Find out What your Followers Want

This is the second of a series of five posts about promoting your website.  It may seem obvious and  few organisations do it.   Find out what your followers want.  We easily convince ourselves that we know what our followers want and it happens to be what we can provide!

Use your email list to invite comments or suggestions, eg to suggest products and services.   If you do this, be sure you sign people up to your list with their consent; if you collect email addresses for some other purpose and then sign them up, they have every reason to be upset.  When you ask for their email address, be clear about what you will do with it.

Finding Followers’ Views in Real Life

In a real-life business, followers can respond either online or in real life.  If they respond in real life, eg through a questionnaire, ask them to leave their email address to join your email list.

So, if you are a baker you might find out which types of loaf are popular, whether they would like recipes or how they would like you to extend your business, eg by adding a coffee shop.

You can ask people to discuss issues outside your business.  So, perhaps a community group wants to canvass opinions in the area.  The baker’s might offer to ask their followers for their views.  In return, the community group might have a list they can contact on the baker’s behalf?

The ground rules are:

  • At the very least acknowledge all serious contributions.  (A questionnaire in the shop may result in a brief report on a leaflet or poster; this could summarise both online and real life responses.)
  • If you pick up an idea, discuss it with the people who suggest it; acknowledge them in some way.
  • Use your list to help other organisations in your area, in return for their support promoting yours.  There is every reason for a local business to be supportive of local activities.

Charging for services is not always necessary; when it is, you can use your email list.  Don’t be afraid of people falling out with you if you make them an offer.  It isn’t compulsory to buy from you and whilst many on your list might not respond, if you build on the trust you’ve already generated, then it might work for you.   Those who are really upset can unsubscribe.

We need to be much more inventive about using online media locally.  The private sector is often distanced from community activities.  Do you have examples of how small businesses have participated in community activities?

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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