Almost 5 billion people use social media—and that number is growing every year. That makes platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and even LinkedIn increasingly valuable as an avenue to connect with consumers and introduce them to your brand. But if you want to maximize the benefits of social media, you'll need users to do more than follow your branded accounts.

Building a community of loyal followers means going beyond simply sharing posts with your followers to engage them on a deeper level. And the more effective your community-building efforts are, the more customers you'll attract and the longer you'll retain their business.

What Is community building?

Community building is when organizations establish a virtual space that helps customers feel like they are part of the brand. It's a way for brands to build more meaningful relationships with customers. But it requires them to do more than simply establish a presence on social media.

It falls under the umbrella of marketing—but creating a sense of community with your audience goes beyond simply using social media to promote a brand and its products. To do this, brands have to show a human side of who they are by doing things like responding to comments and following other users.

Community building helps ecommerce brands attract and retain customers

Community building encourages people to interact with the brand, its products, and its customer base in a more meaningful way. That's because engaging and interacting with your customers online encourages them to do the same with each other.

This helps people find and learn about the brand, share their experiences, and recommend it to others. The relationships customers build with fellow community members translate to a sense of belonging. And the stronger your online community, the more likely followers on social media will associate that feeling with your brand.

Once users identify with the community your brand creates with its social community platforms they're more likely to become loyal customers. That's because the added benefit of a supportive community that accompanies their purchase increases the chance that customers stay loyal for longer.

How to build a community

Building a community requires careful planning and dedicated effort. To start, follow these steps:

Research your target audience

It's important to understand your customers and what they care about. That way, you can build a community that will be loyal to your brand.

Research the people who will buy from you. Look at which social media platforms they use, what interests them, and what kind of things they like. It's also important to identify what drew customers to your brand in the first place—things like the products you offer, your company mission, or a variety of factors.

With this knowledge, you have a solid foundation that helps you better understand your target audience and make sure your community-building efforts are successful.

Establish a consistent brand presence

Once you've created social media accounts on your customers' favorite platforms, it's time to create and share posts. And it's especially important to be active. After all, customers won't want to follow you if you have nothing to offer.

Sharing your own posts is the best way to connect with your target audience, introduce them to your brand, and get your message to your customers. But it's also important to like and comment on other people's posts as well. Social media is all about connecting with others—it's not a soapbox for talking about your brand. So it's important to find a balance that involves responding to commenters and finding other accounts to engage with.

A regular posting schedule helps people get to know your brand by establishing and building a connection online. And the more consistent you are, the easier it will be for people to recognize your brand.

Make meaningful content

Creating content that is valuable to your audience is important because it helps you build a relationship with them. The more your posts resonate with your followers, the more likely they are to engage with your content (and each other). And the best way to do that is by relying on your knowledge of your target audience to connect with them.

For example, organizations like travel bag brand Tom Bihn attract customers with high-quality products and advice on how to use them. Online, the brand built a strong community by doubling down on the things its customers love: talking about materials and offering advice on how to pack for their next vacation. And the brand's community building was so successful that brand supporters created their own Facebook group where they could geek out about their common interests with fellow group members.

Learn from your past successes (and failures)

Continually learning from past successes and failures is essential for effective decision-making on social media. By evaluating the impact of your previous efforts,  you'll gain insight into what works and what doesn't when it comes to connecting with your target audience.

To understand what's working, monitor your social media accounts—pay attention to which posts get the most likes, comments, and shares. It's also a good idea to establish a community manager who can take ownership of your online community and its overall well-being.

The more you learn from your past efforts, the more you'll be able to refine your approach so that future posts are more likely to resonate with customers, leading to increased engagement, loyalty, and sales.

How to overcome 2 common challenges to growing a community

1. Start where you'll have the largest impact

One of the biggest challenges brands face is just getting started. When you're at square one, with zero followers, it can be discouraging and overwhelming to even decide what the first step is. But by focusing on one social media platform where you're most likely to connect with customers, you can help make the challenge much more manageable.

When it comes to building a community online, starting small is the key to success. Even if you have limited resources and a small team, that doesn't mean you can't create an effective presence with your target audience on social media.

By focusing your efforts where they'll have the most impact, you can slowly but surely build up momentum and establish yourself as an authoritative voice in the space. Starting small also allows brands to test different approaches without having to make too many investments upfront, giving them more flexibility when it comes to future community development.

2. Connect and engage with your audience

Showing up in the right place isn't enough—you need to engage your audience to form a meaningful connection. Do market research, so you know what content the audience likes and how to use it.

Pay attention to things like which types of content your audience best responds to. You should also look at your competitor's social media accounts and see which posts get the most likes, comments, and shares.

Support community growth with SMS

Building a strong community on social media is essential for any e-commerce business. While platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are important for connecting with customers, they shouldn't be the only community-building strategy brands use.

SMS can also serve as a contributor to community building by providing a direct line of communication between brands and their customers. Through text messages, you can keep customers engaged by sending out updates about new products or promotions, as well as engaging them in conversations about the brand's mission or values.

Additionally, using text messaging allows you to reach people who may not have access to traditional forms of social media due to age or economic status. By utilizing this powerful tool alongside other forms of social outreach, you can create stronger relationships with their customer base that will last long after the initial purchase has been made.