Building community: Why Is It Important and How It Works for SEO in 2020
The history of the emergence and development of communities is directly related to the history of the Internet. From the very beginning, groups appeared in the networks where people with common goals and interests united. These were small professional communities, educational parties, and hobby groups at the beginning.
As the Internet developed and spread, the number of different communities grew proportionally. In 2001, 84% of all Internet users had already interacted with at least one community according to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. At the same time, 79% contacted at least one community.
Today, the Internet has many different communities, forums, and groups on social networks that bring together millions of people, and their number continues to grow. According to a study conducted by We Are Social and Hootsuite an average Internet user spends 6 hours and 43 minutes per day online, which equates to over 100 days per year. Compared to January 2019, the total number of Internet users increased by 7% and amounted to 4.54 billion. It is expected that the total time that all Internet users of the world will spend on the network in 2020 will be 1.25 billion years, 1/3 of which will be spent in social networks.
Speaking about the role of online communities, it is worth mentioning a study conducted by Cigna in 2018. It showed that almost half of adult Americans feel lonely and abandoned from time to time. The modern rhythm of life, individualization of society leads to the fact that people are looking for support in virtual communities that give a sense of community.
According to Global Web Index , in 2019, of all users in the world, 83% regularly shared content in the form of photos, videos, and product reviews on different social networks. At the same time, user activity was associated with demographic factors: the boomer’s generation accounted for 70% of the content, while the Z generation and millennials provided 90% of such posts.
The dynamics of recent years shows a steady increase in the share of online users who participate in forums and are active in blogs/ vlogs using different devices:
Global Web Index
Therefore, when building an online community, the development and building of relationships with users can be an effective tool for communicating with the target audience to receiving social signals.
How an Online Community Can Help SEO?
A community is an online space created by an organization, brand, or individual to bring people with common goals and interests together. Community members can communicate, provide mutual support, exchange relevant information, and develop social contacts.
As mentioned above, people need communication and relationships. Communication in communities has become even more relevant due to isolation in connection with the Covid19 pandemic. Therefore, to successfully promote, work directly with the target audience. To increase the volume of positive social signals, you should pay closer attention to creating a community.
Speaking about creating communities, it is worth considering the features of groups in social networks and brand communities created on separate sites. You can do this by using services such as instant messengers on different sections of the site.
An absolute advantage will be access to a huge audience of social networks and the ability to interact with related groups. At the same time, it is worth remembering that publications on social networks do not affect Google rankings. The rules and restrictions of these sites can significantly narrow down the possibilities of promoting a brand, a project, etc.
Speaking about communities based on social networks in the context of SEO, it is first of all worth working on building communication, image building, and the ability to work with specific users. By looking at their profile, you can evaluate the range of interests and predict potential requests.
Creating thematic communities on the basis of social networks will be good practice for short-term projects. For example, this will be a positive attribute when promoting events or promotion campaigns and can help to increase brand awareness against the background of a basic SEO strategy.
Brand communities, which are created on the basis of company websites, have greater potential in terms of long-term SEO. At these sites, you can create your own rules and work using standard techniques and methods of SEO promotion. This tactic is suitable for long-term projects, as it requires a significant investment of time and resources.
On the example of the Samsung community, you can see that the giant brand had managed to gather a large audience – almost 14 million people:
In their community, representatives of the brand publish articles that users can react to with likes and comments:
The users can also create new posts and topics for discussions:
By creating a forum based on the brand’s website, you can create your own audience and attract new people. When creating content that is attractive and special, people will remain in the community and be active. One of the important components in creating a successful community is creating a sense of community. This will help keep the audience and contribute to its expansion, as well as the formation of brand value.
How to Create a Sense of Community?
To begin with, it’s worth figuring out what creates this feeling, for which people enter into communities, stay there for a long time and actively participate in the life of the group.
In 1986, in their article Sense of community: A definition and theory, psychologists McMillan, D.W. & Chavis, D.M. stated that sense of community includes the following aspects:
- Integration and fulfillment of needs
- Shared emotional connections
Consider what goes into these items and makes the community valuable to the participants.
1. Membership. This quality and status primarily creates a sense of ownership in the group, emphasizes separation from other people, and unites around a common idea. Another important element of membership is a sense of security. When a person feels that in a circle of like-minded people he or she can boldly and openly express their thoughts and count on support, they feel more supported.
