There are many days when I just want to quit being a business owner.
Did I say that out loud?
There’s no shame in admitting that—it’s probably the same thing you’ve thought a million times. Running a business is not for the faint of heart and I promise you, those of us who look like we have it all together still think about throwing in the towel every now and then. But there are two things that stop me every time. The first is plain old perseverance and stubbornness. I’m a Scorpio, so throwing in the towel makes me cringe. The second is my brand’s incredibly loyal and supportive community.
I started the Charliemadison Community with a simple email newsletter—an absolute necessity for business. If you don’t already have a newsletter list, please start with that first (it’s a non-negotiable). As the company grew and our customers started sharing their sweet stories and reviews, I knew I needed a way to interact with them on a more personal level.
I wanted to pull back the curtain and share some extra love with those who were so passionate about the company’s mission. And that’s how the Charliemadison Insiders Facebook group was born. Facebook groups may not be for everyone, but they’re the simplest and fastest way to set up a community that feels more like you’re chatting right at your kitchen table. It’s a place where members feel safe posting their comments, plus it’s free, which is a win for any business owner.
Starting that new community was the easy part.
Growing an engaged community that was connected to what we do took a bit more creativity. A million questions ran through my mind. What the heck do I post about? Will my community even like what I have to say? I’m already swamped with all.the.things—how much time is this going to take?
I went back to one of the lightbulb moments I had a number of years ago—one that changed the way I ran my business forever. I was listening to a TED talk by Simon Sinek and this quote stopped me in my tracks: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe.”
That simple quote is what helped me hone my brand, tell our story, find a community that believes in our mission, and continue creating ideas that connect what I do with why I do it. With that quote in my back pocket and a few easy to implement tips, we’ve grown an active Facebook group that’s over 500 members strong. Remember, you don’t need thousands of members to have a successful community. Just show up consistently and show you care – your members will notice.
4 TIPS TO CREATING AND NURTURING AN ONLINE COMMUNITY
Here are four ideas to help you start, grow, and connect with a community that will follow along with your journey because they simply love what you do and believe what you believe:
1. The secret to building a community is to start with one. Ahhh, I bet you saw “secret” and thought I was going to share a magical unicorn you had never heard about before. Well, as with most things in life, the solution (or secret) is usually the one that’s the simplest and most obvious.
You build your community by adding one person at a time. It may feel slow at first but remember that it’s not about how big the community is, it’s about how engaged they are. Behind every number is an actual person with their own story. They are choosing to be a part of your brand. Celebrate every single one.
Here are a few ideas for adding new members to your Facebook group:
· Start by inviting your family and personal friends.
· Invite your Facebook friends.
· Share the group with your newsletter list.
· Add a link to your group on your Instagram page.
· Consistently share posts about your group on Instagram and Facebook (focus on the benefits of joining your community).
· Ask your members to invite their friends.
· Add a link to your group on your main Facebook page (you can even create a Facebook banner that encourages people to join your group).
2. Give more than you receive—something you learned as a kid, but might have forgotten somewhere along the way. Yes, you want customers to buy what you’re selling, but they’re not going to buy your product or service until they feel comfortable with WHO they’re buying from.
There are lots of simple ways you can give back to your community and make them feel like a VIP:
· Create posts that get members involved (ask questions, ask for their opinion, create a poll).
· When members comment on your posts, be sure to reply.
· Host giveaways exclusively for community members.
· Create freebies (simple downloads like e-books, worksheets, lists, etc.) They don’t take much time to create but they show you care about more than just selling.
· Ask them what topics they’d love to see in your group, then post about them (this is the best way to figure out what your customers want to see from your brand).
3. Pull back the curtain to reveal the magic. Everyone is a little bit nosy, am I right? You’re interested in what everyone else is doing and a peek behind the scenes of a brand helps you connect with the people behind it. Your customers and clients want to hear your story, learn what you do every day, and get a peek inside your office or studio. They want the face behind the brand.
Most of the time, I feel like my life is pretty boring and nobody would possibly be interested in what I do every day. But each time I post a photo of myself, my daughter, a messy studio photo, or a peek at our latest project, those posts always get the most interactions.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, share your story, your mission, and the vision behind your brand. Build trust with your community and let them get to know you better. Pull back the curtain on your brand and reveal the magic (at least a bit) behind what you love to do.
4. As Shaka Smart said, “Appreciation is the currency of success.” I’ll never forget one of the kindest comments I received from a member of our Facebook group. She said that I made everyone feel like they were appreciated regardless of whether or not they made a purchase in our shop. That stuck with me and I think about that every time I plan out what to share with our community.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated and when you show your appreciation for others, it comes back to you. Remember that Simon Sinek quote above? When someone becomes a customer, they’re NOT choosing your product or service, they’re choosing the common beliefs that you share.
Here are a few ways you can show your appreciation and make your community feel extra special:
· Ask what inspires them and share their stories (with their permission, of course).
· Create a heartfelt thank-you post and tell your community how much they mean to you.
· Host a customer appreciation day or event. This may include a special sale or discount, but include something extra that makes your customers feel appreciated (a giveaway, free download, or gift).
· Offer exclusive perks just for community members (this does not have to cost anything and could be early access to new products/services, monthly events, etc.).
I hope these tips have convinced you that creating a community around your brand is an essential part of connecting with those who love what you do and will cheer you on every time you create something new. If you need a little more convincing, here are some fabulous resources to help you get started creating your community and setting up your own Facebook group:
Start With Why – the TED Talk by Simon Sinek I mentioned above. It’s a must-listen.
Start With Why—the book by Simon Sinek that goes into a more in-depth look at what he shares in the TED Talk.
1,000 True Fans—a concept first introduced by Kevin Kelly that talks about why you need only 1,000 true fans to have a successful business.
A tutorial from Facebook to help you set up your new group.