22 Ways to Grow a Community

John Hope-Johnstone

Aloha, it’s always a great idea to remember that social media is not an answer it is an enabler. It enables communities (small and large) to find each other and have conversations. 

The easiest of these to understand are the “groups” or “discussion groups” such as Google Groups or Yahoo Groups because they are cohesive and come together for a common purpose. Then there are private communities hosted on companies such as Jive that provide secure community software for employee and public communities. 

While “groups” provide a cohesive community where with good moderating, and a good community management they can thrive. They are certainly not the most popular of all the social media platforms such as facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or consumer review sites such at Yelp, Foursquare and Trip Advisor etc. 

Engaging your fans or followers as a community is a virtual art form just as it is a real life art form. My father was a Vice President of Texaco Canada in charge of Government Relations. This meant we had a steady flow of fascinating and engaging people coming through our house. People from all walks of life: Diplomats and Ambassadors to Prime Ministers and Oil Company Executives.  

Many of these visitors had amazing people skills and I had to ask, why is it some people have the ability to engage and make friends and influence people while some don’t? 

Many of the real world attributes of successful people also translate to the virtual world of building an on-line community: 

  1. The people who came to our house listened, they REALLY listened
  2. They asked questions, KEY questions that lead to more questions and more conversation
  3. They involved people in their decision-making (on-line this would be done by surveys and polls)
  4. These people were well read and were interesting within themselves
  5. They were by and large, positive and dynamic
  6. They mentored others
  7. They spent time remembering bits of information about other people. These bits of sometimes trivial information made the other people feel important and special.
  8. They introduced key people to other key people
  9. They responded in a timely manner and were organized and never seemed too busy, even towards a young boy like myself (in those days).
  10. They delivered far more value than they asked from their acquaintances

Here are more easy ways to drive engagement from a great post from social media examiner by Pete Wylie (May 2010): 

11: Place your phone number on all social media accounts.  Using a separate Google Voice number that forwards to your mail account allows you to track the number of inbound calls from social media.

12: Promote offline Events on Social Media: Create an offline PR event and promote it through facebook or other “event” notification functions. Creating a facebook event page gives you a landing page that will direct visitors to your blog or Web site as well.

13: Offer Coupons only Exclusive to Social Media Channels. Make specific offers through each social media channel you use. Can be a coupon printed from facebook or a code from a Tweet. Incentives are a great way to build the size of your social media communities.

14: Host a Tweetup: A Tweetup is a live event promoted virtually through Twitter. Depending on your number of followers and re-tweets it can be a great addition. However, don’t use it exclusively if you are looking for large numbers also use ads, e-mail, direct mail etc.

15: Connect your E-mail campaigns with your social media. Drive visitors to your social media accounts by your email campaigns and the other way around.

The following section involving Twitter more as a promotional media, is written by Cindy King published May 12, 2010:

16: Twitter events allow you to network at specific times with larger groups of people through the use of hashtags. Twitter events can help you find people to build your own Twitter network. And as you participate in these events, you will increase your Twitter authority on the topics you discuss.  You can even create your own Twitter events to drive your networking and social media marketing.

17: Types of Twitter Events: First you need to identify the groups of people you want to network with. Then you should choose the types of events where it’s easy and comfortable for you to network with these people.  This is how you can slowly build up meaningful one-on-one relationships with people who matter to you and to your business.Fortunately there are several different types of groups gathering around specific topics on Twitter at specific times.

Here are events that take place offline where people use Twitter as a communication tool to share their experience of the in-person event:

18: Live events. You’ve probably seen Twitter hashtags used by people tweeting from conferences.  People can tweet about any kind of live event.  If you want to get the most out of your Twitter networking at a live event, you should do as Adam Vincenzini says and plan ahead to ensure viral Twitter coverage of live events.

19: Twestivals gets people on Twitter to meet up all over the world.

20: Current events. Many businesses can benefit from staying current on trending topics and participating in relevant Twitter conversations. Some current events or breaking news may give you reason to create your own Twitter discussion or chat event.

21: Twitter Interviews. You can conduct Twitter Interviews with different communication goals. You can do the interview like a journalist or, as this is on Twitter, you can conduct it more like a game show, with a short set of questions aimed at having more fun.  Choose the kind of Twitter interview to use to give you the networking environment you prefer.

22: TweetChats. There are a number of regularly scheduled TweetChats. Small Business Buzz, or @sbbuzz on Twitter, holds chats every Tuesday to discuss small business topics.  Another interesting regular TweetChat takes place on Thursdays, @lrnchat to discuss learning and social media. It’s easy to see how you can expand your Twitter network by finding TweetChats with your preferred audience.

Variety in Communication:

It’s important to note that people use multiple social media platforms for communication. Conversations are not limited to Twitter. There are also interesting events to look for outside Twitter and then come back and follow the contacts you meet there.

Facebook. Many events are shared on Facebook. Be sure to follow the people you meet on Twitter, find them on Facebook and have a look at what they share and discuss there.

LinkedIn. Be sure to check out LinkedIn events too.

Although it requires a little bit of research, it’s often easy to create strong relationships when you connect with the same people on different social media platforms.  It’s interesting to note that one-on-one networking is usually easier to initiate on Twitter.

Tools for Twitter Events:

Hashtags. Hashtags are key.  They enable people to gather into groups on Twitter. This is how you find others interested in similar topics.  You can read more about how to follow hashtags in this previous article.Twitter tools. Many Twitter applications come and go, but they often have some great features and make Twitter networking easier and more fun.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a solution to fit all of your needs in following or creating Twitter events. So it’s always worthwhile doing a little research to look for what’s useful for you. Here are some Twitter applications you may find interesting: TweetChat, Tweetvite, and TweetMyEvents.

Event tools.  Sometimes you simply need an event management tool. There are a variety of online tools to help you: Eventbrite, Amiando and meetup are popular event tools. But again, you’ll need to check them out to find the one best suited to your particular needs.

Social Media Networking

Twitter is only one social media communication tool.  Other social media platforms work well when combined with Twitter networking.  For example, many people share photos from events on Flickr and they often share the links to their photos on Twitter. The comments on these photos are also a great resource to help you find people to follow and grow your network. You can also do the same research with YouTube videos, Posterous pages and any other social media platform your audience frequents.In addition, Foursquare and other geo-location applications are making it easier to create events and bring people together in person. This is why more and more businesses will be including event networking in their social media marketing plans. And Twitter plays a key role in developing your network, thanks to its ease of real-time one-on-one networking

If you have some ideas or thoughts on how you grow your community, please leave a comment for me. 



  1. Great post John! You sure put Social Media in perspective by stating that it is not an “answer” but rather an “enabler”. And I love the comparison that a successful virtual community thrives on the same attributes of influential REAL people. Especially #10!

    • buzzmaster says:

      Thanks Michelle, glad you liked. I post every Sunday so please keep on reading. There are a lot of back posts that may help with some of your social media questions.

    • buzzmaster says:

      Thanks Michelle, good luck with Pop Warner

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