On Wednesday evenings from 8 to 8:30pm ET, I host #MakerBizChat, an Instagram event to help Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs build a solid business foundation, increase your income, and use your business to create the life you love. Our topic tonight was HOW TO BUILD A STRONG COMMUNITY AROUND YOUR BRAND.
I chose this topic because more entrepreneurs must understand and embrace the fact that your community is your business. If you do not maintain a community of loyal buyers and fans, it does not matter how good your products are.
You can read the full transcript on Instagram, including questions, tips and resources from the Maker community, at this link. Because Instagram is designed for mobile viewing, the entire chat on Instagram, which has dozens of comments and some great questions and discussion, is best viewed on a mobile device. Here is a summary of last night's #MakerBizChat.
Q1. WHY IS IT IMPERATIVE THAT I BUILD A COMMUNITY AROUND MY BRAND?
A1(a) It is imperative because the world is a very noisy place today. I once heard a Maker describe using social media as trying to read poetry in Grand Central Station. True, but if even a tiny group of 15 people show up to hear you read poetry at 5pm, that community will grow little by little until everyone in Grand Central Station who is interested in your poetry will hear your voice standing out in the crowd.
A1(b) You must have an audience today to sell anything. If you don't, unless you're selling trips to the moon, you'll just be drowned out by everyone else selling the same things you are selling. You can sell a product here and there if you don't have an audience, but to sell sustainably for years, you need to build a community. That's why list building is so important.
A1(c) When people opt in to hear from you, that is your audience. And when you have an audience, you can sell just about anything. In fact, I often coach my clients to begin building an audience and community even before they know exactly what they are going to sell.
A1(d) Without community, you may have consistent income, but you will never really have consistent profit.
Donna Maria, Indie Business Network
Q2: WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GROW A COMMUNITY WHEN IT'S DIFFICULT TO GAIN NEW FOLLOWERS?
Thanks for this question, @jrmwoodworking!
A2(a) I see that you make corn hole boards, so I am guessing that your audience would be composed of people who like to have picnics and/or outdoor family fun? (Hope I'm right) If so, you can share inspirational ideas around things like family reunions or southern family traditions — or just the south in general. (Because I think corn hole boards are traditionally southern, right?
A2(b) Share your products on your feed, but begin to use hash tags that people who care about those things use. You also make beautiful wooden home decor, right? That's a very big topic for women. Hash tags around decorating and home decor will attract a community of women who don't just want a dining room table from Sears — they want something custom made. These are just few basic ideas, but I hope they help.
A2(c) Connect with people who make complementary products, like other handmade home accessories. Collaborate with them if you can on contests. The other thing you may wish to do is to start showing up personally on your Instagram, showing off the fine craftsmanship of your woodwork and maybe even playing with corn hole boards with *your* family.
A2(d) The blanket chest on your Instagram feed is swoon worthy. Which reminds me … every new mom needs a chest like that. I am just throwing out ideas, and you cannot pursue all of them, but pick a direction or two that you think resonate with your existing customer base and see if you can expand on that.
Q3. HOW DO I GET STARTED BUILDING A COMMUNITY?
A3(a) The first thing to do is to invite your existing friends, family members and supporters to join you in supporting your business. This can be by making purchases, but the more important part of community building is that they help you spread the word about what you are doing. Attending events, sharing on Facebook, tagging on Instagram … these are great places to start.
A3(b) Take your small group of early brand enthusiasts and nurture them. Ask them questions, give them opportunities to share the brand, survey them for what they want and need, roll out the red carpet. Begin to find out what is most important to them, and then begin engaging them around those topics, being ever mindful that as you engage, you are on the lookout at all times for the smallest opportunity to show people how easy your products are to use, and how easy you make it for them to buy from you.
A3(c) Decide where you want your community to be concentrated. Try to organize things in a logical way. You may want to focus on building a loyal community here on Instagram. Facebook Groups and Pages are another option (though Pages don't work as well as they once did). Or you could go all out and set up a website to support your community. An example of this is Transitioning Movement by Carol's Daughter, or their newest community, Born and Made.
