What is true luxury?

Andy Hayes, a creative entrepreneur and founder of Plum Deluxe, has built a loyal, engaged community founded on the simple belief that true luxury is “a mindset, not a pricetag.” Richness is about connecting with other people, Andy has found. (He sounds like a Quiet Revolutionary!)

Building a community is challenging, but in little over a year, Plum Deluxe has gained over 10,000 Facebook followers and his newsletter has thousands of subscribers. Andy is also a web producer who coaches other brands on creating meaningful connections with customers.

So what are his secrets? Andy gave us 4 steps for creating online communities:

Step 1: Realize you are on a journey

According to Andy, "building a community requires both a strong understanding of your customer's journey, but knowing that you're on a journey of your own." Before developing your community strategy, he recommends sharing your personal story. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know what you want your business or community to achieve?
  • Does your community of customers and followers have a story that reflects your world view?

From there, you can begin building a vibrant community or following where people understand your mission, feel invested and find value from their involvement.

Step 2: Identify your audience

It’s important to understand what your community members or your customers look like. Andy recommends, writing out a very detailed profile of what kind of people you are targeting.

“Make it so detailed that it feels almost uncomfortable. One way I like to think of it is like a personal ad.” Here’s an example of what someone might profile about a Plum Deluxe community member:

“Busy professional woman seeks help in finding ways to enjoy more quality time with friends and close family. Loves food, wine, tea, is fairly organized but not a neat freak. No aspirations to be Martha Stewart, though often has pangs of jealousy for high end kitchen appliances and top shelf interior design styles.”

This description draws a much clearer picture than a “30-40 something women, married no children, lives in urban areas in the United States.”

Once you have a clear picture of who you’re targeting, you’ll be much better able to determine what products or articles or social media posts would resonate with your audience.

Step 3: Select the best the best social channels to promote your community

When you're building a community, you have to get active on social media in your niche, but Andy recommends picking your top 3 social networks and spending your time wisely. For instance, instead of just sitting on your Twitter page watching random tweets roll in, use Twitter search to see who is posting about your company or follow a hashtag that is relevant to your niche. Consider the following statements:

  • Decide what your various platforms are trying to accomplish.
  • Determine the goal of each platform before you choose your tools.
  • Know who your audience. What topics are interesting to them?
  • Monitor to find patterns and trends on social media.

For example, almost 75% Plum Deluxe's new readers come from Pinterest, so they dedicate a lot of time curating beautifully detailed boards.

Step 4: Start a blog

Blogging is an excellent way to use your website to build relationships. Write posts that fit your business and appeal to your target audience.

The key here is providing real value to your customers that connects with them emotionally. Ask people to share their stories, experiences or thoughts on your topics. Make sure to respond to the comments and use them to further the conversation. Sharing how-to features, member stories, and tips allow for great engagement.

Of course, interesting content will also be shared by your customers with their followers, and nothing travels farther than quality content!

Freelancers, how do you go beyond “marketing” to customers to create a loyal community?