Over the past six years I have spent much of my time building, nurturing, and growing a community of printers, print customers and their suppliers and service providers. It all started with an idea to create a group on LinkedIn where people could meet, network and help each other by sharing information and resources for print and marketing projects and employment. With a combination of relevance, engagement and time, my Print Production Professionals group has become a thriving community with over 90,000 members, and the #1 print group on LinkedIn.
Admittedly my story is more exception than rule, but the ingredients to cultivating a successful community apply to everyone. Here are 10 tips to get you get started and keep your empire growing:
- Make A Plan! Start by answering these questions: What is your focus? Who is already in that space? What are they talking about? How can you add to that conversation or fill a void? What will you do once you have attention? How can you keep your audience interested? What can they expect from you?
- Find Your Peeps! Who is talking about you? Where are they talking about you? Who is talking about your competitors? Who is talking about relevant topics? Where are relevant topics being discussed? Start your community by connecting to these people!
- Leverage Your Network! Who do you know on social? Who do they know on social? Use your current communication channels to invite people to join you on social. Build partnerships with other groups and organizations. Build your community foundation with your base.
- Use Your Voice! Be authentic. Be honest. Be a leader. Without TRUST, there is no community.
- Just Give! What does your community need? How can you help them? How can the community help them? How can you encourage conversations and networking? How can you encourage your community to connect with and help each other? Your community must provide a value for its members.
- Organic Growth! You cannot force growth, or expect it to happen overnight in most cases – Lady GaGa is an exception. Advocacy for the community, from the community, is your best tool for expansion. Grow support at all times to spread the word. A community is built one person at a time.
- Always Be Active! Provoke conversations and situations where the community can connect and share with each other. Join in conversations started by your community. Try new things and YES, you are allowed to have fun! A strong and active community has a strong and active leader.
- Engage The Community! IF you have established trust; IF you have strong advocacy and community support; IF you have GIVEN… and given and given… then you can ask your community to join you on other social channels, sign up for your newsletter, attend events and participate with your endeavors. Don’t abuse your power. Be generous and reciprocate with others, always play by your own rules.
- Measure Your Success! What is success for you? Did you achieve it? If not, do you need to make changes within the community or how you lead it? If you did, what is next? How can you add to the foundation and find new ways to grow? Social Media has a VERY long tail. Give things time before making any big changes to community dynamics.
- Rinse. Repeat! Don’t get LAZY! A successful leader is always building the community by giving, helping and engaging with members. It is a constant and endless cycle that requires patience and fortitude.
If you found this information useful, have advice to add, or even disagree with everything above please leave a comment at The Paper and Packaging Board on LinkedIn and check out the “How Life Unfolds” campaign. It’s a community of millions – and growing, a movement to showcase our human connection with paper, and an opportunity to start sharing amazing and relevant content with your connections. Start there, and before you know it others will come along for the ride.
Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist™, Integrated Marketer, Industry Speaker and Blogger, Cultivator of the Print Production Professionals Group, the #1 Print Group on LinkedIn, and host of the weekly industry #PrintChat on Twitter. She has more than 25 years experience working in advertising and marketing, and currently works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations helping them to achieve success with their cross media and social media marketing endeavors.