Whether you’re a wellness coach, artist, creative entrepreneur, or something else, learning how to build a fan base is the first step in creating a community around your brand.
If you’re trying to grow your business we’re sure that you’ve spent a lot of time looking at the size of other creator’s fan bases. But we’re going to let you in on a little secret. While building a fan base is a great way to gain exposure, the thing that will set your brand apart is building a thriving community.
Ahead, we’re exploring why building a fan base is a good start for a brand, but not an end goal. Then, we’ll show you how transitioning your “fans” into members of a community will take your business to new heights.
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In this article...
Why building a fan base is only the beginning
As we stated above, learning how to build a fan base is a great first step toward fostering a community around your brand. But you may be wondering why we’re saying it’s only the first step.
The reality is that building a fan base might seem like it equates to success, but just because someone has a big audience doesn’t mean those people are actually invested in the brand.
Take a moment and think about who you follow on social media. Then, think about why you started following them. What you may come to realize is that many of the creators you follow aren’t people you’re all that invested in. In fact, you may never interact with their content after the initial piece that got you invested.
That lack of attention has nothing to do with the quality of the content either, but it points to the main problem of valuing a following over a community: there’s no real connection between you and your fans.
This is where building an actual community around your brand comes into play. Let’s explore this more in-depth.
Why an online community?
When you focus on building a community around your brand instead of building a fan base, you will add more value and longevity to your work.
Before we talk about why communities are so powerful, let’s quickly break down what we mean by community. A community is a group of people that all share a common interest or goal and are coming together in order to explore or accomplish it. You might be thinking, how is that different from building a fan base?
The major difference between fans and members of a community is that at the base level a “fan” is simply someone who likes your work. A fan doesn’t necessarily interact with other people who enjoy your work, and most likely, as you build a fan base it will become much harder for you to interact with your fans.
When you have a community, each new person who joins brings value to your brand thanks to the knowledge, insights, and perspective they can share with other members. We like to call this creating a network effect. And each new member in your community has an incentive to bring new people into the fold too, which will increase your growth and brand value.
So, while it’s great to know how to build a fan base, the community you can create through bringing your fans and followers together around their shared interests will be much more beneficial.
Ahead, we’re exploring the steps you need to take to bring your online community to life.
How to create a community for your growing fan base
Now that we’ve summarized why learning how to build a fan base is only half the battle of growing your business, let us walk you through what you really need: a community. We have a few steps that will get the ball rolling for transitioning your “fans” into members of a thriving community.
1. Have a clear purpose
What you’ll realize as you complete these steps is that learning how to build a fan base and creating an online community both have similar goals in mind. No matter what your brand is about, having a clear “big purpose” should be the first thing you nail down.
If you’re unfamiliar with what we mean, your big purpose is the motivation behind your community. It should be something that can only be achieved if you bring together your fans in a full-fledged community.
One obstacle you’ll run into is how you convince your fan base that transitioning to a dedicated community space is worth it. Here’s a template we created to help you out:
When you build a fan base it’s all about showing people how great your work is in hopes of them following your journey. But when you come up with your big purpose you’re showing your fans why transiting to an online community will help them achieve something they couldn’t on their own.
2. Know who your ideal members are
Whether you just started building a fan base or have a large following already, knowing which people in your audience to target in your transition to a community is important.
The reality of transitioning a fan base into a thriving community is that you won’t retain 100% of your following. But that’s okay. Not everyone is going to be down for what you’re building, and in turn, they aren’t your ideal members for the community you’re building.
When you create an online community you’re honing in on the specific goal that you have in mind for your brand. In turn, that goal is going to entice a specific subset of your larger audience. These people are your ideal members.
If you can’t tell yet, your big purpose and your ideal member are intertwined. When you understand who in your audience you’re trying to target to join your online community, then you will also know how to better hone your big purpose. It can be challenging figuring out who these members might be, so here are some questions to consider:
What is the target demographic of my fan base?
Who within that demographic is the most engaged?
What is the age range of my ideal member?
What can my ideal members get out of a community that they can’t from simply following me?
Taking the time to understand who your ideal members are will make transitioning your fan base into a community much easier.
3. Use an email list
One of the benefits of building a fan base is that you’ve already done some of the work of amassing a potential email list.
Whether your audience is on a popular social media website, through a Substack newsletter, or somewhere else, utilizing an email list to tell people about the community you’re building is an important step.
Curating an email list from your fan base is a great way to get the word out (in detail) about the community you’re building. We are in a moment in time where everyone’s attention is being pulled in different directions.
No matter how big you’re able to build a fan base, keeping their attention will always be a point of concern. But when you have a dedicated community space, when they login to it all of their attention is on what you want them to see.
4. Choose an online community platform
The next step you’ll need to complete is actually picking a platform where you’ll host your online community.
Up until now, you probably learned how to build a fan base through utilizing popular social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. These platforms are very familiar to most people and a good way to get your feet wet, but ultimately they don’t give you much control over your brand.
When you choose an online community platform, you’re allowing yourself the chance to have your own private network for you and your members. These platforms come with pre-built tools and features for you to build your community space how you’d like it unlike on social media where you’re stuck with whatever the company decides to do.
If you’re curious about what factors to consider when picking a platform here are a few important questions to think about:
Does the platform have both web and native mobile apps for your members to use to access your community?
Will the platform allow you to create your community all under your own branding?
Does the platform have native features so you’re not stuck juggling multiple integrations and platforms?
Does the platform have an easy setup process to get members onboarded to your community?
Does the platform give you lots of monetization options, like courses, events, paywalls, memberships, and more?
Transitioning to an online community platform from building a fan base on social media is all about putting more power and creative control into your hands. The platform that you choose should provide you with opportunities to create more interactions between your members.
5. Create a unique community culture
If you’ve spent any time planning how to build a fan base then you’ve probably thought about what makes your brand unique or how you can connect with your audience. When you transition your fans into becoming members of a community, you’ll want to figure out ways to make your community feel unique.
As the creator of the community, you should be an exemplary example of how your fan base should treat each other. The online community platform that you choose should provide you with a plethora of different options to create opportunities for interaction between your members. You could try anything from a discussion board post to a poll or Q&A.
The most important thing is that when you’re starting out, your members will look to you for guidance about how to use the community. Use this as an opportunity to create something all your own. The answer to what a unique community culture looks like will be different for every brand, so our biggest suggestion is to experiment, get a little weird, and see what sticks.
How to get started with Mighty Networks
If you’re solely fixated on how to increase fans, it can be easy to forget why you started building your brand in the first place.
When you’re solely thinking about how big your audience is, the real people who are enjoying your work simply become a number you’re trying to tick up. But when you focus on building an online community, you’re able to recenter what matters: bringing together a group of people who all love your work, and propelling them to achieve a common goal, together.
Choosing to build your community on a Mighty Network will give you the tools needed to make your online community more than just a place to market your content. Mighty's cultural software brings together industry-leading community-building tools and give you flexible Spaces that can include paid memberships, virtual events, and online courses. On top of that, with a Mighty Network, you’ll be able to offer all of these pieces together under your own brand, instantly available on web, iOS, and Android.
So how about we pump the breaks on trying to increase your fans and instead create an online community that grows in value with each new person who joins in on the fun?