Updated: May 28
Up until now, very few people had been taught how to become a valuable member of an online community. The lack of understanding is why many people join them, seldom participate, and then ultimately don’t feel connected. Online communities can be a great resource for founders, funders, and supporters to learn, connect, find new customers, and build trusting relationships. Regularly participating in an online community can help you be seen as a subject matter expert, expand your network, and help your brand gain traction. This short article will explain what to expect and how to show up while generating good will and warm leads.
What is an online community?
An online community is a group of people who share common interests and enjoy fellowship with one another. Typically, community is formed around a particular interest, cause, or mission. The most popular platforms to create online communities are private Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups. These platforms provide opportunities to share information, educate and excite peers, and provide space where members feel a true sense of belonging.
Learn the culture of the community.
The culture of every online community is different. Scroll through the posts and comments to get a sense of the online culture and the type of content that is valuable. In The Startup Ladies private Facebook group, we’re more likely to share ideas and perspectives than to debate one another. The vibe in our group would be considered to be: fun, professional, positive, supportive, and not political. Some of our favorite topics to talk about are as follows:
Finance /accounting questions
Time sensitive opportunities
Birthdays - Wish someone a happy birthday even if you don’t know them.
Sales and marketing
Introduce yourself and be yourself.
The Startup Ladies want to know who you are and what you’re about. There are a few key pieces of information members need to learn about you.
Photo of yourself
What does your company do/sell?
How can you help the community?
Use this opportunity to show people who you really are without being stuffy. It’s also a great opportunity to share something that you’re passionate about. Everyone has something that they can offer regardless of their stage and station in life. Here’s an example of how to introduce yourself.
Sample photo and language for post:
Hey, Startup Ladies community! My name is Kristen Cooper and I’m the CEO and Founder of The Startup Ladies. That’s me in the middle of the photo at the Indy PRIDE parade. I march in it every year. I’m really excited to be part of the community and get to know all of you. My expertise is in fundraising and building technology. If there is anything I can do to help you grow, let me know! Our website is TheStartupLadies.org and my email address is Kristen@TheStartupLadies.org.
→ Click here and make a GREAT first impression.
If the community doesn’t notice your presence or absence, then you’re not really part of the community. Since you’re already scrolling through social media apps all day long, be purposeful about checking in with the online communities that can boost your business. You want to give more than you take. When you “LIKE”, comment on, and share information daily, communities are much more likely to support you when you need it.
“LIKE” more than you “lurk.”
Instead of passively observing while scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn - engage with posts on a daily basis. The more “LIKES” that a post receives, the more likely it is that the post will get in front of more people. Startups and small businesses need all of the free brand awareness they can get. Feed ranking algorithms are designed to engage the user. So, when an algorithm thinks you will “like” a post, it will appear higher in the feed.
People are much more likely to reciprocate by liking and sharing your content if you regularly support them by liking, commenting on, and sharing their content. When people share your content they are introducing you to entirely new markets of potential customers. Lastly, whenever you receive a like, you feel good about yourself. So unleash your power of making someone else feel good and take a moment to “LIKE” what they have to say.
Share information and opportunities.
We are very fortunate to have some really smart, well-connected, and generous Board and Support Service members who regularly share: free tickets, free furniture, media opportunities, funding resources, student focus groups, job announcements, book/TV/movie recommendations, inspirational quotes, recipes, feedback, articles, and must see videos. You don’t want to miss a time sensitive opportunity that could benefit you or your business. Make sure to check in with our private Facebook page daily. Opportunities pop up over the weekend, so, don’t ignore social media on Saturdays and Sundays.
Life is hard, throw a dog a bone! It doesn’t matter how self-actualized you are - it’s always nice to feel supported by a community of peers. Not to mention, it’s healthy to see people rising and being recognized for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling threatened or less than, start thinking about how you can achieve their level of success. Begin by being a gracious colleague and “LIKE” what they have to share and compliment them on their success.
Ask for feedback.
Until your business gets to product/market fit, you need to keep collecting feedback and iterating the product and service. Use private groups to ask for opinions, share surveys, poll the group, and ask if anyone who falls into your target audience if they would be open to participating in a customer interview or focus group. Some of those people who help you identify problems and solutions may become your future customers.
If you’re frustrated with a vendor and need a replacement - ask the group if they can recommend a member or someone they know who could help you. Now, more than ever, we need our community to help source warm leads and deals. When members refer members business grows!
When you take the time to thoughtfully and consistently interact with colleagues in an online community, you will make friends, deepen your knowledge, create brand awareness, and win new clients.