Social Media: Building Communities |

Social Media: Building Communities

By Katie Bennett / April 10, 2014

Has your boss ever come to you and asked, “So what is our Facebook growth rate?” and your first thought is, ‘ermm…?!’ Yes – it’s a pretty daunting question.

The thing is, social media isn’t as easy as tracking some numbers and then *poof* you magically have your answer. Although you can track data, you can also use other factors to see how well your online community is growing.

Either way, as an online marketer it is down to you. Your job is to get things done and get results for your company or client.

Having only started with Twitter a few years ago after a friend convinced me it was the next big thing, I initially wasn’t all that interested. If anything, I was massively confused; “what on earth is a hashtag?!” But, as it grew and larger companies accepted that it was where their audience sat, it got me interested in the mechanics behind it and I turned into a bit of a big brand Twitter stalker. So, call me biased, but building an online social community  can be one of the best ways to not only keep up to date with current, changing web marketing factors but also to achieve huge goals for your business.

The fundamentals of building your online community

As an individual, I’ve helped clients (and myself) build social communities. And, with practicalities (and a little research!), I’ve learnt 5 core steps forming a structure and process.


                                                                                     (Fogleson, 2013)

Find your goals!

I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. Maybe you hate thinking about your goals, maybe you love them, or maybe you’re unsure what your goals truly are. Whatever the case, they are important. You need to be aware of the goals of your business. Goals are the steps to strategy heaven not just for SEO or your social community, but for general day-to-day business.

Use the voices

When setting your goals, it helps everyone in your company to have a voice. Don’t invite the world and his wife to a goal-setting meeting, simply ask teams to list their top 3-5 goals. Your marketing team can then filter those suggestions and you’ll have a bit more direction for your company.

To infinity and beyond 

The goals you set for your company need to go beyond just revenue. Of course, the end goal is to grow revenue, but you also need to decide on the direction you want to take your brand in. How can you focus on your customer and improve their experience? O2 has recently transformed its customer service; it uses Twitter because of it being in ‘real time’. Users simply follow @O2 on Twitter and tweet “@O2 #TweetServe”. The customer is then followed by @O2 and receives a direct message on Twitter with a verification code to ensure security. Simple yet effective!

Break it down

Whether your goals are realistic or seem a bit far-fetched, it’s important that you break those goals down into milestones.  This will bring your goals to a level where you can see exactly what you’re attempting to achieve and, hopefully, give you more of an idea of how you can achieve them.

Define those KPIs

If you’re a marketer, you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you’re just reading this because I’ve posted it everywhere online (thanks!) KPIs are Key Performance Indicators.

Let me explain. Once you have goals defined, it’s important that you work on defining what your KPIs are so you can measure the goals you’ve set in place. I would suggest sitting down before you create your strategy and defining what KPIs you are going to measure so that your expectations remain realistic throughout the process. It’s important thing to remember that KPIs are set in place so you can measure whether you have achieved your goals or not.

So what are some examples? Your goal may be to target 20% more males than females. Facebook and Twitter can offer great insights, and have extremely useful tools for you to use so you can see if you are targeting a higher percentage of men. They’ll help you’ll know if you are on track to reaching your goal. A quick check to see if people are liking or retweeting you is also a simple KPI and a good sign that people are finding your content interesting.

I’ve been involved in many situations where I’ve been asked, “How we can grow Facebook likes? We want to reach 400 and we’ll be happy”. Granted that’s social proof, it’s something tangible – but Facebook likes are not the be all and end all of assessing how well your Facebook community is or isn’t growing.

Create your strategy – be creative!

Strategy…strategy…strategy. This is the part I struggle with. Although it’s fun, I always sit and worry, thinking ‘where do I begin!

Strategy session

You might find it a good idea to bring a group from your company and have a discussion around strategy, bouncing ideas off each other to compile your plan! It will also allow your employees to feel as though they have a voice.

A year of vision

When working on developing the detailed plan of your strategy, it’s probably a good idea to show all of the creative things you want to accomplish over the next 12 months. BUT, to make it easier, detail the first 2-4 months on a day-to-day or week-by-week basis to help everyone ease into the strategy and ensure you have a detailed road map.

Working on 2-4 month steps towards your goals will allow you time to get some momentum flowing and collect data, but isn’t so long that you can’t alter course if you want to change your ideas or you realise what you want to achieve is unrealistic.

As you move along into the execution of all of this, it can be useful to hold strategy sessions every three months or so. I know, it’s a lot of hard work and what about running your business at the same time? Don’t panic, it will help to achieve your results in the long run.

The toolkit, minus the spanners!

As you’re planning out your creative strategy, now is the time to select the tools that you are going to use to get the job done! Our typical toolset for building a general community tends to be SEO, social media, content, email marketing, and outreach. For a social community, use your social channels to tell your audience where you are, use email marketing and social buttons so your audience can easily find you, use links to help new users discover you… You can even use offline tools such as business cards, the list goes on!

The Execution

Now that you have your plan written, it’s time to whistle while you work! Make sure you have the correct tracking and measurement tools set to ensure you’re collecting the right data on your KPIs. Follow your strategy and make sure you are consistent. Of course, somewhere along the line your plan may be derailed, but be careful to stay focussed on your goals and keeping the end objectives in mind.


Here is your chance to figure out what is working and what isn’t. What is missing? Is more time needed to see ROI? Analyse the data you have collected and then see if that data correlates with your goals.

Whatever the data is that you have collected, don’t adjust your goals or KPI’s to make your efforts appear better than they are. Otherwise, what would be the point in testing?

The Conclusion

Always begin with creating your goals and then create KPI’s so you can see if you are on track to fulfilling your goals. It’s important to remember that goals need to go beyond revenue and break them down so you can analyse them and create a strategy. Make sure you analyse your goals honestly and don’t adjust your KPIs to fit in with the results of the campaign.

So there we have it! Have you got any experience in building social communities for business? Do you have anything to add? Please let me know in the comments below or via Twitter @KLBennett_ 

Katie Bennett


After developing a passion for marketing whilst studying Business at GCSE, Katie then went on to study Marketing and Public relations at University. Since graduating she joined in March 2014.

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