Any community whether it is offline or online is only as strong as the relationships that have built it. Understanding that building a community one relationship at a time is critical to how long or how fleeting a community survives. Knowing that fact, is critical to any online marketing strategy companies or even individuals embark on in social media. One day you might find that a community has sprung up around your brand, product or service, if you don’t build solid, enduring and transparent relationships with your audience, it can disappear just as quickly if you don’t invest in building relationships with community members.
There’s no quick fix for building lasting relationships. No “drive-thru”, “fast food”, “overnight success” answers to building a lasting, thriving community that can withstand the trends and falls of the every picky, constantly distracted consumer. There’s only the ardent task of reaching out to one community member at a time and touching them personally. Unfortunately and sadly to some marketers, they are only interested in “how can I get X number of links fast”, or “how can I get X number of friends fast”, and that’s where they go wrong when jumping into social media.
Something magical happens to companies and individuals who take the time to reach out on a more personal level to build those relationships they deem important. They create evangelists. They create word of mouth marketing. They create something viral. All from taking the time to personally respond to an email, a blog comment, a post on a forum, a message on a FaceBook fan page, a glittery comment posted on MySpace, that personal “reaching out” means something to people. The simple act of saying “Thank You” or “I’m Sorry” or even “How Can I Help?” goes a long way towards building trust and a relationship that can touch many more people than who you reached out too.
Social Media and Community Building are not overnight sensations, you can ask any forum moderator or message board administrator. It takes time to build relationships that last. Even the “A” list bloggers (o.k. Perez Hilton could be the exception) didn’t become hot sensations overnight, it took reaching out, commenting on others blogs, linking to other posts and sites and speaking directly to the audience members to build their communities.
Social Media and Community Building are areas that do need a specific strategy planned for. How do you approach building a relationship, who handles building the relationship, what are the boundaries (yes, you do need to define them), and how do these relationships help you as a company or an individual become even better? Those are things that need to be considered before jumping in. If you just set you team loose on building relationships, it could go array, as one person on the team has a very different idea of how to build a relationship than another person.
Take the time to figure out what your message is and how you want to build the relationships around you, your brand, service or product. Research your audience and understand what they are receptive to, and then go out and start building those honest relationships, before your know it, you could have a thriving community on your hands.