The number one question I’m asked about running an online business is “how do you grow?”.
People are forever curious about how online works – how to cultive an audience, how to nurture and grow that audience, how to create lasting relationships with readers and how to take online offline into real life. Not to mention social media – everyone wants to get those likes and comments.
The truth is: there’s no quick solution to growing a digital community.
It’s a process – one that takes love, time, attention and care.
You can’t wake up on day one of running your own business and have a captive audience there waiting for you. You must bring them in, one by one, until you have an army around you strong enough to propel your brand and passions forward. It’s like Noah’s Ark, but with followers. Treating your audience with respect and gratitide, no matter how big they are, is the most important thing about cultivating a digital community. Respect the people that care, listen to them, learn from them.
There’s a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way from running a digital brand for four years, which I’d love to share with you. Of course, your brand is going to be as unique as you are – but here’s a starting point for launching your own online brand and cultivating a digital community:
1. Trust the process
I’ve seen so many people wanting to have a huge brand online on day one, and the most important wisdom I can impart is to trust the process. By this I mean, that it’s easy to feel discouraged if your content isn’t getting widely read at the start or your Instagram pics just aren’t getting the likes, but the key thing is to stay consistent. It’s the No.1 Rule I hear from bloggers, vloggers and brand owners, that they keep going, posting, sharing, even when their community is tiny.
2. Keep consistent
To unpack this further, it’s so important to keep consistency – for us, this means posting 8 articles a day (I’m 90% fuelled by lattes), but for you that might mean 1 blog post a week, sending a fortnightly email update, or sharing a monthly roundup. Whatever it is, keep it consistent, that’s the best way to build up a relationship with your audience and generate momentum. Newsletters are a fantastic way to build rapport – they don’t take too long to produce and a are great way to regularly engage with your audience.
3. Understand your why
When it comes to building a brand online, it’s so important to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing – not just what you’re doing. Go beyond what you’re doing and strip it back to the reasons, passions and motivations behind your brand. Discovering your why is important for two reasons; firstly, it will be the motivation you need when times are tough (there’s going to be a lot of those) and will keep you on track with your vision. And secondly, it makes building a brand such an easier, more clear-cut process, as you will understand really how you want your brand to sound, what you want it to achieve and how it engages with its audience. Our ‘why’ was that time is precious, and we really believe we know how people should be spending their time in London and beyond. Ask yourself: “do I know why I’m doing what I’m doing?”. Always bring it back to the why.
4. Speak to your audience
It sounds so simple, but often we forget to engage with our audiences online – we get so caught up in what a brand “should” sound like on the internet, that we forget we’re talking with real people. Ask them questions, get advice, share your experience – the more personal a brand, the better. Imagine your brand as a person themselves – what do they sound like? What kind of language do they use? What kind of person are they? Making your brand as full and personable as possible will help break down barriers and allow your audience to really engage with you.
5. Understand your audience
There are so many tools available to understand the behaviour of your audience (again, however small) – this will help you grow and build that audience, drawing new customers in and nourishing relationships. For example, we know that our health content does really well on a Monday morning (good intentions and all that), but our bars and going out features do well on a Thursday afternoon – so we’ll plan out our content accordingly. Timings and habits are everything in a digital brand, understanding when your audience is online and what they’re interested in at that time is a great key for unlocking your brand’s potential.
6. Get interested in analytics
Running an online magazine is actually a lot more technical than it sounds, and understanding the data side of things can really help amplify your brand and momentum. For us, that means understanding our audience – where they live, what phones they use, what time of day they like to read articles, what social media sites they hang out on, how long they spend reading. Even when your project seems creative from the outside, it’s the numbers that often matter the most. So get curious in your analytics – if you run a website, teach yourself how to use Google Analytics, Google Key Word, Yoast and Tweetdeck.