Have you ever watched the Ken Burns series The West? It’s a marvelous series, especially if you are a history buff like me. There are so many insights into American history, but one of my favorites is somewhat late in the story. The US has been connected East to West with railroad tracks, and settlements and cities are growing like never before. The development of one such city is explored in a bit of detail. A news reporter noted that the ground breaking ceremony for the city’s town square actually happened far away from where the people were living at the town.
“I thought you would want your square to be in the center of your town,” He said to one of the organizers.
“Oh, this is where the center of the town will be after we have grown and expanded,” the organizer responded.
When it comes to your online community, which you are building based on all of these engagement techniques, growth is the ultimate goal, or at least, presumably, one of your goals. But are you planning for that moment in the future right now? Here are some things to think about.
What is your “town square?”
What is the center of your community? Where is that going to be and how will people know? Is your center going to be your Twitter presence? Your blog? Your Facebook page? Even if you don’t have a very big community right now, it’s important to visualize where your hub will be when you have thousands of people in your community. And yes, you will get there.
What will your “follow-back” policy be on Twitter?
This is a whole topic onto itself, but it’s something you want to start thinking about before you even have a dozen followers. What will be the technique that will enable you to engage most the way you want to engage? For me, I look at the person’s profile, I look at the kinds of tweets they send out, and of course I try to take note of who I actually converse with. Those are important to me because of the way in which I choose to engage online. As time has gone on, it has gotten harder and harder to keep up, but I do the best that I can.
What is your plan for keeping track of who is following you and who you should follow? It’s never too early to figure that out.
What is your strategy for responding to comments?
As your blog begins to take shape and attract readers, how will you respond to comments or questions? It’s important to establish expectations not just for yourself but for those readers, too. Back when I was super lucky to get a comment, I still had in my mind that I would always do the best I could to respond to comments on my posts. I don’t always hit them 100% but I do the very best I can. If you think there might come a time when you won’t be able to do that, or if you don’t want to set that as an expectation from the start, you need to establish clear ground rules that you’ll be able to stick to once the comments start coming fast and furious.
How will you keep in touch with people you truly care about?
This is a big challenge as your community starts to grow. Suddenly a month will go by and you’ll say to yourself, “Huh…I haven’t talked to so and so in ages!” How will you overcome those challenges? Will you use Twitter lists? RSS feeds? Again, it may seem like there’s no reason to deal with these things now if you don’t have a great big community, but in fact, now is the perfect time!
Success in any part of life is often where preparation meets opportunity. There is an element of luck to finding success in Social Media. That being said, you need to have your framework ready so that when success comes, you are ready for it. When it comes to engaging with people online, few things are more important than knowing what you will do when there are even more people with whom you can engage.
What are you doing right now to plan for your growing community? Let’s talk about it!
This is “Lucky 13” in The Engagement Series. If you are finding this helpful, I’d be grateful if you could direct other people to the conversation. The more the merrier!
Image by Robert Linder. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/linder6580