Fostering online community
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Fostering online community

Aimée Colley

Designer at Shaw

If you’re a small business owner, finding customers is a daily struggle. But there are other business owners, who, like you, also want to grow their audience and customer base. You’re probably following them, you might already be buying from them yourself, so why not share that? A lot of people are focused on growing their own community of followers, but there’s so much to be gained from also growing and being part of a community of fellow businesses. And here are some of the reasons why:

Showcasing others

You’re probably already following other small businesses in your area, or fellow makers who you might purchase from regularly. You’re an insider with some great fellow business knowledge, so share that knowledge with the world. You could use Instagram Stories in a gift guide format – sharing the people you’ll be buying from. Or you might share other businesses whose content you’ve been enjoying recently in a #followfriday. I’ve discovered some great businesses by following the recommendations of businesses I’ve bought from in the past – mostly because they’ve identified makers whose way of working, or style is similar to their own. You’re also fostering a community spirit amongst your followers who love shopping small and shopping local.

Participate in online events

You’re probably used to getting involved with hashtags and other seasonal social media campaigns – but have you ever participated in an online community challenge? Events like 36 Days of Type (create a character of the alphabet every day for 36 days) and March Meet the Maker (founder Joanne Hawker creates a social media prompts for every day of March that showcase your small business) have thousands of daily participants. In the case of March Meet the Maker, your customers find out a little more about your business each day and you can connect with fellow participants, and it’s a perfect way to put a little more of yourself out there and the story of your business.

Join a Facebook group

As an individual you might benefit from seeking out a community group that supports your interests, to ask questions, help others and be supported in your pursuits. This could be the Facebook community for an online event you’re taking part in (March Meet the Maker has a very friendly and active Facebook group). I promise there will be friendly people in there who want to speak to fellow small business owners. Or if you have chatty customers and your businesses naturally fosters a community – make one of your own.

Utilise Instagram Stories

Do you spend lots of time on main grid posts on Instagram and that really limits your output? Would you like to show more behind the scenes but want your grid to be more serious? If the answer is yes, are you using Instagram Stories? It’s a quickfire place to post content – you can show the behind the scenes snaps, but also use it to be more conversational with your followers. I follow businesses who do polls on new pieces, or use the ‘questions’, or ‘quiz’ stickers to great effect. I think I’ve found out more about their business and the people behind the business that I ever would if I visited their website and it makes me want to buy from them as I feel part of their community.

Finally… don’t be afraid to show the person (or people) behind the products!

A really easy one to do. As I mentioned in the last point, knowing the people behind the business can really encourage buying. You put a face to a name, and especially at the moment, you see the person you are directly supporting.