In order for a community to take place, membership must be of value to the group member. They must feel that they are in a circle of similar people. They need to meet certain expectations to have status in this company. For example, in this community of bikers who ride Harley-Davidson, the rules and requirements for candidates for joining the community are clearly defined:
This forms a feeling of hierarchy and defines the roles of participants. In many forums and communities, the practice is to promote the most active members or those who are have been members for a long time. Having earned a certain status, the user is more likely to try to save it.
2. Influence. For community members, it is often important to have a certain weight in it, to take their place, and to be able to influence the community as a whole and its individual members in particular. For example, if a person has a desire to be active: write reviews, write a column, or organize events – you need to provide this opportunity. The ability to express oneself within the frities and take an active part in them. For example, in the case of the Harley-Davidson community, in addition to communication, activities are provided in the form of organizing tours, conducting test rides, etc.
3. Integration and Fulfillment of Needs. It is important to find a balance between the goals of the community and the needs of its private members. If a community is only aimed at creating a large amount of content, it will become a place where people will come to read or watch something interesting, staying away. Therefore, it is worth considering the possibility of interactivity. The framework of communication in a group is also one of the reasons why people join communities. They want to take part in their development and life. You can support the involvement of participants through rewards, status, rating of participants depending on activity, etc. Also, it’s a good practice to develop community rules and values that are consistent with the brand’s values and positioning.
4. Shared Emotional Connections. As in the case of live communication, people in an online association want to experience similar emotions and be on the same side. Creating a mood in a virtual team can be ensured by asking certain topics for discussion, which can cause resonance. You can also share stories that can trigger an emotional reaction and discussion. Another option is to provoke discussions by raising relevant topics about which your audience has something to say. Any forum has its own style and its own niche but you can always add variety to its content by adding something to the content that provokes a lively reaction and a desire to participate in the discussion. When developing community building ideas, it is always important to remember the interests of the audience and users. This is because the main goal is the promotion and development of social signals and targeted interaction with individual users. Find out more in the article Social Signals.
How to Build a Community
To begin with, it is worth determining what is community building? The process of building a community consists of a number of stages – from concept development, community management, and SEO strategy, to its implementation and subsequent systematic work on community development.
Community management includes the following goals and objectives:
- Increasing brand awareness, product, or project recognition among the target audience.
- Receiving feedback from the audience, direct targeted communication with users, existing and potential customers, and establishing relationships with influencers.
- Customer support, feedback, and the ability to quickly respond to requests.
- Obtaining real reviews about the product, brand, or project and collecting opinions to analyze the proposals and wishes of the audience.
- The ability to generate backlinks from real people as part of off-page SEO. For more information see the article 11 Off-Page Optimization Strategies.
- Information about customers, their requests, interests and needs. Building one-to-one and one-to-many relationships
- The formation and maintenance of audience loyalty, the development of common values of the audience and brand, and reputation management
A number of experts in the field of community management advise using the SPACE Model, which includes 5 management options. They can be used individually or combined:
- S: Customer Support/Success: This type of management is focused on customer support and resolving issues. The most common formats for such communication are the community site, a forum with questions and answers, and the FAQ block. The forum is a platform where users can communicate with each other representatives and the brand, receive answers to their questions, and provide help/support with problems. Also, this site can become a territory for generating backlinks that can be placed in the process of answering questions, discussions, etc.
- P: Product Ideation, Innovation, and Feedback: This type of community management implies creating a comfortable environment for communication in order to establish interaction with customers and the target audience. The goal is to receive feedback, get opinions, and maintain live communication. To do this, you can initiate surveys, discussions, or raise topics relevant to a niche. As in the first method, there is a potential for lead generation. At the same time, the main emphasis is on targeting specific users through one-to-many communication (for example, when conducting a survey or when initiating a discussion).
- A: Acquisition and Advocacy. This method involves communication with people who are interested in your business, share, values, they like the leaders and ambassadors of the company or brand, etc. These representatives are of a loyal audience and can help in promoting a brand, product, or service using the word of mouth method among friends and social networks.
- C: Content and Programming. Creation of a large amount of content attractive to the audience and potential customers. This method may include SEO techniques: keyword optimization, use of title tags, engaging the site audience or project participants in creating content. For more information, see How to Do Keyword Research and Title Tags. A typical example of such work is the Airbnb service community, where content in the form of posts is often created by the lessors themselves who work with the company. The number of community members have already reached 944,353 people.
Community with Airbnb
5. E: External Engagement. Community management through resources and areas that are not directly related to the niche and direction of the business. In essence, this is the principle by which brand communities operate on social networks. When working on a common site and observing its rules, work is underway to expand the audience and attract new users. This tactic is good for increasing brand awareness and direct communication with both an existing loyal audience and potential customers. At the same time, this technique relates to SMM and can only influence very indirectly on SEO promotion.
