My online community is a huge part of what drives my business, but it’s so much more than that to me. The people that follow my journey via Instagram stories and Facebook posts and emails and podcast episodes have become such a massive, special, important part of my life. They help me channel my purpose, they drive the content we create, and they help me stay connected to the impact I want to make.
Plus, I have a secret for you… the grand majority of that community building and connection making has been 100 percent free. No receipts, no huge marketing budget, and no buying followers over here, okay? For me, it’s all been about finding simple ways to grow, serve and foster a community online based solely on relationship-building and heart-centered strategies.
That method has helped me reach tens of thousands of people in our Facebook Goal Digger podcast insiders community, hundreds of thousands of email subscribers, and close to a million followers on Instagram, but it’s way deeper than follower numbers and social media clicks. I promise you, it works.
We’re going to dive into my go-to methods for building a genuine, trusting audience that becomes your community… all for free. Trust me here, because these are the same steps I’ve taken to build a community online that I turn to when I need feedback on new resources to create, what people need help on, and where they are getting stuck and that acts as a sounding board for so much of my life, work or not.
Focus on the people
To be honest, there’s just no community to build if you’re not focusing on who you want surrounding you. One of my favorite ways to attract people with similar goals and like-minded visions is actually suuuper easy — join groups where you know the people you’d love to interact with are interacting!
Facebook groups are a great place to do this… and these groups make Facebook way better than it usually is, am I right?
There are tons of Facebook groups geared toward hyper specific interests, but also broader groups of people too. From groups of people who live near each other all the way to groups of people who, hint hint, love a specific podcast, there are so many places that you can make friends on the internet.
Seriously, jump onto Facebook and type in a keyword of something you love: barbecue, the state you live in, a hobby — there are likely hundreds if not thousands of communities around a topic you’re passionate about. Join a few of those groups, spend some time simply engaging and adding value, and then take the time to introduce yourself and what you do or why you’re there!
When you start joining and interacting in spaces that your people are likely hanging out in, the internet just becomes more fun… and starts to help you build a community in itself. Make sure to engage in posts, ask questions, share wins, and offer encouragement in those groups to begin building a sort of presence people come to rely on.
If you’re feeling up for it, create your own group around a topic that you’re passionate about and invite others into it! Creating and hosting a community is an incredible way to add massive value and to serve others!
The biggest way to start, foster, or grow a community is by being an active leader or member and staying focused on being a giver, not a taker. Be sure you’re utilizing your own accounts on channels like Instagram to be a cheerleader and to speak and connect with your following, no matter how large or little it might be.
One of my favorite things to do is to occasionally hop on my Instagram feed and invite everyone who’s following along to pop in the comments, to shamelessly plug themselves and tell everyone a little more about themselves, the goal is that they find a connection point with someone else! I can’t tell you how many times someone has messaged me to tell me that they found a new friend or a new client just from opting into that little slice of interaction! Create opportunities for others and make sure you share about yourself when you see them!
Another great strategy for community building on Instagram is to be intentional about which accounts you follow. Following like-minded individuals with a vision of life and business parallel to your own is great, and I’d say about 10% of who you follow on Instagram should be in that category.
But you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you only followed and engaged with accounts on any platform that think, act, and look just like you! Don’t trap yourself into an echo chamber of the same ideas on repeat ad nauseum. Fill that other 90% up with creators, dreamers, doers, and leaders that intersect with maybe ONE area you’re interested in, but who show up in completely different ways.
Now, following other accounts is JUST the first step. One challenge I have for you is to find 10 accounts that you just love. Their followings are likely aligned with yours, their content inspires you, you feel like you’re apart of their community and turn on post notifications for those 10 accounts. Every time they post, take a few minutes to leave a meaningful, heartfelt comment on their posts. The odds are that it might catch their eye if you stay consistent and that their community might click to see what you’ll all about after reading your comments. It’s a great way to connect with more like-minded people, to cheer on someone who inspires you, and to build your own community.
Provide value for your people
I think the most important thing I can tell people, whether they’re working to scale their business or to build their online communities, is to focus LESS on the metrics and numbers and the like, and more on how to genuinely add value to others every step of the way. How can you offer support? How can you give encouragement? How can you ask questions that people want to answer? How can you serve the people in your audience… or in others?
I’m not saying you need to be sharing rocket science day in and day out… not even close. I can tell you from personal experience within my own business and from the people I love watching online that the smallest things are often most impactful! The things that come naturally to us or that seem second nature might be mind blowing or life changing and so helpful to someone else.
