I happened to catch an episode of Gossip Girl the other night and it had me thinking about engagement and building a community online. In this specific episode Gossip Girl was outing everyone’s secrets at once and causing a lot of havoc for the high school teens. What I noticed was that Gossip girl really has her community on the tip of their seats.
First, a bit of background for those who don’t know what Gossip Girl is all about (I mean, come on people!):
“The students first learn that Serena van der Woodsen, once the Upper East Side’s most notorious party girl, is back in town the way they learn all the important news in their lives: from the blog of the all-knowing albeit ultra-secretive Gossip girl. No one knows Gossip girl’s identity, but everyone in this exclusive and complicated vicious circle relies on her website and text messages for the latest scoop.” – SABC 3
Gossip girl has an audience that’s involved in the conversation and know that what they say or do bears meaning and value. This is how your community should feel about your brand. They should feel that you value their input and appreciate them. Relentless engagement will show them you care.
What you should do.
Here are some pointers on how to engage when building your community:
1. Be truthful
To build a loyal community online, your community needs to trust you. They will trust you if you are truthful and reliable. Get your facts straight every time and provide exclusive content to your community. Gossip girl shares juicy gossip with her community and has built up a reliable reputation for fact-checking. This way, her community believes every word and pays attention when she speaks. In other words, once you’ve earned your community’s trust and respect, they will listen to what you have to say
2. Be Authentic
One easy way to be real and true to your brand is to be committed to your cause (brand/product/company) and your community. DO NOT BE FAKE. I find that audiences are growing out of the whole ‘advertising slang’ and want brands to talk to them the way people talk to each other (in real life). Start engaging the way you would as a person – not as customer care or a salesman. Also, do not automate your content for posting. Just be you – a real, genuine human being who happens to represent a cause. Thank your community for their replies and for voicing their opinions and comment on posts they share with you.
What you shouldn’t do.
Here are some tips on what to avoid in your community building efforts:
1. Don’t be complicated
In other words, don’t overcomplicate things. Make it as easy as possible for your community to engage. Ask them simple questions. Yuppiechef on Facebook does this very well. They will ask their community on Facebook a simple question to encourage engagement. This is usually followed by loads of comments, interactions and chatter between community members.
Coming back to Gossip Girl; Gossip girl allows her community to receive breaking news via text messages. This way they get the latest gossip without having to log on to her blog every 5 min. People don’t want to fuss so you should make your content and engagement quick and simple.
2. Don’t Irritate
Know one likes the guy who tries to sell something to you at every opportunity. Don’t spam your community and don’t over-promote your brand or product. You can engage with comments and queries relentlessly, but do not post promotional content relentlessly. Keep in mind your post frequency and timing.
So, Gossip girl provides great content (everyone loves a little bit of gossip) and she knows her community very well (note the understatement). She takes a personal interest in them and, last but not least, she engages relentlessly with her teen audience.