Turn your WordPress Website into a Community Building Machine
Let’s face facts: if you’re not online, you’re basically invisible. If you’re invisible it doesn’t matter if you have the best laid plans, even if you order a ‘community building machine’ from the local hardware shop you won’t get much traffic anyways.
All over the world, small business owners are building WordPress websites in an effort to develop an online presence and with good reason. These days, if Google doesn’t know who you are, no one does. Being a recognizable name online has become a must for small businesses, digital and brick-and-mortar alike.
Being recognizable in the marketplace is nice, but being at the top of the food chain is better. You cannot be at the top of the food chain without utilizing community building strategies within your site.
Small businesses that become online authorities have reliable, trustworthy brands that turn potential customers into paying customers. So, how can the average business owner leverage their website to build a community?
Before a business can be considered an online authority, they’ll need to understand what high-quality social media marketing looks like. Let’s get one thing clear: to master social media, your business is going to have to start thinking differently about marketing.
1. Starting Small: The Key to Having a Community building Website
Generally, people are sold on finished products in the world of digital media. But the reality is that getting to that finished product involves plenty of trial, error and understanding what works for your website.
Assuming you’re a first-timer, implementing a forum-only solution at first will help you become familiar with the mechanics of running a community. Even with a minor web presence, you’ll need to pay close attention to the inner workings of mechanics like registration and user messaging options. The details matter–whether your community consists of 100 or 100,000.
Speaking of your community, make sure to create user personas for your website. Your content needs to have an audience in mind from day one. The most successful communities are tailored to specific audiences and the more effort you put into defining those audiences (and how your website serves them) the better.
If you’re looking for simple, you don’t have to go much further than bbPress. Simple installation, effortless integration with WordPress’ user model and absolutely free, it’s no wonder so many websites use this. The best part? bbPress makes scaling up easy to (more on that topic later).
2. Dominating Content: The Cornerstone of your Marketing Strategy
Some people might be thinking: “Why are they bringing up content? I just want to learn some marketing techniques.” While creating high-quality content might not be marketing strategy, we can’t understate how critical it is to the success of your marketing efforts.
In today’s digital media landscape, people expect more than just a pretty looking website. With 78% of CMOs saying that custom content is the future of marketing, the message is clear: people are looking for shareable, engaging content–and lots of it.
While WordPress was originally built for bloggers, there’s more to the world of content than just the written word. Businesses can find creative ways to produce video content or podcasts for their community. At the end of the day, it’s all about creating valuable, engaging content for people and figuring out what your community is responding to.
Of course, the next logical question is: “how exactly do I build this amazing content?” While every business owner is going to have a different experience with producing content, there are actually a few WordPress plugins that make this process easier.
If you’re serious about becoming an online authority, you’ll need to consistently produce fresh material. There’s nothing that kills momentum faster than an unreliable posting schedule. Instead of wondering when you should be posting or how often, get your hands on Editorial Calendar.
Here, you’ll be able to see and manage all of your posts (even the one’s that haven’t been posted yet). You’ll be able to quickly change each post’s title and contents AND you can manage posts from multiple authors at once. Whether you’re on your own or running a small team, keeping your posting schedule organized is the first step to producing great content.
Creating high-quality content is the first step to increasing your online presence. You also need the right metrics, without them business owners will basically be guessing at what content works. That’s where Google Analytics comes in. At WhatArmy Google Analytics is a must have tool that we require all clients to use. By tracking everything from demographics and page views to downloads and outbound links, it’s no surprise that this is a must-have for content creation.
3. Social Media Mastery: Turning that Audience into a Community
You’ve probably noticed that throughout this post, we’ve referred to the people who use your WordPress website as your ‘community’. That wasn’t by accident. While some people might see ‘audience’ and ‘community’ as metaphors, the truth is that having a community is significantly more powerful.
Apple, Starbucks, Linux. These are companies that managed to turn their brands into a lifestyle and now have some of the most loyal fanbases on the planet. They don’t target audiences–they engage with their communities. They create great products and content, respond to their followers and above all else, use social media as a vehicle for meaningful engagement.
To build a cult following around your business, you need to understand how your business should be using social media. While you can always start small by implementing a simple forum into your site to test the waters (with something like bbPress), the goal is to eventually scale up to major social media networks.
To clarify: social media is not another place to bombard people with ads. Business owners (big and small) need to respond to their follower’s posts. They need to provide value with their social media posts instead of shamelessly self-promoting.
With social media, every business has the opportunity to share value and ideas with their community. A chance to address feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. The real power of social media lies in its ability to create an environment where people can be heard by their favorite businesses.
Fortunately for you, WordPress websites are uniquely suited to empower this kind of environment. Plugins like Monarch and Social Warfare help you customize the social sharing links on your website. Beyond that, Easy Social Share Buttons helps make sharing easier than ever before. The fewer hoops your community has to jump through, the more likely they are to share your content. And with digital word-of-mouth being so valuable, you’re going to need every share you can get.
4. Expanding the Community and the Site
At this point, you’ve already developed your initial audience and you’re wondering how to take your site to the next level. There’s one major focal point that any WordPress site owner will want to understand: how to monetize their site and continue to building their business.
At this point, you’ll have a few options. The first one actually relies on how well you’ve mastered content creation. Creating paid membership options for your community can be a perfectly realistic option. This assumes you’re prepared to focus on things like initial signups, churn rates and customer lifetime value.
By creating premium content that’s only available to paying customers, the site is able to make money and reward its most devoted community members. Plus, choosing this path enables you to take advantage of membership plugins that make setting up membership levels a breeze.
There’s no denying that the journey from online presence to online authority will be challenging. By creating stellar content worthy of being shared, leveraging every tool at your disposal and engaging your audience in a meaningful way, you’ll be on your way to putting the ‘social’ back into social media. More importantly, your site will be ready to turn that initial audience into the community you’ve always wanted.