AS we spend more time at home and less time in traditionally social spaces, we are automatically spending a significant number of our time online. For some of us, the online space has become more than just a space to socialise, but a kind of lifeline as we navigate the new normal.
Have you ever received those posts that insist you demonstrate your friendship by reposting or leaving a comment on any of your social media platforms? Do you ever respond to them?
At times I find the posts annoying and mirroring the tradition of chain messaging, suggesting that the sender is desperately in need of attention, so I simply ignore them. There are exceptions and so sometimes I take the time to respond, share, copy and repost especially when it is someone I engage with offline consistently. I am conscious as I repost that I am now making the issue as much mine as the others who posted ahead of me.
I take the risk because I believe it is important to show that you are present and that you care and it says you are a part of a community.
Established businesses and budding entrepreneurs understand the importance of building their online communities and do so with a science, allowing them to gain brand recognition or increase their earnings.
A community is firstly about people sharing with each other. It is not about building an audience, and so do not focus on the number of followers you have. You really do not need an audience. An audience is one way, it does not interact or share with others. It passively watches.
A community, on the other hand, is about sharing. It is about having a conversation. It is a living thing. It is there for you when you need guidance or to cheer you along.
Creating or building an online community takes as much time as real life relationships take to develop and takes effort to flourish. Here are three ways you can build a community online.
1. Be consistent
How often do you post? What are you posting? Do your posts give an accurate reflection of who you are and what your interests are? Create or curate content that showcase what you are passionate about and post at least three times each week. You will build a community with others who share the same interests. Being consistent allows your audience to trust you. Do not disappear for weeks without posting even if it is a post saying you are taking a break.
2. Be present
Have you ever followed someone and got an automated response that seems to be managed by a bot? Or you respond to a comment or question posed and get no response from the person who posted? Do you continue to engage their posts after? It is impossible to respond to every comment, but the truth is, if you share something interesting and people are commenting, the polite thing is to at the very least acknowledge them. A solution is to create one post thanking everyone for their feedback and be sure to respond individually to something that speaks to you strongly.
3. Show you care by sharing
Communities are about sharing, and the online platforms enable sharing with the click of a button. Be comfortable sharing to your platforms events that you are interested in. Celebrate someone's accomplishment on your page. Try posting about others or about issues that are impacting the world and see how many times it is shared.
I know there are many other ways to build a community online. Please feel free to share your own ideas.
Coleen Antoinette is a lover of culture and people. She is currently the Director of Marketing Communications at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Share your experiences with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.