Monday Masterclass: Build Your Personal Brand Through Online Communities

This week we’re listing the best ideas and advice to help you successfully promote your services, build and strengthen your personal brand in online communities, and groups on social media.

As if getting new clients for your web design business wasn’t hard enough, the prices of advertising continue to rise. In recent years costs have risen by more than 12% on average, despite the fact that many experts claim that a measurable ROI is not feasible. Even when ROI is measured, it no longer seems to have obtained the results we celebrated just a few years ago. 

If online advertising has passed its prime, why not consider focusing our resources on building a personal brand through interaction with online communities? Why not turn our attention to the content sections, at the heart of community pages and feeds, rather than focussing on the commercial spaces that frame them. Something that could prove to be a much better strategy for getting more clients

Think about it, whenever we need a plumber the chances are that we’ll be going with someone we know, right? If not, we might ask friends for recommendations. Only as a last resort, would we rely on the results that come up on Google.

According to a Nielson report, 92% of consumers are more convinced by suggestions from friends and family than advertising.

People today are increasingly turning to social media, asking friends, colleagues and fellow group members for advice and recommendations, on things like who they should trust to build their websites. This is one of the things that makes online communities so powerful. 

This year’s The State of Community Management Report points out that the vast majority of communities empower members, through asking questions, and providing solutions. However, the basic human needs for connection, recognition, and validation within a common interest is what fuels the almost perpetual group activity. The levels of which clock just over 50% of members marked as active. 

This could help strengthen the link that the report makes between group empowerment and group engagement. 

The report also found that members’ main objectives in these groups are:

  • Networking with peers (77%)
  • Trust & confidence (65%)
  • New ideas (61%)

We’ve found this to be true among Elementors,

many of whom (over 70%) are active members of one of the largest active WordPress-related groups on Facebook.

Like any strategy, there are right ways and wrong ways to engage with social media and build your personal brand.

To get the best advice we could on this, we’ve been asking the members of our community for insight and tips, and the do’s and don’ts. We’ve also added things that we’ve learned from our own experience, helping the community to grow.

The following is a roundup of the best ideas and advice we’ve compiled to help you successfully generate awareness of your services and establish your personal brand on social media.

1. Preparation

If you’re a Masterclass regular, you know that for us ‘preparation’ is practically a byword. 

So much could be avoided, and so much gained through proper preparation, that we couldn’t possibly overstress its importance. 

Moreover, knowing what to prepare in advance will only help us. There may be some preparation that is more field-dependent, but there are some things that are true for all of us.

Before joining a group, make sure you have all your assets in order. These should include:

  • A business profile 
  • A website
  • Contact details 
  • Portfolio

This might sound obvious and redundant, but when you’re approached for the first time in the group, and you’ve got nothing to show, you’ll be kicking yourself. 

You’ve ruined that opportunity to make a great first impression and perfect introduction. 

When creating these assets, remember to make them easy for community members to find and use. Build a supportive site structure and funnel. Make sure that you come across as approachable so that people who are becoming interested in your services and experience feel that they can ask you a question and keep in touch. This, after all, is our goal, right?

If you’re in a hurry to create or revamp your portfolio, Nick Babich has some great advice and suggests some first-rate templates.

You’ll also want to define your goals; this will help you stay focussed and avoid making mistakes. 

You wouldn’t go amiss taking the time to reevaluate your services and product then figure out which group topics they might relate to. Once you have established yourself in the community, you’ll use this to weave this information into your comments whenever opportunities arise. 

2. Finding the Right Group

Your resources, time especially, are valuable and hardly worth wasting on groups that will not yield an ROI. 

Joining an established group makes life that much easier than creating your own. One of the great advantages is that active deep-rooted social media groups already have a tone, and a direction or agenda reflected in the type of people who become members, as well as their activity. 

Use this to sort the groups with a high community and content value from those that showcase spam or outright narcissism. 

Active established groups will help you recognize the relevancy of the group membership. A group mostly populated by website builders, for example, might not be the right place for someone looking for new clients. Groups such as these are often made up of service providers, making them perfect for discussions among colleagues, but not as well for generating business.

Instead, explore smaller, perhaps niche groups that relate to your expertise.

If, for instance, your expertise is building sites with strong SEO, consider joining an SEO group. Same goes for fields of business, such as real estate, and fashion, etc., as it does for types of marketing.

3. Research

Once you’ve found the group that will work best for your business, invest time in researching the group, and getting to know the style of writing posts, the phrasing, the dynamics among the members. 

Before posting or replying, get to know your audience. Try to figure out what issues the group is sensitive about.

A great place to start is by reading the admin guidelines.
Once you know the basic DNA and personas of the group, you’ll be able to better adjust what you want to post, to something that they would like to hear. Given that this group may consist of fellow freelancers and developers, it’d probably be better to word your pitch like “do you need help taking on some of your projects” rather than “I can build you a website.”

Whereas if you were in a group of entrepreneurs, the “I can build your website” pitch would work a lot better.

