brands to keep up with the constant flow of social media alerts, notifications and messages, it is important that you are responding to each enquiry, suggestion, email and comment. If you fail to do so, members will become increasingly agitated and will move on to a brand that actually cares.

7. Take your online community offline

Instead of hosting online Twitter parties or Google hang out events, why not throw an offline event and invite online community members. This will help strengthen the bonds further, deepening the relationships you have with your followers.

8. Be delicately honest

While there are people who are nice for the sake of being nice, I am a big believer of being honest but respectful. I detest sugarcoating, and prefer communication that is straight up and real. This is predominantly why I don’t read product reviews or partake in those super lovely but super fake online conversations that often leaves me feeling a little skeptical. So let’s get back to being honest. Just don’t be brutal about it.

9. Embrace the negative as well as the positive

As an experienced digital marketer and a green influencer, I am constantly frustrated with brands and people who push the ‘positive’ agenda without acknowledging the difficulties, hurts, emotions and hurdles that life brings. When a brand isn’t ready to deal with negative sentiments or the tougher questions, it won’t grow. What makes a brand more likeable is when it acknowledges this. Customers aren’t looking for perfection, but they are looking for brands they can relate to. Perfection is hard to relate to.

10. Be inclusive

Your community will be made up of members who are like-minded but even some of them will disagree, particularly those who are extremely passionate and opinionated. Rather than siding with the party you agree with, be open to both sides and be careful not to ostracise the party you disagree with. This will lead to more open lines of communication and members will feel more comfortable in expressing their viewpoints.

11. Listen to what community members are saying

One of the ways that you can show community members that you care is by listening to their feedback and addressing their concerns. If a member offers advice, feedback or suggestions, pay attention and consider whether it is something that aligns with your business values and strategy and then see if it can be accommodated or implemented. Whether out of pride or other reasons, we are often too quick to dismiss good ideas and become defensive if we’re in the wrong. Instead, be open to all feedback – whether positive or negative. If your brand is serious about serving its customers, it should listen to its customers. No one knows what they want better than your customer.

12. Be generous and offer rewards

All wonderful relationships have a healthy balance of give and take. This is no different with your relationship with your online community. Make sure to reward your active members so that they don’t feel used or neglected. Don’t be afraid to run a giveaway, hold a competition, offer discounts or provide exclusive gifts as this is a good way to show appreciation to your community members for their loyalty and support. Thoughtfulness and showing gratitude goes a long way.

Now over to you: Are you interested in growing your online ethical and sustainable community? How are you growing it? Are you implementing ideas that I haven’t covered in this list? If so, feel free to leave a comment on this post.

Last modified: November 25, 2020