Interview: Kevin Dwinnell on How to properly build an online community for a small business

Posted by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Building an online community around my business, products and services is something that is very important to me because I have realized that the very successful brands and companies have been able to stay successful by creating and maintaining a following of loyal fans. Today, consumers are demanding that companies provide value to them even before becoming clients; hence they are requiring business owners to become Resources before becoming Vendors. If you choose to ignore this fact and attempt to keep to your old ways marketing, sooner or later you will be ignored by those whom you seek to turn into clients.

Knowing that there is a need for small business owners to properly learn how to build online communities for their businesses, I invited Kevin Dwinnell, director of product and marketing for Brand Thunder; a company that creates a communication channel between brands and their online audience through customized browsers to come on the show to share his insights on what you need to know in order to properly build an online community of loyal and adoring fans of your business.

In this interview Kevin discussed:

  • How to make your online community vibrant and active
  • Why you need to give your audience an open, non-censored platform to interact and how to maintain a level of decorum
  • The differences between building an online community of consumers (B2C) and businesses (B2B)
  • How to increase the level of interaction within your online community by recognizing and empowering the leaders within it
  • How to effectively participate and engage in conversations on other related sites
  • The social interaction tools that can provide you with the analysis, metrics and results of your community building efforts
  • How to use the feedback you get from your community to troubleshoot and improve your products and services

In his own words:

In general, being part of a community can be a very powerful thing for small businesses. It’s a place where a greater sphere of influence can take place. But like any gathering of people, it’s going to take time to discover where you feel the best.

The elements that make community thrive:

  • Vibrant and active – people want to be where there’s action.
  • Be open, non-censoring but maintain a level of decorum
  • Recognition keeps people engaged
  • Timely sharing of information creates deeper bonds

Available channels for communities online:

  • Web 2.0 – Twitter, Facebook, Farmville, YouTube, LinkedIn – social-network focused
  • Web 1.0 – Forums, Groups, Bulletin-board systems – topic focused, anyone initiates
  • Others – email lists, blogs

Where to start, what to aspire to:

  • Metrics – track so you can gauge progress
  • Smaller steps to take to gain a voice and sample the commitment
    • Participate in existing communities
    • Guest blog
  • Managing a large community can entail
    • Lots of time
    • Learning to foster participation to enable sustainability as well as growth, and achieve critical mass

Tools to help along the way:

  • TweetBeep
  • HootSuite
  • Google Alerts
  • Get Satisfaction
  • Gist/NetworkHippo

Connect with Kevin Dwinnell:

On his company website

On Twitter @kdwinnell

On his company Facebook Page

Questions for you:

  • How has the internet leveled the playing field for all businesses?
  • In what ways can smaller companies compete with the big boys for the mindshare of potential clients? Please share your thoughts on this.