Posted by jennita
Remember a time when “community” meant the neighborhood or town you lived in? Or when a business only had to be concerned with making customers happy when they were inside their store? It’s sometimes hard to remember what life was like before online communities became such commonplace. But the fact of the matter is that online communities are where we spend most of our time these days (especially if you're in search marketing… #amiright?).
We talk a lot about Inbound Marketing and how it encompasses areas such as SEO, Social Media, content, blogging, email, Public Relations and Q&A/forums (among others). Now, let me ask you this: What's the one thing that all of those have in common? (You probably know where I'm going here) That's right, Community.
Ok, I admit it, I'm surely a bit biased here. However, I really want you to think about this. At the base of everything we do as marketers, our community (whoever that may be for your particular organization) is right there, standing tall.
The Value of Community
What does "community" mean to you? Or perhaps a better question should actually be: What should"community" mean to you? I want you to think about the people who visit your site, participate in your forums, and buy your products or comment on your Facebook wall. They are the people who you want to find you in the SERPs, who you send emails to giving them discounts and they're the ones you hope will retweet and share your content. You write for them, you create products for them and you (may) want money from them. Yep, they're pretty damn important.
Your community is important in so many ways. They are your:
- Brand advocates
- Software supporters
- product feedback specialists
- content generators (UGC BABY!)
- link builders
- critics (hecklers?)
- sharers of content
- forum participators
- website uptime monitoring service 😉
- reason for eating lots of cupcakes (yea, ok. Maybe that's just me.)
Determining the actual value of your community isn't so cut and dry. Sure, we all want to put a dollar value to everything, but you can start with these steps:
1. Figure out who the community is in your organization.
Who are your community members, what do they care about, why does it matter, where do they hang out, and how are you going to interact with them? Are they the people who participate in the forum on your site? Are they the ones who read your blog? Are they the people who buy your products? Are they all of the above?
You can get this information in a number of ways:
- Look at your analytics! Where are your users coming from, and where are they going next? What keywords are they searching for to find you? Who are they based on demographics?
- Facebook Insights. If you're active on Facebook why not dig into your user data and see if it matches up with your analytics.
- Dig into your own data. Do you require sign up on your site? Do you ask for gender or any other useful information that can help you determine who your community members are?
2. Figure out what your community really cares about.
Do they care about sharing your content? Will they spend endless hours in your forums? Perhaps they just want a daily email update from you (never to hear from you otherwise). But how do you figure out what they care about?
Ask. It never hurts to ask. Add a poll to your site, send them an email, or ask them on your social channels. We do this all the time here at Moz and getting feedback from the community helps us grow!
3. Determine how much time/energy/money you're putting into your community.
Think about where you're putting your resources. Do you spend your time creating blog posts? How much time do you want to devote to social media? Is someone managing social media full time? What about SEO and content? Do you pay outside contractors to help in the forums or write content for you?
You want to know this, so you can then determine if you're spending resources in the right areas (see next step ;-).
4. Are you spending your time/energy on the things your community actually cares about?
Boom. You've figured out who the community is, what they care about and how you're currently spending your time. Now you can determine if you're utilizing your resources well.
You want to know if you are wasting time creating blog posts (that no one is reading), because they care more about writing their own content. Do you scour the internet looking for content to share on Twitter, only to realize your community doesn't really get into Twitter. Should you focus your energy on beefing up your emails because your members like to get info that way?
5. Rinse and repeat.
This isn't a one-time process. You need to constantly be thinking about how you can leverage your community in the right ways. Don't stop simply because you found something that works for now. The biggest takeaway here is also that you need to determine what works for YOU. You can read all about how others manage communities, but it's up to you to set your own course.
Here at SEOmoz, our community is always on top of mind as we develop software, create resources and share content. We believe strongly in keeping our community alive, strong and continually growing. We want to challenge you, please you, help you and whenever possible, make you laugh. So what is the value of the SEOmoz community? This is the best part, it’s invaluable. Because without our amazing community, we’re just another software company. But as you well know, we’re more than that, and that’s because of you. (Can we say "job security")?
Before I let you go work on determining the value of your community, I wanted to give you some great resources on building, managing and keeping a strong community:
- Community Roundtable – Be sure to follow their tweets as well as they tweet lots of great info about managing communities.
- #cmgrchat – This is a great chat that runs every Wednesday at 2pm Eastern. They have different topics each week, and I've learned a ton participating.
- My Community Manager – Holds a weekly Google+ Hangout on Friday's at 2pm Eastern where they discuss various aspects of community management. This Friday, I'll actually be talking about why SEO is important to Community Managers. 🙂 (My worlds COLLIDE!)
- Some valuable posts:
Ok. Now it's up to you! I'd love to hear how you value the community and the steps you've taken to figure that out. Do you think I've missed anything or should add any steps? Why is community important to you?
By the way, I'll actually be talking about Community Management as a part of Inbound Marketing at Mozcon this year. I hope to see you there!
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