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Building an online community during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

With the absence of in-person networking and events, growing an online community for your business is one way to thrive in the current circumstances. However, in creating a community growth strategy, it is vital to be mindful of the current circumstances and adjust your content strategy to fit your audience’s needs. In this post, we present an approach for adjusting your community growth strategy in these drastically different circumstances, offering a guide to creating more meaningful and longer-lasting connections with your audience. 

 What does it mean to build a community?

The process of building a community is different to raising awareness. Instead of seeking views, impressions and likes, you’re seeking long-term interactions through follows, subscribers and sign-ups. Building a community means forming connections that can facilitate ongoing, as opposed to single, interactions. These ongoing relationships can prove fundamental to a business’ success by transforming strangers into customers, partners and evangelists. 

What are the fundamentals of online community building?

The key to online community building is regular, consistent and compelling content that is adjusted and targeted to the appropriate channels. When creating a community building strategy, the following key decisions should be made:

  1. What type of content does my community want to see? Videos? Articles? Tweets? Images?

  2. What kind of content does my community want to see? Lifestyle imagery? Instructional videos? Industry trends?

  3. How regularly does my audience want to see these different kinds of content?

  4. What channels are most effective for reaching my audience? Instagram? Email? TikTok?

Getting the right answers to these questions means having a deep and validated understanding of your audience and why they value interactions with you. Ensure you understand your audience, then build content to meet their needs and wants. 

How has building an online community changed with the COVID-19 outbreak?

There are two important ways in which the approach to community building has changed in recent times. Firstly, the wants and needs of your audience are likely to have drastically changed. Secondly, online communications channels and how people interact with them have changed. So how do you account for these changes and continue to build your community in uncertain times?

Step 1: Consider the problem you’re solving for your audience and whether this has changed?

As personal circumstances change, there is a need to reconsider how you are offering value and adjust your content as a consequence. For example, as a real estate agent, content on moving house is unlikely to be valuable to your audience, but up to date information on managing rent and mortgage payments is more important than ever. Furthermore, while people may not be able to move to a new house, they may dedicate more time to planning their dream home and be more interested in interior design and lifestyle content. Recognise how your audience’s circumstances may have changed and adapt your content to fit with their new habits, needs and desires. 

Step 2: Reconsider the way you present your content to your audience 

Having considered the kind of content you’d like to create, reconsider whether articles, newsletters, videos or other types of content will work best. If your audience is predominantly parents, they may not have time to read longer articles and blog posts. They may instead value shorter posts or infographics to get the information they want quickly and concisely. On the other hand, your audience may have more time to dedicate to deeper learning, in which case articles or an online course could prove effective in these circumstances. 

Beyond considering your specific audience, also consider wider trends as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are all unable to meet and harness in-person connections, so personalisation of content has never felt more wanted or needed. Instead of posts with text, consider using richer content such as video and images. Want to offer some tips for working from home? Why not have a team member record a short video and talk about their own routine? Humanising and personalising content at this overwhelming time is a way to harness deeper connections with your audience. 

Step 3: Reconsider the frequency and regularity of your content

With more time being spent on digital ways of working, having an online presence is really valuable. However, while it is key to remain visible, content that is too frequent and repetitive can be deemed jarring and inappropriate. Any changes to the frequency of your content should be done gradually and in response to the engagement from your audience. 

Step 4: Reconsider the channels you’re using  

Each marketing channel, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Email, all had their own purpose prior to this crisis. Since the outbreak, however, this difference has become more evident. Twitter is currently dominated with news from both official and personal channels, Instagram is predominantly documenting personal adjustment to self-isolation and TikTok has become a light-hearted distraction. Recognising the purpose of these channels and whether they are still appropriate for your audience is important in ensuring your content meets the desires of your audience. 

Summary

The key action to take from this article is to reconsider your audience and what they value from your business. Your audience’s circumstances may have changed significantly, and your content needs to adapt in order to allow community growth. 

  • Find a balance between being mindful of the circumstances and not overwhelming your audience with COVID-19 content

  • Personalise and humanise content where possible using richer forms such as videos and imagery

  • Be generous with your content, offering discounts where possible

  • Show understanding and compassion

These uncertain times demand a refreshed look at your content strategy while offering an opportunity to connect with your audience in a more meaningful way. While it may be difficult to harness drastic growth in your community, it is possible to create stronger connections and gain a deeper understanding of your audience that could be beneficial for the long-term. 

By Hannah Forbes
The Funding Crowd

Capital Enterprise (in partnership with the Funding Crowd) will be working with Eagle Labs to deliver Grant and Crowd funding programmes starting on the 12th of May. The programme will go live here soon: Sign-up

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