Today’s Maker marketplace is overflowing with raised voices, loud messages, and urgent calls to action. To ensure that your customers hear and respond to your unique voice, you need a solid community where your message can resonate loud and clear. That sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is. And it isn’t.
The concept of community is uncomplicated: carve out a little piece of heaven where you, your brand and your customers can connect without distraction. It is simple, but it requires multiple steps and Herculean patience to make it happen. This post contains a high level road map to propel you in the right direction. Here are seven steps you can take this week to start building a solid community around your brand.
How To Build a Solid Brand Community
1. Know Who Your Target Customer Is
Like most things in business, success depends on you knowing exactly who your target customer  is. Like a sheep knows his shepherd, a person in search of a particular product or service will sift through mounds of muck to find what she’s looking for. You must be a like a light in the darkness for your target customer. Make it easy for her to spot you from miles away, and she will.
2. Choose the Best Location(s) for Your Brand Community
Once you attract your specific target market, you can create the virtual and/or physical spaces where they would like to participate with you and the rest of the community. If you sell products at the local farmer’s market each week, your community can meet with you there every week. If you offer online classes, your community can meet you inside the Facebook group where you host your classes. If your target customers like Instagram, your brand community can take shape there as you post new pictures of the products you make.
Start with one location, and then add more as you grow.
3. Initiate Positive and Relevant Engagement
Start conversations  within the group around topics that resonate with your target audience. Whether it’s an Instagram post or a Periscope broadcast, if you consistently introduce concepts and ideas that matter to your customers, they will see that you care about them, and they will respond. As you do this repeatedly, over time, you will develop the kind of good will that organically improves sales. People will tell their friends about the positive experience they have with you and your offerings, and this will build on itself in magical ways that positively affect your bottom line and help your brand thrive.
4. Create Opportunities for People to Connect
Your brand community is a great place for relationships to develop among like-minded people. As you create opportunities for people to connect, you will find that some will truly enjoy each other’s company and wish to connect outside your community. This can create super opportunities for people to connect around your brand in satellite communities nationwide. Keep an eye out for developing friendships, and do what you can to help them flourish. Doing so will keep your brand top of mind and encourage people to do business with you consistently.
5. Minimize or Eliminate Negative Influences
Your brand community will take its cues from you. If you are positive and uplifting, they will be too. Having said that, where there are people, there are problems, and you must be ready to handle them quickly and effectively. It is imperative that you immediately snuff out negative influences that threaten to reflect poorly on you, the community, or your brand. This can mean banning people who introduce negative or prohibited topics of discussion, or cutting off discussions when they become emotionally taxing.
6. Schedule Events in Advance so People Know What to Expect
One way to attract people to a brand community on a consistent basis is to host regular events. For example, if you host a community inside a Facebook group, you might use Facebook Live every Tuesday at 12:30 to connect and engage. You could also host a daily Periscope broadcast or upload a new video to Youtube and engage with your community there. This type of regularity allows busy people to plan to calendar the dates and times they can connect personally with you and others in the community.
7. Make Changes as Needed to Accommodate Growth
As you and your business grow, you may find that the location where you host your brand community needs to change in order to accommodate the growth of your business and/or you personally. Sometimes, you may need to permanently close a community in order to maintain momentum and capitalize on technological advances. For three years, I maintained a thousands-strong community within a site built on the Ning  platform. It was great while it lasted, but my business outgrew what was possible there so I shuttered it and built the community up in a different location inside a private members only Facebook group. You will find that you may need to make a similar move. You’ll know when it it’s time.
Questions: How do you build community around your brand? What tips and experiences can you share? I’d love to hear from you!
Handmade Jewelry  Photo via Shutterstock