How I Built

a Local Niche Community

from

Scratch!

I was successful enough to build a local niche community, and I’m happy to show you how I did it.

An online community is often misconstrued by its meaning. Just because you have a business, brand, or organization doesn’t always mean an actual community is present. A community takes a lot more effort than just establishing a position within your niche or industry market. A community is way more than that.

The other day, I listened to a Copyblogger Podcast Episode where hosts Ethan Brooks and Tim Stoddart discussed community. It got me thinking about my community and how much of an effort it was for me to create it. I make all my business and brand decisions based on the needs and demands of the local niche community I was able to establish successfully.

I want to break down the most resilient strategies I practiced establishing my community so that you can do it if you want to after realizing what a community is and what it will mean for your niche position. Keep reading if you want to learn more.

 

Choosing the Best Local Niche Community Industry

Too many people choose the wrong niche because of trends or popularity.

Some so-called “marketing experts” will suggest you choose a niche based on what is currently viral. That’s wrong in many ways! From the start, it is essential to know that your niche is something you need to understand and know how to engage.

I can tell you this much. Fashion is a big trend right now. I don’t know the first thing about fashion. I don’t know who the major designers are or what is currently in style. For me, to create a local niche community based around fashion because it’s a current trend would likely result in complete and utter failure.

To be successful at community building, you need to understand the topics of what the community will be about.

 

Go with Your Passion

To avoid failing to develop a community on a topic you’re unsure about, you should turn to what you’re passionate about.

Your greatest passion will be your greatest niche. When you are absolutely passionate about a topic, you can actively engage in that topic most of the time. Passion is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion. If there is a specific topic that you have strong feelings about, that is what you’re passionate about.

I’m highly passionate about hiking and outdoor recreation. My passion extends further into my local National Forest and state parks. Because of that passion, I’ve developed a deeper love for my region. I’m so passionate about these things that I get excited thinking about them every time. I never get bored of it. That is what I define as a passion.

Find that one thing that makes you excitedly happy to think about, and you’ll immediately know your passion.

 

Research Before you Launch

You’ve discovered your passion but must research before building a community.

Just because you’re passionate about a topic doesn’t always mean that it is worth building a local niche community around the topic. See, passions are not always shared by everyone. You must research your topic to see if an audience exists on the internet. If there isn’t an audience, you’d have to establish one, which might take years or even decades. The idea is to start a niche about something you’re passionate about as long as there is an audience for that topic on the internet.

When I was younger, I tried establishing a local community about severe weather chasing. Only I and a few other people in the area were into storm chasing. It was a struggle to try to build a community for it. Ultimately, I quit trying because it took years to make it almost stick. People were just less passionate about it than I was. I eventually lost interest in it myself. But my hiking community is robust because a sizeable existing audience was already established.

If you want to be successful in community development, you need to do the proper research to ensure that you have the element present to succeed in a community.

 

Choosing your Local Niche Community Platforms

There are several platforms for an online community to be established.

For a local niche community, consider not only the digital platforms discussed below but also the offline platforms.

My local hiking community is primarily online, but I often meet with my followers on the trails and in state parks. A local community allows you to meet locals in person if that is something you want to do.

Aside from that, let’s discuss some digital community options that you might consider for your community.

 

Social Media

Social media is likely the best way to establish a community on the internet because of how popular social platforms are.

Social media can be toxic, and some people are using it less and less. But as far as a local niche community goes, it is one of the best platforms to establish them on. It is safe to say that your audience is already on social media. Social media gives you plenty of community tools to help create communities with their platform.

Social media is where I primarily developed my community. I created a social group that now has over 20,000 members. I started numerous social pages with a combination of over 25,000 followers.

If you can see past the problems of social media today and focus on the community, then its platform is likely your best option.

 

Owned Platforms

Social media is excellent, but it’s rented space, and you can lose it all at any time without warning.

When you signup for social media, you probably don’t read the fine print in terms of use. Every platform assures you that they have the right to terminate your account for any reason and without warning. And social media platforms are known to do just that. Social media platforms are rented spaces. Make sure you integrate your social community into your own space, so you don’t lose them all, just in case.

I use social media every single day to engage with my community. But I also use my website and my newsletter to engage with them each day, too. If social media ever boots me off their platform, I still have my audience on my mailing list and their attention on my website. Social media platforms can’t take that away from you.

Don’t go all in on social media, especially when most social platforms are vulnerable. Put the focus on adding your community to a mailing list and start a website to keep them updated. You’ll thank yourself if something insane ever happens to your social accounts.

 

Creating the Actual Local Niche Community

Now that you have a plan of where to start your local niche community, you need to understand how to create the actual community.

Creating a community doesn’t happen overnight. It might take a while. It might even take a few years. It depends on how well you know your audience and how well they come to know you. It will not be successful if you don’t want to put in any work to develop a community. It takes you and a lot of effort to build a community and sustain it afterward.

It took me a few years before I even considered starting a community with my brand. But once I knew it was time, I quickly jumped in and worked hard to get it going. Because of the way things change, especially with internet algorithms, I constantly have to keep up with maintaining my digital community. Still, it has helped that I also created a community offline for it, too.

A thriving community requires a successful leader to lead the community. If you think that is you, then you should keep going.

 

Getting to Know Your Audience

To create a community, you must know and understand your audience first.

This would have been a challenging task in the early days of the internet. But in this modern time, so much information is available that it’s almost overwhelming. Use the internet to your advantage to learn about your audience and understand what makes them tick. Find your audience on social media, discussion forums, and blogs. Read about what they have to say and collect information. Understand their most important questions and most worrisome concerns about the niche.

When I was first building my community, I focused on creating YouTube videos about local hiking trails that people were asking about. I would then start creating videos based on those trails. I eventually started making trail guides on my blog to give my audience a place to get the information they wanted the most.

