I think I’ve identified three distinct phases to a community marketing plan.
As much as I hate speaking in absolutes, I’m confident that they need to go in this order to be truly effective.
Turn the bullhorn around. Social Media isn’t traditional marketing with a new set of tools. Despite the fact that these tools are effective for broadcast, they’re even more effective for monitoring and listening. You need to do that first.
This one is critical. The line to be walked is a fine one, between jumping into conversation uninvited and actually introducing yourself. Again, it’s not the fault of the tools that they are designed to encourage brief messages. Most importantly, you need first contact to come from a human, not a robot.
Now that you’ve built up some social capital by listening and then reaching out in a relevant manner, your chance to help, share, or otherwise help the community member totally kick ass comes. Don’t blow it by sharing nothing but marketing material, share things that are truly helpful. Don’t be afraid to link off site, or even better, off topic. Continue to engage as a human, while sharing an experience with a community member.
Following these three steps will help you build honest, valuable relationships with your community members, customers, and frankly…make new friends.
This process isn’t just for business, it’s for real life.