How to Grow your Social Media Community

_sfjhrpzjhs-nasaA little while ago, a large publishing company consulted with me to get advice on how to engage their audience and build interest-based communities. 

Here is a snapshot of the framework I presented to them.

Your social media’s growth cycles are incremental to exponential, it embodies ripple effects to create organic growth cycles. These cycles form from your campaigns, publications, and projects.

What are these cycles?

Empower voices — Amplify voices — Engage voices.

Empower voices

Editors create opportunities for smart domain experts to create content on publications as writers. This empowers both parties’ voices as leaders.

What kind of voices do we empower? publication editors, current active writers, domain experts, thought leaders, external writers/editors/journalists, educators, students, budding writers, great ideas.

  1. Who are some of the people who would be interested in working on your platform?
  2. What kind of interest do they have?
  3. What domain do they belong to, if any?
  4. How can they help to support growth and development of communities/publications?
  5. How are they perceived in their community? Credibility/reputation/status/charisma etc…
  6. How can we leverage their support?
  7. Are there any risks involved in leveraging their support?

Lately, The Atlantic reached out to the community to ask questions, through Twitter and on their website.

This strategy helps to hear the voices of the community as well as bring outside talent inside the community. Direct outreach such as this one is a great way to lead engagement and allows your platform to build cross-domain, interest-based communities.

With my joining the Synapse on Medium back in April, our publication grew from 15K to 25K followers. We started to actively seek out new writers, new posts and new people in general to join our community.

Amplify Voices

Through internal and external engagement, facilitators amplify the voices of their writers to broader audiences outside of a publications niche. Your community’s voice itself is defined and amplified through them.

  • Amplify: This is a really important process after facilitating and overall empowering individuals. Individuals now need to be recognized for their efforts and contributions. This amplification helps to form and bond connections, and it also helps to drive individuals to further engage and be active on your platform.
  • Engage: Your community’s voice on social media is then established, designed and shaped by its own communities. Now your community’s social media can be used to amplify these projects and collaborations but also to engage, invite and bring awareness to your platform from external communities.

Ways to Amplify

  • Engagement on Twitter: Your community’s presence and brand is shaped by amplifying the voices of its users. However, it’s more than sharing great posts, your platform’s engagement with users needs to be personal and distinguishable. Community engagement is the new brand identification. Here is an example of personalized engagement through a brand:
  • I love this example because it shows the humorous and clever side of Edutopia, yet their communication still stays true to their mission and what’s they’re about. This type of engagement also builds credibility with readers/followers. This brand is real and connects with people.
  • Twitter chats: Your community can amplify voices of your users, projects and work through hosting Twitter chats. Twitter chats are one of the most powerful tools of community engagement on social media. It allows your platform to reach an audience outside of your community’s regular users/readers/followers. There are many different communities to tap into by participating in Twitter chats. Even more important, twitter chats amplifies work done on your platform and brings awareness from the outside community to your work. Some brands and publications that have recently started to do twitter chats: PBSNewhour (#Newshourchats) Mashable (#mashlifechat) Buffer (#bufferchat) (I’ve written about the power of being on twitter as an Educator on Medium’s Bright, if you’re interested to read further about educator’s professional learning network on social media, read here.)
  • Twitter chats for your platform: Chats can be organized weekly or monthly depending on the community, need and participation. Chats’ topic can also revolve around a particular subject/article/publication/initiative that your platform would like to highlight and engage the community with. You would announce and promote chats from your company’s account (through letters/posts by organizers) and through social media (Facebook & Twitter). Here’s an example of a post that PBSNewshour used as a prompt for one of their chats. And here is a snapshot of the type of engagement that would happen on a chat:
  • Promoting twitter chats is one of the most engaging and fun part of social media to community engagers/managers. When I host or guest host a chat I try to inspire the community with a quote related to the topic/theme of the chat.
  • Benefits of twitter chats have been covered on many different social media outlets, but for your platform, Twitter chats are outreach strategies to amplify your company’s work and build new interest-based communities.

This creates an opportunity to re-engage voices on your platform…

Community engagement facilitators/Re-engage voices:

The engagement cycle is continues: Bring voices back into your platform through community facilitation

  • facilitate: stakeholders aren’t just part of the process, they are the process. Leverage their support, strength, and network for growth through active facilitation. The process of facilitation empowers everyone involved to have a voice: when people are involved, they are empowered. How can they get involved? — writing responses, facilitating comments, writing posts, designing themes/ideas for publications, actively recruiting other writers in the community…

Who are facilitators, and what do they do?

After we have empowered and amplified, community engagement facilitators cover specific interests/domain areas on your platform. They are assigned this area based on their expertise, experience and interest. Community facilitators help to bring the conversations that were engaged outside of Medium (Twitter/facebook) back inside Medium and its community. Now the external conversations are continued with new faces as writers/editors/domain experts, and they are once again part of the Medium community. Facilitators can be assigned to respond, highlight, write posts or even answer questions that Medium users might have (if witnessed in posts/responses).

Here’s an example of how we, community facilitators, help build a community outside of Edutopia’s main site:

Some things to consider when planning facilitation:

  1. How to actively recruit facilitators?
  2. How can we reach out to facilitators that have potential or already are prominent members in the community?
  3. What are the different interest communities that we need to focus on with the help of facilitators?
  4. What strategies and tools can facilitators use to communicate and engage with their specified community?

Facilitation allows us to better understand how people view your platform, and use that knowledge to create tactics that further engagement: we take this understanding to apply and iterate the process. Through the process of facilitation, existing communities on your platform can have a voice, which then is amplified.

Re-Engage: Once there is a finished product, your platform, as a tool allows a lot of engagement opportunities with the writer/editor/publication community. At this level of engagement we can analyze the process and seek to retain stakeholders through this internal engagement.

Monitoring the engagement process: This stage happens throughout the entire process. This process, like most growth processes needs constant monitoring, revision, iteration and update. Communication + Engagement is entirely built on connections+relationships and these two things are not constants. We need to tailor the process and learning of it to meet the needs of the people of the community.

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