After starting my online business almost two years ago, I quickly learned that it wasn’t hard to create a community. What was difficult was creating an engaging community.
You know what I’m talking about — the businesses that have 100,000 fans on Facebook but only have one or two comments, shares and likes per post. Or the bloggers who have 45,000 followers on Twitter but never RT or interact with their community.
With the ability to “buy” your fans and customers with advertising and marketing campaigns, it’s important to understand the difference between having a large audience, and having a small audience that’s a core group of super fans.
Find the Right Solution
For the past few months I’ve been on the quest to create a community of true fans since I had an epiphany of what I wanted to accomplish with my freelance business.
I’ve experimented with several platforms, ideas and methods to engage my community and encourage a two-way conversation.
One of the most effective solutions I’ve come across, is in the form of email newsletters, or email marketing.
Your customers have the opportunity to sign up for your newsletter with their email address, and you can deliver your content, sales, promotions and products, directly to their inbox.
There are several different types of email marketing software and hosting accounts available. You can sign up for online software, buy a professional email address or get extra inbox space for your existing email.
For instance, 123-Reg offers an email hosting service that can be used by businesses who send a lot of outgoing emails or expect a lot of sales leads to come into their inbox.
Here are some of the benefits to using an email hosting services.
- Personalized email address to your domain name
- Manage email, tasks, contacts and calendars in one location
- Access webmail from any internet connection
- No software to download to access your email account
Whether you go with an email hosting service, or online marketing software, the point is to create true fans and really listen to what they have to say.
Cultivate Two-Way Dialogue
The best part about listening is that you can respond to your customers and community, creating that ever valuable two-way dialogue.
When you create a social media following, you’re really just renting the platform where your community congregates, because — as we’ve seen time and time again — Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can change their policies overnight, leaving you and your community and customers completely lost.
But not with your email newsletter.
It’s a place that you can cultivate relationships, gain valuable feedback and ensure your customers that what they share is completely private (as opposed to being on Facebook where everyone can read it).
If Chris Guillebeau can personally respond to the 10,000 of his closest fans via email, I’m sure as freelancers and business owners, we can take the time to give our community the best attention possible.
This is something I’m very passionate about, and a little protective over my community of followers and fans.
I strive to only share the best content, helpful ideas and valuable tips with my audience, because they’ve put their trust in me to do so.
Are you building an engaging community or do you need to rethink your conversation strategy?