Building Your Social Media Community
Andrejs Penikis

Problem: a small or medium-sized business wants to extend its reach in social media. But how does a brand develop a social media following when it isn’t—shall we say—sexy?And let’s face it: most businesses are not sexy. We all need and appreciate grocery stores, car dealers, medical clinics, storage facilities, etc., but we just don’t think of them in that way.

So if you lack the aspirational appeal of Ferrari, or the everyday luxury of Starbucks, or the Gen Y draw of Red Bull, what do you do?

You have to start by providing inducements to build your community.

But you can’t build a community by bribing random social media users. You have to focus on attracting the people you care about: your customers and prospective customers. After all, this is business and we don’t really care if we speak to the needs and dreams of people who will never buy anything from us. We only need to address those who might benefit us. And we need to remind them that we can benefit them.

But before we can use social media to communicate all the great benefits we have to offer, we need to corral that audience. How to do that? Give them something of value.

A coupon. A chance to win a contest. A free sample.The ideal value offer is one that directly relates to your business. Half-off our service. A chance to win a free object that we sell. One free sample to the first 100 people to sign up.

But don’t think that creating a good offer or contest on Facebook is the end of it. If you stop there, it can be guaranteed that you will flop. You need support. You need to market your social marketing campaign.

It’s not a matter of building it and they will come. You need to use every resource at your disposal now to let your clients and prospective clients know that you are dying to give them something good on Facebook.

How do you do that? Ironically enough, in the usual ways. In the old-fashioned, analog, paper, traditional media ways.

Your best friend in building your social media community is a good email list. (Kind of funny that email gets lumped in with the other old-school forms of communication, huh?) Get your offer together and blast it out to your list. If you don’t have a good email list, it’s okay. It will make your social media community building job much tougher, but at least now you can use your social media tools to build up that list. People will sign up in droves. It makes sense. After all, if they’re on your email list, chances are they are already your customers, or close to it. Of course they’ll like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter or on LinkedIn, because they already know you.

Tell people about your offer at the cash register. Put it in on your outgoing correspondence. Tell people on TV and radio. Put stickers about it on your paper bags. Tell people.

One surefire, very cost-effective way to drive folks to your Facebook promotion is through Facebook marketplace ads. Those small, rectangular ads in the right-hand column of your Newsfeed are a most efficient way to target the Facebook users you want to reach, by geography, demographics and interests. Create a compelling ad, show it to the right people, and those people will beat a path to your promotion.Now you have the capacity to communicate with some of your best customers and prospective customers. But don’t take them for granted and just start selling at them. You have to engage them, converse with them. Use your expertise to share tips. Answer their questions. Ask them questions. Share some jokes. Show them some funny pictures. Respond to them.

Now don’t expect miracles. If you have a few hundred customers, don’t expect to have millions of fans. It’s a matter of quality, not quantity. Take your real fans and engage them in real conversation.

Since 2011, Andrejs Penikis has been the Social Media Manager for Stream Companies. In that capacity, he oversees nearly 50 social media campaigns for Stream clients. Prior to joining Stream, Mr. Penikis ran new media communications for a congressional campaign. He also managed several online collaboration initiatives for the National Basketball Association.