The most important part of any social media strategy is identifying your community.

A park is a classic center of community.

A community is any group of people with a common interest that talk to each other or work together frequently.  The internet is changing the definitions of community because people don’t actually meet and get to know each other in a traditional way.  But they do typically know a lot about the other members of their community, sharing connections of interest, care, and some kind of commitment.

A solid strategy starts with identifying the community that you are reaching, joining, or developing.  If you are a bar or restaurant, that community will be the “regulars” that you see all the time.  For a non-profit it’s the people you serve and your volunteer base – and possibly a defined geographic community.  An online business may want to be a part of an existing online community in a chatroom or on twitter, but it may also have to define its own community through a new blog or other gathering spot.

The one thing that every community has in common is a central place where people come together.  If this is a physical spot you’ll have to have your social media efforts cross over into the real world – which can be tricky.  If the central place is online, you’ll have to make sure it connects to the other parts of your effort.  None of this is hard, but it requires some thinking through before you dive in.

More than just a place, a community is really all about people.  They have to define the space and make it their own, so there is only so much you can do to guide it.  But careful consideration of the space and the people you call your community is the first step towards developing a total social media strategy.

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