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How to Build a Community

How to Build a CommunityContributed by: Harrison Kratz

Recently, I gave a talk at Syracuse University during their #140cuse conference on building cause-passionate armies. As you can guess, the talk focused on how people and brands can build communities from the ground up in social media by using some key marketing/communications fundamentals that extend much further than social media.

While preparing for the talk, I realized that we continuously read articles with tips for community management, rather than building. However, most of us are tasked with being the architects for a brand’s online presence and community rather than managing big brands and pages. So, I thought I should elaborate on my talk a little more and offer my tips for building a new community from the ground up.

Define your presence and purpose
A common mistake that social media managers and coordinators fall into is trying to be everything to their community in order to satisfy their buzzword quota (i.e. engaging, authentic, create a two-way dialogue) without focusing on one message or approach. Like any business, cause, or establishment, your community will come together because of a core benefit or value that it is clear throughout their involvement in your community.

To build a community, you have to find a focus in your messaging and then communicate that message effectively to your community. It is a lot easier for people to gather around one core idea rather than trying to interact with a million different ideas and approaches.

Pull on their heartstrings
This may sound sappy, but is still important to a founding strategy. You have to create content and a message that resonates with your potential community members. When you’re Coca-Cola, getting engagement on your posts is not nearly as difficult because you have over 40 million fans and many more beyond Facebook. However, when you just launched your product/page you don’t have the luxury of automatic interaction. Thus, you have to create content that will inspire a human emotion and ultimately, an action.

Facebook documents the actions taken on your page as Stories. This is fitting because when creating content, you want to create a story that your community can be a part of and share with their communities.

Build the Community You Want to Join
When building a marketing strategy, you should always ask yourself, “Is this how I want to be marketed to?” This fully applies to building a community. If you build a community that you aren’t thrilled about, how are other people supposed to be? In everything you do, whether it be on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, try to create a social space that you would feel comfortable interacting in, regardless of your role or status.

Harrison-KratzWhat have you done to build your community? Do you have any tips to add?

Bio: Harrison Kratz is the community manager for the online mba program, MBA@UNC, from UNC Kenan-Flagler, which also offers one of the nation’s leading executive mba programs. Harrison also sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive.

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Be in Control of your Facebook Presence

Control your Facebook presence

The choice of whether Facebook enriches or impoverishes your life is yours to make – and it’s all about being clear on your goals and pursuing them… and only them. Do you want to cultivate dozens of “friends” to put your business front and center? Do you want to enliven your social life, with or without going out? Perhaps you would like to be an active presence with your children and their families by regularly exchanging information and photos? As a business you may want to be on top of damage control if needed and be closer to your customers. This week we’re spending a lot of time and effort on Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization and Social Media strategies here at SearchAmelia. Here is the first episode about your Facebook presence and what is needed to avoid overexposure.

HAVE A PLAN

Whatever your preference or objective, it is advisable to decide specifically what rules you want to set for yourself, including who you really want as Facebook friends and the amount of time you’ll allow yourself to spend on the site each day. And then write these rules down — literally — and thumbtack them up where you can see them. Periodically review your rules to see if they are working for you. The idea is to be sure that you are in charge of Facebook rather than it being in charge of you. It is a wonderful tool as is the Internet, but using the tool wisely is entirely up to you.

Facebook, which started as a playground for Ivy League college kids, has now taken the lead position on the World wide Web, with more hits than Google, but more importantly it has captivated the grown up market. The social network has literally changed and overwhelmingly improved our ability to connect with others wherever they might be, and as a consequence people over age 50 are now the fastest-growing category of users, representing 42% of users according to recent research. And it’s easy to see why. We all have multiple stories on how we have reconnected with people who once were important in our lives, but by the movements of life ended up somewhere else on the globe.

TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING FASTER THAN WE CAN FATHOM

Smart Phones and Loin Cloths

This morning I was reading an essay that was titled: “Cows are the new Currency”, a story about a young Maasai man in tribal Tanzania, who was texting his girlfriend all dressed up in tribal garments, worrying about how to obtain 20 cows for her father in return for her hand in marriage. He was observed on a dusty African street, a crazy mix of ancient culture and modern influences, dressed in traditional cloth wrap and wearing homemade bull hide sandals soled with strips of rubber from old tires; yet he carried a cellphone which he was using to text his lady friend, a local model. And that describes the times that we live in perfectly. None of this was mainstream just 15 years ago and many have not found a balanced approach to the new era yet, especially not the phenomenon that is Facebook.

NOT YOUR THING?

Now, if you haven’t used Facebook or used it only briefly, you may feel about as inclined to explore it as you are to hang out at a food court over French fries and soda — as teenagers do — and I agree that devoting time to using Facebook is not without its problems, as we shall see below in our conversation with Lauren Zander, life coach and Daily Health News contributor.

On the positive side, Facebook can be especially valuable for older folks to help them stay connected with others — which has been shown to be a critical factor in longevity. One of my wife’s cousins who has become virtually housebound because of physical problems is having a great time exchanging jokes and tidbits with numerous friends and family. Even though she is physically isolated and in poor health, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that thanks to his “Facebook life,” she is a reasonably happy woman. Facebook also can be terrific for people who aren’t comfortable in social situations, offering the opportunity to share a more sparkling online self with friends new and old.

FACEBOOK DANGER ZONES

But – and yes there is a “but” to this story… there also are some problems with all this. Some of the more common ones should be understood.

It’s a performance.
Not only does Facebook allow socially awkward people to transcend their shyness, but it also allows people to carefully edit their lives so that what they end up presenting to the world isn’t exactly the truth. I know some that have made a serious mess of their lives, but to read their Facebook pages, you would think they are the masters of the universe, having licked all of life’s problems. Many people make a practice of posting lots of pictures of themselves dressed to the nines… attending glorious parties and relaxing on lavish vacations… engaging in witty repartee with their long list of “friends.” This can be deeply depressing to people who end up believing that others’ lives are so much better than their own. Acknowledging that it is only natural to want to share life’s high moments, we have to remember that the happy faces on Facebook show just one side of life, and everyone has the other, more difficult side as well.

It’s a time sucker.
Hours spent socializing on Facebook can overtake the other parts of your life. These carefully crafted and highly filtered online interactions can be easier and more immediately gratifying than dealing with the daily challenges of life with your spouse, kids, parents, siblings and neighbors. In the end, the online social world does not provide the same quality of interaction and cannot replace face to face interaction. It’s rather ironic for people to spend hours connecting with people across the country and the globe while ignoring those who are up the hall. Couples facebooking each other from the same living room is a sure recipe for disaster

It’s an invitation to mischief.
It’s not uncommon for people who are bored with their lives and, yes, their marriages to connect with past loves “just out of curiosity” and, if flirtations ensue, trouble (of the real-life kind) can come soon after. For example a 2010 study from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says that an astonishing 20% of divorce cases in this country now cite evidence from social-networking sites — with Facebook leading the pack.

HOW TO BE IN CONTROL

The choice of whether Facebook enriches or impoverishes your life is yours to make — it’s all about being clear on your goals and pursuing them… and only them. Do you want to cultivate dozens of “friends” to put your business front and center? Do you want to enliven your social life without having the spare time to actually go out? Perhaps you would like to be an active presence with your children and their families by regularly exchanging information and photos?

Whatever your preference, it is wise to decide specifically what rules you want to set for yourself, including who you really want as Facebook friends and the amount of time you’ll allow yourself to spend on the site each day. And when you have these rules formulated, then actually write them down and thumbtack them up where you can see them. Periodically review your rules to see if they are working for you. The idea is to be sure that you are in charge of Facebook rather than it being in charge of you.