B2B Community Building: You’re Doing It Wrong

As digital marketing shifts its focus toward relationship and conversation building, we see less agile companies remaining comfortably in the numbers game. Both executives and marketers love this game because it’s easy to measure and understand. However, it’s not all about the “how many” anymore; it’s about the “who, what, when, where and why” of our brand’s online community.

This is not about gaining thousands of followers. This is about knowing the do’s and don’ts of how to hold conversations with your audience about things they love. Community building isn’t entirely about customers, clients, prospects or leads, but instead it’s about engaging with real, live people.

How to fail at community building

You always talk about you, your brand or your products:

It’s difficult to hear, but it’s true: Social media isn’t all about you. However, social media does provide the perfect meeting space to gather and talk about the industry, common practices, clever shortcuts and new ideas. Establish trust by providing solutions—even if they delay the questioner’s purchase in some cases. Guide your community into becoming a unique, helpful and interesting niche.

Building a community without a plan, or building a community with a plan:

Both can be equally dangerous, so be careful not to fall too much into one camp. Plan in the sense that you know your audience and how to speak to them, but don’t plan so much that you feel you have to be in control at all times. You will lose control—but that’s not always bad. Communities should be organic and it’s okay to let them grow at their own pace.

Think twice before you click “publish.” Communities grow from the passion behind them. If you and your staff don’t find your content engaging or shareable, what will your audience think? Rally the troops, look inward and discover the talents and interests within your organization you can utilize to create stellar content. (Note: even boring industries can be exciting.)

Your updates sound like they should be on a big yellow sign in a storefront window:

There’s been a tremendous, impossible-to-ignore shift in marketing over the past several years. The “new” social marketing allows people to comment publicly on everything you do. It’s a two-way street now, and if you don’t open up the conversation, you’ll lose engagement and followers. Share important, relevant announcements with your followers, but don’t litter their feeds with advertisements.

Keeping your social efforts confined to one person in one department:

Community managers do more than just play around on Facebook and Twitter all day. Working on a social strategy requires marketing, sales, product development and executive input in order to run smoothly. Everyone should be involved in the content creation process to some extent (or at least be informed and excited about it).

Even though “new marketing” can sound intimidating and difficult to implement, it’s no more than a return to our pre-Internet roots. People trust others who are genuine and helpful, and by creating a community around your brand’s niche, you’ll be able to facilitate that trust. With any relationship, that requires some effort—but isn’t your audience worth it? How does your brand open the floor to discussion?