4. Help and Give Value

If there is one tip that you take away from this week’s Masterclass, it’s this:

You have to be willing to put in the effort without seeing immediate results, and you must be persistent. 

This perseverance will pay off the most when you become an asset as a contributing member of the group. Offer value to the community, and in time, this will translate into a reputation. Don’t forget that you’re building your brand and you want others to know you and trust you. This takes time and effort to establish. 

Be generous.

This means going beyond merely ‘liking’ posts and solving problems once in a while. Answer questions and offer free advice instead. Try to help people learn how to avoid similar problems in the future. 

Remember the old saying? “Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for life”-The same applies here. Go that extra mile and become a valuable and appreciated member of the group by teaching people the skills that will help them move forward. In return, your reputation will grow and resonate.

Offer that little something extra if you recognize it as something that might help people beyond the specific problem they are currently asking about. Just remember to stay on topic.

Show initiative. Don’t spam, ramble, or post or just for the sake of it. You will be ignored and possibly banned.

Post material that will inspire and spark interest. 

The occasional poll goes a long way especially if it generates a lengthy discussion among the more active members.

No matter what, your tone must remain positive and empathetic. The last thing you want is to be misinterpreted as condescending. 

This is also true when talking about third parties. 

Don’t bad-mouth or vilify your competitors or other products. Even if you have a strong opinion about a certain design of theirs or photoshop job that looks about as realistic as a B-movie monster from the 50s, remember your goal and be professional.

Should you feel the need to deride or belittle, try to keep it to yourself. It doesn’t belong in the group.

Be active but don’t hog all the attention. 

Always treat others with respect; nobody likes a troll. 

Refrain from those heated internet debates if you can see that they’re turning into an argument. Even if you feel you can win the argument, it will still hurt your reputation and your personal brand. This kind of behavior comes across as very unprofessional.

The same goes for joining the hoards of members leaping at posts like “Looking for someone to build my website” — We all know that it won’t get you the job. 

All it will do is make you appear as desperate for work, which will diminish your authority, and respect among the other group members.

A little competition can be good, but never approach anything with a competitive, zero-sum game, mindset.

Instead, adopt the mindset that there is plenty of work for everyone. That the stronger and more valuable the group becomes, the better the business gets for everyone involved.

Keep an open mind and treat this as a valuable learning experience. 

Understand that every post as an opportunity for communicating, as well as for research. 

There is no better way to get to know the needs and challenges of your potential clients.

You can even take what you’ve learned from these clients, turn it around, and use it to your advantage. One person’s greatest challenge could be your most rewarding homepage copy.

That’s exactly what we did for the One Page Website masterclass, where we noticed an interest in the community for using the hello theme and theme builder.

5. Posting

Being active is important, but your activity should be calculated and efficient. Find the right consistency for your posts. You don’t want to be bugging people, and you don’t want the social media’s algorithm to shut you out.

Remember to ask for comments and feedback, so that other members are encouraged to reply.

Don’t simply post ads for your services; in fact, you might want to avoid that all together as it may prove to have the opposite effect. Most community members tend to be passionate about the core subjects discussed in the group, and will not take kindly to people using their home as their personal billboard. If you’re going to post something to show activity, try posting things that people will find valuable and relatable. 

Don’t post across groups for obvious reasons.

When you consider your motive for being active in the group, simply commenting ‘thanks,’ ‘cool’ or clicking ‘like’ does not qualify as a decent response to a post or comment. Try to develop the communication and drive the interaction further by asking questions that explore a community member’s comment.

6. Elevate Real Relationships

Nothing nurtures and establishes the reputation and credibility of a personal brand like forming real-life relationships with people.

This not only makes you more approachable and understanding, but it probably leads to potential clients and colleagues better than anything else.

You have to meet people in the real world. This takes the efforts of the past to a whole other level. 

This indeed is one of those things that is easier for some than for others, but it’s still a necessity in the business world of the digital era.

If you’re looking for great tips and insight on this, Ben and Matan recently interviewed Matt Medeiros, from the ‘Matt Report’ podcast, who had a lot of excellent advice and ideas for networking.

Meetups, workshops, conventions, etc., are excellent opportunities to meet the community you’ve been interacting with face to face. You’ll find that these events really do help to substantiate relationships, and who knows? Perhaps close some deals.

If you’ve not yet been to an Elementor Meetup, you should definitely give it a try. Having been to these, you will have to agree that there is something unique about them that makes them wonderfully warm and welcoming. 

Summary

Perhaps the idea of promoting your services and building your personal brand through participation in Facebook groups, and other social media communities, is a bit like dating. You have to have the right attitude. Be positive, even if you are a cynic, you can’t afford to be cynical.

Like many things in this business, if you invest time and resources in developing your personal brand you’ll be pleasantly surprised and rewarded for the effort that you make.

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About the Author

Simon Shocket
Simon Shocket
With a background in graphic design and animation, Simon began his writing career in the entertainment industry, followed by a fruitful career in advertising, before moving into hi-tech journalism. Simon also performs with several bands and musical productions. After all, he was born in Manchester, UK, and that’s a lot to live up to.

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