Want to know a secret? One of the best ways to build a strong community is by helping your audience participate and become part of who you are and what you do. That doesn’t mean hiring them as employees, of course! I just means letting them become part of your movement.
One company who is doing this brilliantly is Medtronic Diabetes. Yup, a company that develops and sells diabetes management products. No, this is not a belated April Fools’ joke! You can read their full story in Social Media Examiner, which is where I first read about them.
I was blown away by their success: Since June 2012, their custom “Share Your Story” Facebook app has generated a 2-to-1 ROI for their entire social media program via sales traceable from Facebook.
If you take nothing away from their story, remember this: no matter how “boring” your business is, you can build a strong community.
Here are tips on how to gather user-generated content and grow a strong community:
Feature customer photos
Medtronic only features customers in their Facebook banner, which you can do as well. You can also create a Pinterest board of just customers doing something fun or create a tile banner of customer photos on your website.
Integrate customer milestones into your timeline
I love this idea: Medtronic has added their customers’ milestones into their Facebook timeline. How brilliant is that? Your customers are the reason you exist, so making them part of your history is a fabulous idea.
Share customer stories
Make it a habit to ask customers if they will share their stories. Whenever one of my clients, ScanMyPhotos.com, receives a glowing email or comment from a customer, they ask if that customer would be interviewed for their blog (which is where I come in). You can use quotes from their stories on your website as testimonials, and share them on Facebook and Twitter.
When Medtronic asked people to share their stories, sometimes they got one or two sentence answers. Prompt your customers to share a complete story by asking questions that dive deeper. So instead of, “How was your experience with us?” ask, “What part of your experience delighted you the most and why?”
Invite them to guest blog
If a customer turns out to be a great storyteller with something compelling to share, invite them to write a guest blog post. Not only will you share that with community, but they will share it with theirs – the ripple effect may surprise you with its reach.
Do you gather user-generated content? What tips can you share on using it to strengthen your community?
Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.