What is the First Step in Community Organizing and Building?
To work with the community, first of all, it is necessary to determine the target audience. Depending on the niche, type of product, and line of business, you can choose both the community format and the communication channel. For example, for companies that provide goods and services, a good option would be to create a community in the form of a forum on the site with a FAQ block where people can receive product information and discuss emerging issues.
For a company that works in the field of HoReCa and event or a site with content about cooking and DIY, you should consider creating a community on the site. At the same time, the content should be bright and become the object of discussion and reposts that will bring backlinks.
For business communities, professional communities, and niche communities, a good solution would be to create a site based on instant messengers and community service building sites. One of the most popular services used for the communities is the Slack communication platform:
This option for community placement and development seems very promising: according to Juniper Research, the number of OTT messaging users will grow to 4.2 billion by 2021. This equates to 83% growth over 5 years compared to 2.3 billion users in 2016.
Therefore, choosing a platform for creating a community, it is worth considering this type of format. The platform is additionally convenient because unlike groups on Facebook, the interface here displays several channels at the same time, which allows you to structure the community and make it convenient for users and moderators.
Building a Better Community – How to Do It and Get Results for SEO
Having decided on the target audience, it’s worth conducting a research to understand what kind of content potential members of the community want to see. To do this, you can organize a survey in social networks or similar forums in your niche, as well as monitor the sites of competitors in order to understand which topics are of most interest to the participants.
Depending on the task, it’s worth deciding what will become the indicator and criterion for the successful work of the community:
- User activity, discussions, and feedback
- Good reviews, increased brand loyalty, repeated customer appeals
- Increased traffic, the appearance of backlinks thanks to the forum, and community content reposts
- Increasing brand awareness and mentions, etc.
Before starting a community, it’s worth deciding what content and how often it will appear on your site. In order to gain the loyalty of the audience, you need to be prepared for a long and painstaking work not only to create high-quality content but also to constantly maintain and foster public interest in the community and forum.
The audience should understand that it can count on two or more posts per day, know when it will be possible to come to the page, chat, and speak. At the same time, it is important that people feel their value and significance in the community – the very sense of ownership that distinguishes one online resource from others. It is important to find your tone of voice that your audience wants to hear.
Community Building Best Practices
- Create rules and guidelines for the community. Carefully think over the concept of the community, the rules in it, and the conditions for joining your club. As you know, people like to feel exceptional and chosen. This feeling can be partially created by thinking through to the smallest detail in what format the community will exist and who will be in it.
- Show attention to the audience. Check your account and forum regularly and try to respond as quickly as possible to all requests, comments, criticism or, comments. If your community has a specific specification, a good solution would be to redirect the user who posted the question to an expert in your company who can answer professionally. This will cause the favor of the audience and form the image of an authoritative platform that is trustworthy.
- Show your audience that you value its attention and the time devoted to the community and forum. People come to the community in order to feel participation and comfort. They want the opportunity to gain influence on what is happening in the group. Be friendly to new members and monitor who is in the community. It is likely that valuable people will come to you and you can talk abouttypes of interactions such as linking. In some cases, you can initiate an offline meeting to take communication to a new level.
- If the community format allows this, you can consider holding regular thematic and niche events for community members, partners, ambassadors, and influencers. This will help maintain and develop relationships while expanding the circle of acquaintances.
- Follow the hashtags, links, and reposts that appear in posts in the community. Sometimes it’s worth to be thankful for such interaction so that the user can share your hashtag again.
- Look for new ways to promote. If the community is hosted on a website or communication platform, it’s worth making promotions on social networks, on friendly channels, through familiar influencers, etc. Community building activities should be aimed at widespread coverage of activities while broadcasting how the community is unique and valuable. Attract your audience to constantly improve your status and be relevant, even one that hasif it has long been based on a website or forum.
- Keep your personality and connection with the brand, its positioning, and values. Make sure that all participants working on the community fully understand the specifics of the brand as a whole and the project in particular.
How relevant is community work in 2020 from an SEO perspective? One of the benefits that communities can bring is to get quality backlinks, which are a ranking factor. Read more in Build High-Quality Backlinks in a Scalable Way in 2020.
The community also contributes to the promotion of the brand and its positioning, which is important for development as a whole. Of course, to create a high-quality and effective community, you will have to spend a lot of resources. This is a long-playing project, which is usually designed for years and slowly gathers momentum. But given the fact that any practice of modern SEO involves interaction in conjunction with other methods, creating your own channel of live communication with users can bring real and long-term benefits.