While running the NYNightlife Twitter handle, I am increasingly becoming aware of the habits I feel are contributing to any measure of success I have in building an online community. The importance of having an online community is growing rapidly, as are the lengths people are willing to go to ensure they are building their following throughout key social networks. The Internet continues to level the playing field for all when it comes to being influential; with the right amount of hustle and know-how, any person with an Internet connection can become an authority as an individual or brand in the marketplace. The benefits of being influential are plentiful, whether you are trying to sell a product or yourself. Here are some of the habits I feel are indispensable when building community.
People need a reason to follow you, so you need to give them one. Giving can and should come in many forms. Providing relevant and compelling content to any audience is key and is part of what you are offering people if they join your community by following you. For me the content is largely nightlife news; for you it may be technology-based, but whatever it is you are sharing, know it is the base of your operation.
Shockingly one of the most underrated aspects in social media is listening. Seeing what people are reacting to should determine what topics you should cover more often within your realm of influence. For example, when I tweet about a certain DJ and see people en masse retweet or favorite the tweet, I now know this is a DJ people want updates about, whereas little to no reaction usually means the opposite. Bit.ly, a free link shortening service provides statistics for all links you share online. Take advantage, use it and monitor the number of clicks your links are getting because retweets and replies are not always the best indicators as to whether or not people are interested in what you are sharing. People are at times reluctant to share links with their followers by retweeting them if the subject matter is not something they normally talk about with their own following, but it does not mean they are not interested.
Becoming Accessible By Email
Being available merely on social networks alone is neither enough, nor is it always the proper way to converse with your following. The benefits of email lie in its ability to make people feel connected to you as you build a one-on-one relationship with them. If you receive emails from strangers who want your opinion or recommendation about the subject matter you cover, you are doing something right, count yourself lucky as it means you are being sought after as a thought leader. As a general rule, answer as many emails as you can, and as fast and as thorough as you can. With every email you receive, there is a chance to build context and a relationship with the sender. The more positive context you have with somebody, the stronger the relationship you have with them. In my own experience answering emails, NYNightlife has gone from the benefactor to the beneficiary where I now receive nightlife news and tips directly from the very same people I may have helped in the past. Answering emails is where you can out-hustle your competition. Do it.
When beneficial for both parties, connect people in your community. This is another chance to further build relationships with not one, but two people at the (same damn) time. If something comes out of a connection you helped foster, your influence will only be stronger, and if nothing comes from it, you should at least be happy knowing you tried to assist as neither party is in a worse place than they were before they were introduced.
The community is relying on you to do your part. If you're not producing what is expected or better, people are not going to fuck with you anymore. This does not mean you need to post like a mad(wo)man; choose a pace you are comfortable with and stick to it. This will help you manage your audience's expectations.
Caring will help you effortlessly executive the first five habits mentioned. If you are in any way my competition, I will fuck you up when it comes to caring. With NYNightlife, this is how I'm going to steal the competition's readers and influence, because I actually give a shit to answer strangers' emails at all hours of the day when they have nightlife questions, whether it be "who's working the door at club X?" or "where should I go tonight?" or "do you know of clubs looking for cocktail waitresses?" Whatever it is, I'm happy to be the person who comes to mind when people have a question and I am even happier to respond. If you are not sure how interested you are in a topic, caring is the greatest barometer I know to test the waters. If creating new content and responding to emails seems cumbersome, your online influence is sure to wane over time; but if creating content and wanting to engage with others comes effortless, your possibilities for growth are infinite.