How can you create a realistic local niche community if you don’t find and research your audience?

 

Getting Known by Your Audience

Knowing your audience isn’t enough to establish a community. Your audience also needs to know you.

You have to put yourself out in front of your audience. You have to make yourself known. This happens when you have authority or expertise in your niche industry. If you make your knowledge and authority public in front of your audience, it can help you start to establish a community. If you’re not an expert, you need to start working on your expertise while you befriend your audience members and get to know them and their needs.

I mentioned above that I started creating videos and trail guides about the trails and areas my audience asked about most. Now that I’ve got to know my audience and they have got to know me when people ask about trail information, my videos and guides are often what people share with them. I’ve become known enough to where my community voluntarily shares my resources with those needing information about them.

You need to know your audience, but your audience also needs to know who you are and that you’re a leader in the niche.

 

Engaging with the Local Niche Community

A community isn’t a community without engagement.

Engagement will continue to develop and sustain your community because you constantly interact with your audience. Simple communication isn’t always the definition of engagement. Saying hello and then leaving it at that isn’t engagement. Saying hello and then continuing with follow-up questions to keep the discussions going is engagement. Engagement is about keeping the conversation going and encouraging your audience to communicate and engage with one another.

I engage with my audience as much as possible. I engage with them through every outlet that I can. Engagement is done through social media, digital properties, and even offline.

Reach is a powerful tool for engagement. Make sure you have plenty of it.

 

Be an Online Superstar

Engagement online is critical for any local niche community.

But any engagement isn’t always the best engagement. Like the title says, be an online superstar. You not only need to engage your community, but you also need to engage consistently with them. Keep the conversation going while creating new ones. Social media, discussion forums, and other forms of online communication make this simple but still complex simultaneously. Simplicity is the platform available for engagement. The complexity is YOUR ability to engage consistently.

I use a content scheduling tool to consistently post new content that engages my community on social media. I use a content calendar to ensure that scheduled posts are completed in advance. This allows me to automate my content distribution to focus more effort on the actual discussion and engagement with my audience.

To be an online superstar for your local niche community, you must be as active as you can be and then some.

 

Be an Offline Superstar

When it comes to a local community, your offline presence is often just as significant as your online presence.

A local niche means that people in your local area are into the topic that you’re into. If you get outside and mingle in public, chances are, you will run into other people that are a part of your community. They’ll probably recognize you and want to be close to you. You should embrace this benefit because it will only strengthen your expertise and authority. Be just as much of a superstar offline as you are online.

Offline, I host guided group hikes. I do physical and virtual presentations about local area hiking at libraries, chamber of commerce meetings, and universities. I’ve collaborated with state and federal public land management partners. I’m heavily involved in local Non-profit organizations that support public land management. I’m “Hiking with Shawn” offline just as much as I am online.

A true local niche community leader will lead a community on and off the internet.

 

Local Niche Community vs. Local Niche Brand

There is a misconception about the local niche community and a local niche brand that you should know about.

Some business and brand leaders make the mistake of assuming their brand or business is a community. Just because you have fans or followers doesn’t mean your thing is a community. A community has many different ways it functions than how a brand functions. A community also has a lot to do with decision-making in a brand.

For the longest time, “Hiking with Shawn” was only a brand. I created projects based on what I thought was ideal at the time. Those projects were successful because I researched the potential. But I still made those decisions solely on my own. My brand was just a brand at that time.

Understanding brand and community differences are essential for every potential community leader.

 

You make a Brand’s Decisions

Who is making your brand’s decisions?

Most of the time, you, the owner or founder of the brand, make all the decisions. When you are making decisions, you’re a brand. You’re not yet a community until your decisions are manipulated by other people in your audience, not just people in your centralized organization.

As I said before, I made all the decisions for my brand for the longest time. I gave projects a timeline with an objective; if they never succeeded at the objective, I scrapped the project. I never asked for feedback about it. I just did it based on my goals and objectives. Many brands do this, and it isn’t a bad thing.

You’re just a brand or a business when making all the decisions. You’re not entirely up to the community level just yet. And you don’t necessarily need to form a community every time. Sometimes a brand is simply the best possible option.

 

The Community can Make Your Brand’s Decisions, too!

Once an audience changes how you make your brand’s decisions, a community begins to establish itself.

The audience’s method of changing the way you think about your brand is a powerful resource. When you focus on pleasing your audience enough to where they’re the more prominent decision-maker, your brand has an ongoing community effort. To allow others who follow you to dictate your brand’s next moves is one of the true meanings of establishing a community.

All the videos that I create are for my community. All the guides that I make are for my community. I don’t create content or informational resources unless I get feedback from my community demanding that content. Hiking with Shawn is a community-driven brand because it is no longer about the induvial Hiking with Shawn (me); it’s now about everyone who is Hiking with Shawn (community). My brand’s mission is to support the local community and economic development of local businesses and townships by promoting regional outdoor recreation and tourism.

Once you start letting your audience make your decisions and focusing on the local area as a big part of your mission, you’ve initiated the establishment of a local niche community.

 

Creating a local community around a specific niche is challenging but possible. You have to do your research and ensure you choose the right strategies discussed in this article. I’ve been successful in creating and sustaining a local community. You can do it, too, but you must start doing it now.

Shawn Gossman

About the Author

Shawn Gossman has created content, blogged, ran online communities, and shared a passion for digital marketing for over twenty years. Shawn believes the best way to help content creators, businesses, brands, and marketers is to give away more than you sell. The same advice is recommended for the readers that follow this blog. Shawn also offers a variety of services for extra help in the area of content creation, blogging, forums, and digital marketing. Learn more about Shawn Gossman by clicking here.

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