I legitimately shared a few tips on how I prep my bone broth a few months ago on Insta-stories and had so many people saying they were going to try out my little made-up recipe… So random, but it was a way to share a little piece of my life that might help others!
If you’re looking for new ways to add value into your feed without seeming super off-brand or like you’re trying too hard, then I have a few simple tricks. Look at sharing value in terms of sharing things that are important or special to you, things that not everyone knows, or by sharing things that have been helpful or impactful for you.
I love using the JK5 technique for this one. I’ve gone into it a couple of podcast episodes, but if you’re new around here, the JK5 is simply my practice of choosing five important-to-you topics to rotate in and out of your feed, your content, and your stories.
For me, you can usually trust that I’m sharing in one of these five categories: 1. being a mama, 2. practicing presence and mindfulness, 3. Movement, wellness, and the outdoors… because Minnesota truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth, 4. self-growth, and 5. business.
This has allowed me to share value that actually, truly, intentionally aligns with my life, it’s things that are easy for me to talk about, and it’s what is important, special, and helpful for me to share…
One of my other favorite ways to add value is to add a little bit of exclusivity into it by spending some extra time serving and loving on my community. Create a newsletter or an insider’s club, and pour into it! Give exclusive content, create support opportunities, invite in responses, provide incentives and make it a fun little happy house in your subscriber’s inbox! People don’t like to feel like they’re missing out, which is why creating something like this can inspire and spur more people to join the party and when they join, they definitely want to stick around.
It’s easy when talking about community to focus on the masses but the truth is, true community is built one by one. Never ever forget the power of ONE. If your DM requests fill up with questions or if you get emails from your community, set a timer for 15 minutes a day and show up for those people taking the time to connect with you one on one. Answer those questions, thank them for supporting you, show those people that you are committed to serving and celebrating with them whenever possible.
Engage and encourage
There are a couple of ways to do this that I really love, both in my personal life and in my business — and you simply cannot ignore the impact of a simple check-in type of encouragement.
Decide how you can check in and encourage your online community. Maybe that’s sending a voice message to answer a question via DM, or maybe it’s sharing an encouraging message on Stories. Maybe that’s doing something as simple as engaging your audience with a poll on how they’re feeling or sharing a playlist that gets you in a better mood.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to show up, as long as you show up! Check in on your people. Encourage them. Respond to them. Use their name when you’re communicating with them. You want to make people feel seen, heard, understood, and noticed. Give others value in that way!
Fun fact: no one on my team has my login to my Instagram. I’ve never given anyone else access to my account and so if I ever respond to you, it is TRULY me. I never want to outsource that aspect of community and I always want to be in conversation with my followers.
Always be sure to put the real you out there when you’re engaging with others. No one wants to have someone popping up in their comments or their inboxes with vague, copied-and-pasted responses or emoji blasts. No thank you! I can promise you that taking the extra step to put some thought into what you’re saying can truly go the extra mile. It’s a good idea to ask yourself: “would I feel inspired if someone said this to me?” If not, don’t do it. Genuine words first, always.
One of the newest places I’m building community is over on Clubhouse! At first I was super leery about the new platform and I’m not normally one to jump over to the latest and greatest new app because I want to just focus on where my people already are, but Clubhouse has been surprisingly fun and I’ve already made some incredible connections on it.
I’ve gotten to listen to people I probably would have never met, been a moderator with other leaders who I’ve followed but never shared a stage with, and I’ve gotten to interact with my followers on a more intimate level. It’s been so cool to see how you can foster a community with just your voice and so while I don’t spend a ton of time on there, I’ve seriously enjoyed the way Clubhouse has introduced me to new humans to follow online!
The Big Picture
There’s a quote I absolutely love by a rather important guy by the name of Pope John Paul II, because he says it so, so well:
“We are all one family in the world. Building a community that empowers everyone to attain their full potential through each of us respecting each other’s dignity, rights, and responsibilities makes the world a better place to live.”
The world we live in can be really hard and unyielding and scary sometimes… so why not focus on creating communities that bring out the good in every single person? I truly believe that we each have a job to curate communities big and small that mean something, and that little online world we can access from the palms of our hands gives us a really special place to do so.
If it benefits our businesses, too? Heck yes. That’s awesome. But it’s soooo much deeper than that… and I’m so thankful to have each and every one of you be a part of this Goal Digger community, too. Now go forth and engage, encourage, build, and grow! As always, I’m so dang proud of you.