This article will be part of the Expert level course of our Creator Academy.
“If you build it they will come” is a lovely sentiment but not realistic. The fact of the matter is you must take action to make folks aware of your community in order to grow that community.
There are two basic things needed to build an online community, especially one based around a YouTube channel.
2. Valuable Content
To explain what is meant by People and Valuable Content, we’ll talk about each one separately.
There are two specific types of people you need to build an online community:
1. Your customers (i.e. your audience).
2. Influencers; the leaders, innovators, and voices particular to your industry.
The bulk of your community members will generally be silent; you’ll see their views add to your YouTube Analytics meters but they will never comment on your videos. They are passive-consumers.
By contrast the influencers are active-consumers; they will not only comment on your videos, they will talk about the video elsewhere such as their Facebook wall or their personal blogs. They will re-share your content more often (and regularly) than anyone else will.
Have you ever seen a YouTube video that has millions of views, but only several thousand ‘likes’ and re-shares? This is because influencers make up a smaller portion of a community; they are the ones who are willing to engage with content. They are a smaller group but they are the main reason why content can “go viral”, because they are the ones who share content with their own communities.
The take away from this is that if you focus your community building on having a relationship with influencers, you will get more customers.
Yes, a relationship. Community building is really about relationships.
Relationships are created by…
- Listening and responding.
- Caring and taking the time to understand.
- Providing valuable advice or insight.
You must find the balance between entertainment and profundity in order to build a successful community.
You cannot build an online community without people and you can’t get people unless you have good content.
Let us define content; it’s not just videos. Content is ALL information (whether visual, audial, or audiovisual) that is built around your brand and designed to be consumed by your customers (i.e. your audience).
This means Content is…
- Videos uploaded to your YouTube channel.
- Blog articles on your website.
- Social media profile messages (tweets and posts).
- Printed materials, such as flyers you hand out at events.
- White papers.
- DVDs / Blu-Rays.
- Songs downloads.
When I talk about content in this article and elsewhere, I am always referring to all of the above things. Don’t just focus on videos; you need to consider everything you create around your brand to be content.
It is very challenging these days to build a new community from scratch. There are millions of websites providing content, and many of them are ran by experts who specialize in all kinds of niche subjects.
Simply having good content is no longer enough; you need to produce something wholly original in order to get a large number of followers. This is is essential for not only YouTube-based businesses, but any type of business.
Nowadays it is extremely hard to find a subject that has not been discussed in depth so the the best way to stand out from the crowd is to focus on developing a creative way to show the same information; a unique presentation that will be attractive to a wide audience. This means you should focus on producing quality rather than quantity.
The two types of content people most like to share is stuff that is funny or motivational.
If your videos don’t fit into either category, your Facebook content better conform to one of these models or people are not going to re-share it to their communities.
It’s important to have a collection of memes, either funny things of interest to your followers or motivational statements of interest to your followers. You can then use these memes to include a link to your YouTube videos. People will share the meme and then also share your video, and you will get views you otherwise wouldn’t have received.
The important part here is “..of interest to your followers“.
If you have a Facebook Page about videogames, don’t put funny animal images onto it. Keep the content focused around the topic of videogames.
An Important Note:
A Community Manager is not just another PR employee at your company who moderates your forums and social profiles. A Community Manager must be someone that is truly part of the community. This individual is someone who knows your brand and how to relate it to the community in order to continue building that community.
Promoting Your Content
For Twitter, you can buy promoted tweets to kick-start some growth to your account, and on Facebook you can also buy promoted posts. I encourage you to do both, as this will guarantee people see your posts.
Of course there are free ways to get your content seen as well, such as re-sharing the content on your own accounts, but these efforts rarely will get you as many views as paid posts will. That said, over time as you acquire more influencers in your community you will see more organic sharing of your content.
You should focus on generating two important types of content; these two types have the largest influence over the formation and growth of a community.
- Foundational type of content is the solid base of your channel. You can consider this content to be the walls that sustain the entire business; these are the videos that best represent what your channel is about. These type of videos have a consistent formula that changes very little over time. This content should offer the best value for your audience and make up the main portion of your content production.
- Community-generated type of content is the content your community members create as a response to your Foundational content. This is everything from fan-fiction to fan-art to posts they make in your community forums. The Community-generated content is the most dynamic part of your brand; it is often unpredictable, but this is the content that best represents your brand values because it based on your community’s response to your brand. This content is not created to advance your brand, but rather to created by your community members in order for them to obtain a deeper sense of intimacy with your brand.
Before you will see Community-generated content appear you must first produce high value Foundational content; and usually you need to produce a lot of it. It may take months, or even years, for you to produce enough high value Foundational content before the brand becomes endearing enough to your community for them to engage by producing Community-generated content.
A smartly developed strategy is all you need
Building an online community is all about Tactics. You cannot launch yourself into this matter without a well-developed plan. Otherwise you are producing content without any idea how your community is supposed to respond to it.
When developing your content production and release plan, you need to base the plan on two factors:
Consistency means the content shares your brand image and has a consistent format. This means videos that use the same intro, have the same run-time, share the same host and talk about the same subjects. Consistency also means the content is released on a regular schedule.
Sustainability means you can easily reproduce the formant of the content day after day, for months or years on end.
The most popular YouTubers do not produce million dollar TV episodes but rather they produce 5 to 10 minute videos with little visual effects; at most they might use a greenscreen but often they only use transitions and motion graphics. They create a format where they can make 10-20 of these segments per day.
If you want to produce high-end TV show quality videos for your YouTube channel, you cannot build a single channel around this content because the high quality of the production values is not Sustainable. It is expensive and time-consuming to make these type of videos. The only way producing these kind of videos can work is when that content is part of a YouTube channel that has a second show that is able to be both Consistent and Sustainable. The Sustainable show is the headliner of your channel, with the higher production quality show a second runner.
Last but not least
There isn’t just one recipe that will ensure success in building a community around your business. If your current strategy isn’t working as well as you hoped, you just need to develop a new sturdier and more well-rounded strategy that will help you achieve the goals you want.
Also, always respect the content produced by your community, because good quality content will help increase the value of your brand and of your company. Respect your own brand values and goals, but also be sensitive to the informational flux; take into consideration the comment posts you receive to your videos or blog, as this is feedback you are receiving.
This feedback can help you to focus on customer needs and desires, while also helping you improve the quality of your content. Try to be flexible about this feedback, because if things are not heading in the right direction you must be prepared for a change of plan, and possibly even change the format of your content.
Lastly, no matter what you produce, always make sure that both your brand goals and customer intentions are aligned.