Teri Yu is the co-founder of Vibely and Director of Product Management at Kajabi, an all-in-one platform for creative entrepreneurs.
One in 4 Gen Zers aspire to be creators. With only 4.3% of creators making over $100K per year, though, the disturbing truth is it is very difficult to find financial success in this industry, despite the creator economy being worth an estimated $100 billion.
Who’s at fault? The very systems that creators rely on—social media platforms and the tech companies behind them. Based on my experience as a product builder and ex-viral creator, I know firsthand how social apps are failing the very creators they serve, steering creators to focus on vanity metrics and commoditizing creator attention for ad dollars.
As a result, creators are struggling to earn what their content is worth, let alone develop meaningful connections with their audience.
One way in which creators are overcoming these challenges is by managing their own communities, where they can have safe and vibrant relationships with members. Owning a strong online community has the power to help creators overcome the barriers of social media and foster relationships founded on personal growth over public metrics.
Why Creators Are Moving Toward Online Communities
One of creators’ main sources of anxiety is social media algorithms with 25% of creators estimating, according to my company’s research, they’ve lost $1,000 to $9,999 in revenue due to algorithmic changes.
But creators everywhere are waking up; no longer do they have to battle the everchanging whims of algorithms and other limitations of social media platforms. Accomplished creators are now focused on building engaged communities over growing their followers.
Here are the four ways online communities are helping creators regain their power:
• Diversifying income streams. As of 2022, 69% of creators still depend on brand deals for revenue, and only 4% rely on courses and even less on subscriptions, making it more apparent why so few creators earn over six figures a year. Creators can diversify and build dependable income streams with monetized communities but can earn even more by offering additional content like digital products.
• Owning the audience. Social media algorithms, scandals and even outages are all real threats creators face daily. A social account or group could disappear overnight, and with it, a creator’s audience, revenue stream and first-party data. Hosting a community on a dedicated platform ensures creators have full control of their business.
• Building a loyal audience and strong customer relationships. Communities are about creating a space for connection; something that I found difficult to do on social media where discussions are siloed into comments and direct messages. A place where you can facilitate open discussions with and between members allows you to foster strong and lasting consumer relationships.
• Gathering feedback and social proof. Online communities are a natural generator for testimonials and feedback—the reason why 86% of brand managers have been utilizing communities since 2009 and earlier. Creators can use community members’ requests and feedback to drive new offerings. Plus, making members feel appreciated can further boost the brand-customer relationship.
Seven Musts When Launching A Successful Community
Building a flourishing community takes time, dedication and knowledge of how a community could take a turn for the worse. Garnered from my experience launching thousands of communities with creators, here are my top tips for creating a successful community from the start:
1. Plan out the value proposition (aka the reason for joining). Before ever starting your community, consider the following: What results can members expect from joining? What will they gain from your community as opposed to elsewhere? In practice, this looks like providing members with specific events, live meetups, discussions and challenges.
2. Make members feel a part of the journey. Get your audience to buy into the community by giving them a voice in how it is formed and functions. You can achieve this with polls, online suggestion boxes and feedback forms and even a branded hashtag for customers to show off their support of you.
3. Seed initial content. This strategy is great to build brand awareness and attract the largest audience possible for your community. Simply share branded content across various platforms with your engaged audience or even trusted teammates.
4. Tease it out. Teasing is a tried-and-true marketing strategy. Why? Uncertainty craves an explanation. You can play into this human need by letting your audience know something exciting is on its way. When you reveal your community, people will be virtually lining up to join.
5. Make your launch exclusive. People love to feel like they are getting something rare or unattainable. Exclusivity, therefore, is a huge driver of engagement. When starting your community, offer the first members who join something special, such as a private Q&A with you, a waived startup fee or a limited swag bag.
6. Promote your community with social proof. Promotion is key to your community’s success, but rather than tout how great your community is yourself, rely on positive feedback shared in your community. Social proof is known for being a powerful motivator.
7. Be consistent with content. One post is not enough. Before starting your community, create a strategic plan outlining the content that will keep your community active and appealing. This includes sharing images and videos, as well as identifying community experts who can contribute to conversations.
While online communities have been around since the creation of Web 2.0, they are reemerging as a solution to transform followers into brand advocates that can help creators earn more income.
With Gen Z consumers moving away from traditional social media in favor of private online community platforms, 2023 is the year to get a head start on building the community you’ve always wanted.
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