To terribly paraphrase a bit of Shakespeare, “Community by any other name would smell as sweet”. Here’s the thing. Whatever you want to call it, be it fans, followers, your tribe, anything, a community is what helps businesses grow online. Let’s have a look at what I mean. 

Why Build a Community? 

Look at the biggest and best companies in the world. You’ll find they have a large following. Now, before anyone tells me, “they’re huge, that’s why they have a big following,” remember, at one point, they were just like you. Starting up. A year into it. A couple of years into it. You get the idea.

The community, though, isn’t just interesting once you’ve made it and you’re a big, successful company.

Your community is integral to getting started. Building those initial customers, reviews, referrals. And most importantly, becoming invested enough with your brand to start telling others about it. 

The Knock-On Effect of Community

For most businesses and entrepreneurs, finding new business is key. It’s a fundamental part of the day-to-day. Everyone needs or wants more sales, right? But what if there were a smarter way than simply knocking on every door possible to try to seal a deal? 

What if you brought every customer, supplier, stakeholder from your business together and built your brand’s community around them? 

If they felt special (like they were part of something bigger than themselves, and felt valued and looked after), would they be more likely to talk about your brand and their experience? 

A Little Bit of R&R

Referrals and reviews are two major assets you can gain by building your brand’s community. People want to brag to their friends about something amazing they’ve discovered. They want to write a review of a truly amazing experience (and you want them to because based on ReviewTrackers’ data, 63.6% of consumers check reviews on Google before visiting a business – source). 

People telling their friends, or publicly sharing their experience is a surefire way to get more business. Are you more likely to buy from a brand recommended to you by your best friend or a complete stranger? Think of the last time someone recommended something to you. Was it a great experience where they really felt looked after? 

Whether you want to call it a following, a tribe, a community, or simply fans, the only way to create this is to build a sense of community around your brand. 

Don’t Confuse Community with Vanity Metrics

It’s important here that I jump in and give a little bit of a heads up. It’s not because you have 1,000 followers on Facebook that you have a real community. 

A real community is filled with engaged people who buy into your brand’s vision and values and that really understand and want to be a part of it. Real fans take time and effort to cultivate, just like any relationship. Think about the last person you met that became a good friend. That relationship didn’t happen overnight, did it? 

For way too long, business and brands have focused on building a vanity metric to show everyone they have a community. The reality is, the engaged people, the ones that are commenting, liking, sharing and getting involved are your real community. And, chances are, those numbers will be a lot smaller than your total following. 

How Do We Start Building a Community? 

Well, if you’re just starting out, don’t panic. When you don’t have a community at the very beginning, you can start by simply getting involved in other conversations. Start by finding where your target audience hangs out online, what they talk about, and get involved in those conversations. 

Don’t be afraid to stand by your vision and values. You’re not going to be the right fit for everyone. But that’s ok. You’re looking to fill your community with people that resonate with who you are and what you do. Being too vanilla often results in no one noticing you at all.

When you start being recognised as someone people should follow, they’ll start to come and check out your community. And this is where you should be the most active and social.

Way too many brands think social media is something that “must be done”. As a result, they’re doing it for the sake of doing it and chances are, they’re not getting any results from it. 

“I Don’t Have the Time” and Other Excuses

I’ve heard it all before. “It doesn’t work for us.” “It’s not something that works in our industry.” “I simply don’t have the time to do all this.”

If time is your issue, I recommend you have a read of this blog by James O’Donnell, our Commercial Director: Is TIME the Limiting Factor ?

If you don’t think this works for you and your industry, I challenge you to hit me up on Twitter and let me know. I’m pretty sure I’ll find an example to prove you wrong. 

Remember to Be Social

Don’t forget, even online, we’re all just human. Put the SOCIAL back into social media and make sure people feel like they’re a valued part of your community. Ask questions. Collect feedback. Start conversations. But most importantly, engage in those conversations. 

In the long run, a brand or a business that builds a real community will ultimately reap what they sow. You can’t collect the crops if you haven’t put in the work to plant and care for them. 

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If you’re still unsure about how important a community is to your brand, then why not reach out and book in a call. I’ll happily take 30 minutes to go through it with you and explain step-by-step why you should and how you can, no matter the excuse.

Chris Bruno
Chris Bruno

Chris, founder and CEO of Social INK, has devised and consulted on more digital marketing and social media marketing campaigns than you can shake a stick at. He’s also got a bit of a thing for online advertising and social media advertising.