Or your community could be concentrated in your local area, where you live and work. There are so many options. Choose the ones that fit best with your lifestyle first, and second, that are convenient for your community.” target=”_blank”>Transitioning Movement by Carol's Daughter. Or your community could be concentrated in your local area, where you live and work. There are so many options. Choose the ones that fit best with your lifestyle first, and second, that are convenient for your community.
A3(d) Once you decide where the focus of your community will be, you need to be there in spades before you can expect anyone else to show up.
Q4. WHAT DO I DO TO KEEP MY COMMUNITY ENGAGED?
A4(a) In a nutshell, you engage them around topics that interest them. It boils down to making the leap from being excited about what you have to offer, to making that excitement contagious. For example, the Carols Daughter community mentioned above is all about feeling good about your natural hair, and as a woman in general. Women show before and after pictures, hair styling tips, challenges and more.
A4(b) The best thing to do is to create a system of engagement. For example, #MakerBizChat is weekly on Wednesdays at the same time each week. You may wish to engage your community more than once a week, reaching out to them to share information and invite their participation and feedback. According to Scentsational Soap, Periscope may be a great app to use as well to get your followers to learn more about you.
Q5. HOW DO I FIND THE BALANCE BETWEEN STAYING ENGAGED AND OVER-POSTING?
Thanks for this question, @shenandsamco!
A5(a) Don't over-worry about over-posting. It is a very noisy world out there. Unless you are boring or tirelessly repetitive, it is almost impossible to over-post.
Q6. WHAT ARE SOME MORE EXAMPLE OF COMMUNITIES THAT SUPPORT A BRAND?
A6(a) On Instagram, Indie Business Network member Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry hosts the weekly #soapshare, where people who make soap share pictures of the creations, and the winner of the week is spotlighted on the blog and wins a copy of one of Anne-Marie's founder's soapmaking books. #MakerBizChat is a community — we meet here weekly to discuss a topic of importance to entrepreneurs who make the products they sell.
A6(b) I once met a soapmaker who did not have a website or an Instagram or anything … all she had was a private Facebook Group. She invited people to join and she posted about her new soaps and sold them right there from the Facebook Group. This is not a sustainable long-term plan, but it was a good Step 1, and she can grow from there. The point is, she has a community of people who opted in to hear from her and learn about her latest products.
Q7. HOW DO I LEVERAGE MY COMMUNITY TO GENERATE SALES?
A7(a) Some sales result naturally and organically by virtue of the community's existence. They are often reasonably steady, but indirect and unpredictable.
A7(b) The more direct way to leverage a community to increase sales is by hosting regular events. These can be live podcasts on platforms like Blog Talk Radio. Our member, Dawn Fitch at Pookalita, has hosted Facebook Scavenger Hunts where she posted clues and the answers were found on all of her social sites. This resulted in new people visiting and following on each platform. They had to come back to the Facebook page to post their answers. At the end of the event, everyone who participated was rewarded with a flash sale.
Donna Maria, Indie Business Network
A7(c) When you host events, you have an opportunity to engage your community as you also introduce them to one another. The community grows because you serve as a connector. As you connect like-minded people who are interested in what you have to offer to each other, and you create an atmosphere of fun and sharing, it's a natural fit to make your products available for sale and make them easy to buy.
A7(d) Right at the top of the Carol's Daughter community (mentioned above), what do you see? You see a coupon code to buy some of their products.
A7(e) As Bramble Berry hosts more #soapshare events and soapmakers become more excited about the cool soapmaking projects they can see using the hash tags, where do you think they are most inclined to go to buy soapmaking supplies?
A7(f) It does not have to be complicated. Think of yourself as a the glue that is responsible for connecting people to your products. There are many ways to do that, but as you consistently add one new person at a time, you also consistently build community. Communities are transparent. Transparency builds trust, and trust is the first thing you need in spades in order to generate repeat sales.
When Is The Next #MakerBizChat?
The next #MakerBizChat will be Wednesday, July 29, 2015, at 8pm ET.
Our topic will be HOW TO TRACK YOUR PROGRESS AS AN ENTREPRENEUR.
#MakerBizChat takes place Wednesday evenings at 8pm ET on Instagram. Be sure to follow so you can catch all of the questions and participate in the live and lively discussion.
What do you think of these tips and ideas? How to you build and maintain a strong and loyal community around your brand? What are your tips for doing so? Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.