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#10 Things you're Doing Wrong with Your Online Community 'Communities play a key part in providing content and instilling confidence in buyers'

By Rosemary O’Neil

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Here's the real scoop on engaging…

Everyone keeps telling you to "engage' with your online community, but how do you know if you're doing it right?

Let's start by defining what is meant by community. It's an interactive online hub where customers, fans, partners, employees, and/or members can communicate and share. It may also be tied to content and interaction from social media accounts.

Here are 10 things you might be doing wrong, and how to make a quick course correction.

1. You're Ignoring Them

Building a community sounds like a big task, and you don't have lots of resources. You've just decided to ignore them. That's a mistake, because according to SAP-commissioned Forrester Research, "Communities play a key part in providing content and instilling confidence in buyers."

Course Correction: Do a quick survey of your customers and find out where they spend their time online. Set up an outpost on their favorite social space and become a valuable participant.

2. You're Talking "At" Them too Much

You've wrapped your arms around your community, perhaps set up a Facebook page for your business, but you're posting 10 times a day. All of your posts are blatant promotions for your business. Nobody's got time for that.

Course Correction: Mix in some external content, comments on others' posts, and make sure you're not posting too often for the social network you're in.

3. You're Interrupting Them

Someone once told you it was a good idea to chat with people on Twitter. So you've been injecting yourself into hashtags, direct messaging strangers, and trying to tap into news moments (AKA "newsjacking").

Course Correction: It's still a good idea to start conversation on Twitter and elsewhere, just don't barge into others' conversations unless you're invited. Don't be creepy, be relevant and helpful. And be very careful of tagging into breaking news stories. It can easily go wrong.

4. You're Confusing Them with a Scattered Presence

When people visit your website, are you immediately telling them to go elsewhere to find you? "Go visit us on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube/Instagram!" If you're trying to be everywhere at once, your audience may not even know where to find you.

Course Correction: Focus your efforts on 2-3 social spaces where your audience truly hangs out. Don't waste valuable call-to-action space on your website to send people to other places. Instead, weave social content into the original content you're sharing on your own site.

5. You're Not Speaking their Language

You're celebrating #Caturday on LinkedIn? Posting research papers on Pinterest? That's not going to get you anywhere.

Course Correction: Learn the etiquette and traditions of each social network before you start participating. Even in your own forums and community, be sure you mimic the tone and culture of your audience, and you'll get along just fine.

6. You're Taking Them for Granted

You've got a branded community that someone set up years ago, and nobody in the company has taken ownership. Your customers are there sharing ideas, suggestions and issues, but nobody is listening or thanking them for their loyalty.

Course Correction: If you have a community, you need to be present. Become an active participant, and let your community members know what's happening with their ideas on the other side. Institute some simple traditions that make them feel special.

7. You're Smothering Them

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you're all over new community members like a hyperactive puppy. You fill the community space with posts, comments, and answers before anyone else can talk.

Course Correction: Give your members some breathing room. Your goal should be to get them talking with each other (the Holy Grail of every community manager), because then you're growing an army of advocates.

8. You're Manipulating or Tricking Them

You have a button that says "community' on your website, but when customers click the link, it takes them to a bunch of training materials or a box with your Twitter feed. That's not community.

Course correction: Consider what resources you can apply to create a true two-way conversation or engagement, and build a real community (or rename that link to "resources").

9. You're Selling Them Out

When visitors arrive in your community, it's lit up like Times Square. It's difficult to see the actual conversation through all of the banners and sponsor links.

Course Correction: No one can blame you for wanting to monetize, but balance that with the experience of your community members. Consider trimming down the number of ads and see if your engagement and retention start climbing.

10. You've Abandoned Them

You had a thriving community, maybe in an old platform, forums, or chatrooms. Over the years you got hundreds of thousands of posts, members, and conversations. A fanatical core remains, but in the last round of budget cuts, you decided to just pull the plug.

Course Correction: An established community is a serious corporate asset. Even if it's not as active as it once was, you've still got access to those members as an ongoing focus group, a communication channel, and perhaps even direct sales. Find a way to retain the community, because it will be very difficult to rebuild it from scratch.

When is the last time you did an online community audit? Are you truly engaging with your customers, fans, and partners?

Rosemary O’Neil

Founder/CEO of Narrative Company

Rosemary O’Neill is Founder/CEO of Narrative Company, which is releasing a groundbreaking blockchain-based social network in 2018. She is also Founder/President of Social Strata, which makes the Hoop.la online community platform, used by Fortune 500 brands to engage with fans, customers, partners, and internal teams. She has 20 years of leadership in the online community space as an entrepreneur, writer, and speaker.
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