Beat Google with your new USP (Unique Social Purpose)

With the constant changes in search, the time and risk involved in achieving search engine rankings is hard to justify.  If you are chasing Google with a cutting edge SEO strategy, you are aiming at a fast moving target.  However, there is a better way. 

Forget about chasing after Google and build an online community and social asset around your business.  We call this the new USP - Unique Social Purpose.  If you do this well, you can build your business via online word of mouth without relying on search engines. The irony is that at this point Google will rank your website anyway, as a popular and useful resource.

Building an online community around your business will assist your brand and position you as an industry leader.  When you focus on adding value to your online community instead of optimising for Google, you build trust and relevance that can attract leads and interest via word of mouth rather than website rankings.

We have listed seven steps to building an online community for your business.  Whether you already have an existing community or are building one from scratch, these steps can help you improve on what you've already done and optimise your existing tools.

1.  Identify your social purpose

What makes your business unique is typically defined as your unique selling point (USP).  However you may not have considered your other important USP – your Unique Social Purpose.  It is important to find a socially relevant purpose that resonates with your customers.  A great example is Lorna Jane, an Australian active wear label for women.  They have positioned themselves as a designer and seller of fitness wear.  They have a philosophy of move, nourish, believe and have created a website around this that features articles, videos and blogs on fitness, beauty, health and well-being.  (See the move, nourish, believe website here.)  

What makes Lorna Jane unique is that they encourage women to live the philosophy of move, nourish, believe and provides a community of support to live a healthy and full life.  What is the social angle that makes your business attractive to your customers?

2.  Identify your target audience

Who do you want to be part of your community?  Your target audience clearly needs to match or encompass the profile of your possible customers.  In the case of Lorna Jane, their target audience would be women pursuing an active and healthy lifestyle.  Keep in mind that not every person is your customer or your audience.  It's okay to exclude other people who do not fit the profile of your target audience.    

3. Select the key channels you want to engage your audience on

What are the key channels you would like to use to build a community around your business?  You may choose to use facebook, youtube, linkedin, pinterest, tumblr, a forum or, email marketing.  Materials such as blog posts, videos, graphics and audio are valuable content that can be shared to draw people to your business and online community.  Pick a few channels that you think will work best and do them exceptionally well. 

Using the example of Lorna Jane, they are very active on social media sites including facebook, twitter and pinterest in addition to their move, nourish, believe website.  You don't have to sign-up to every social media site or use every tool available.  Prioritise the key channels that enable you to attract more people to your community.

4.  Delegate the work

Dedicate a person in your business to champion the brand vision and connect with customers through your chosen channels such as social media or content marketing.  We recommend that this should be done in-house by your staff and not outsourced to another organisation.  In this way, you can share your goal and purpose with your staff and they too can become passionate about the community you are building.   

5.  Create amazing content that will build a community around your business

Create content that is useful and purposeful for your customers and share them across your social media platforms, website or blog sites.  The goal to have a single vision or message that clearly comes through in all content regardless of the medium.  Content that can build your community should be non-commercial in nature, so focus on sharing what you know will help your customers instead of talking about what your business does or offers.  Great content not only lets your customers know that you care about them, but it can also earn you links back to your website.

6.  Grow your community

Interact with your customers and followers.  When someone likes or comments on an article or photo posted on your social media platforms, make sure you comment back or acknowledge it.  Perhaps you can also provide online incentives like contests and coupons, so that new people will join your community.  

If your customer posts a really interesting article, video or photo, share it too.  Remember that the community is about your customers, so share materials you didn’t create that you feel will be valuable to the members of the community.

7. Measure and analyse your results

Keep track of the growth of your community.  How many followers have you gained?  Has there been an increase in leads and sales?  Has the traffic to your website increased?  Make sure to use any data collected to refine and improve your strategies.

It is not necessarily about maximising the number of participants in your community.  A raving fan or contributor is worth many occasional visitors that don’t participate.

Some final words

Building a community around your business is about creating a resource for users that keeps them coming back and your brand in mind around your niche.  Leadership is needed to drive and serve the community you create.  As your community or following snowballs, people will want to be part of it.  

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