Are you looking to build an engaged community online – either on Instagram or your own podcast or blog? Here 4 pillars that take you through the who-what-where-why and more to help you build a community.
One of my most popular questions as a content creator is, “how do I grow my following on Instagram/my blog/etc.?”
I started my blog and Instagram in 2014 during my senior year of college. I juggled a side hustle with a full-time job for 6 years and only recently took content creation full-time. From my last 6-7 years of experience, I’ve learned there is no shortcut or hack that helps you quickly build your following. Yes, you can always learn tactics around finding the right hashtags or geotagging your location. But the truth is, building an engaged community takes time, strategy, planning, consistency, and commitment.
If you’re looking to build an engaged community online, here are the 4 pillars you need as your foundation.
Pillar #1: Define your brand
Before you can even think about building community, do you have a clear understanding of who you are? Here are a few key questions to ask yourself:
- Who are you as a (personal) brand?
- What are your core values?
- What are your content pillars or niches?
- What is your mission statement or purpose?
If you can’t describe who you are, then how can you expect your potential audience to understand who you are?
Pillar #2: Identify your audience
So many new influencers and content creators make the mistake of completely ignoring their audience. They’re so focused on a follower number that they may forget to take a step back and realize that the key to building a community is understanding your audience.
Building a community online starts with identifying your target audience. You have to know who you’re talking to before you start to uncover your audiences’ needs, questions, and pain points.
Here are a few leading questions to help you think about who your audience is (please just switch out the niche/content pillar as your own to make these questions relevant to you):
- Is your audience new or an expert in growing house plants?
- Is your audience new to establishing a skincare routine?
- Is your audience trying to learn healthier recipes?
- Does your audience live in a specific region or state(s)?
- Is your audience a busy parent juggling family life, career, school, etc.?
Once you have an understanding of who your audience is, you can create better content that speaks or relates to them. For example, if you know your audience is new to cooking healthier recipes, you’ll start to create content that invites new cooks or families looking for that type of content.
Pillar #3: Define your why
Why are you creating content in the first place? Why are you showing online? What is your purpose?
One of the most critical pillars for building an engaged community online is defining your purpose. Even if you have your audience in mind, you won’t be able to attract or build a community without laying out the mission statement or purpose of your brand and business. People want to know why they should follow. People want to know what they can go to you for.
You’ll hear content creators like me say you always need to drive value to your audience. Value needs to be related to your purpose and your mission. Here are a few ways you can bring value as a content creator or influencer:
- You entertain your audience – you make them laugh, you provide a place of pop culture, you create funny memes for them
- You educate your audience – you teach them something new, you teach them a new way to look at things
- You inform your audience – you provide some sort of news, you share most recent updates, you provide recommendations
- You inspire your audience – you provide aspirational content like travel, you share stories about overcoming adversity, you encourage others to pursue creative passions
Pillar #4: Define your content plan & strategy
What is a content plan?
A content plan includes your topics – aligned with your niches and content pillars, your content types – photos, videos, audio, or copy, and your platforms – where your content will be published.
For content creators and influencers, a great content plan builds out a schedule with all of these elements in mind. For example, imagine you’re a beauty and skin blogger.
One thing you always plan into your weekly content calendar is to publish a reason why everyone should continue to wear SPF no matter what season it is on Instagram.
You’ve decided to post once a week about SPF because it’s related to your passion and your content pillar: “skin”. You want your audience to take care of their skin every season and you know one way to do that is to protect your skin from UV rays, even in the middle of winter.
What is a content strategy?
Your content strategy guides the creation and deliverable of useful or usable content. For content creators and influencers, content strategy means creating content with your mission, audience, and business goals in mind.
It means delivering content within context to your platforms. For example, if your main platform is Instagram, you’ll be creating photos, videos, and copy that are aligned with who you are, who your audience is, and your mission. This also means selecting the appropriate hashtags that are related to your brand, your audience, and your mission.
There you have it friends – 4 pillars to build an engaged online community. If you want more tips or if you’re feeling lost about building a community, I highly recommend checking out my latest course:
Build an Engaged Audience with Your Content Plan & Strategy.
I didn’t get serious about defining out my content plan and strategy until winter 2018 while I was in grad school. After taking Psychology of User Design, I realized I could apply everything I was learning and create a clear content plan and strategy for my blog and Instagram Emma’s Edition.
Here is what you’ll find in this upcoming course:
Brand & Audience Clarity:
- Creating a mission statement
- Identifying your goals & objectives
- Identifying your niche(s)
- Identifying your audience
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Your content plan & strategy:
- Build Save-able or Share-able into your strategy
- Exercise: Planning 1 week of content
- Exercise: Planning 30 days of content
Measuring your plan in motion:
- What is a content audit?
- Learn how to conduct an Instagram content audit
For more content creation and influencer tips, I also recommend checking out:
Instagram Guide: Influencer & Instagram Tips
Thank you for reading!