Building a Community Around Your New Online Store

Building a Community Around Your New Online Store

This is a Guest Post by Fast Company Expert Blogger Shawn Graham

You’ve done it. You’ve created an online store. You’ve found just the right template, uploaded photos of your products that are sure to turn some heads, and created a contact page to make it as easy as possible for new customers to get it touch. But that’s just the start. If you want to drive people to your new ecommerce site in droves, you need to think big and build a community around your business. Here are 4 things to consider: 

Make Online Shopping Social

Almost 70% of the companies on the “Internet Retailer 500” list don’t have a social plug in. That means most aren’t taking full advantage of existing social media channels to increase awareness about their businesses, drive traffic to their sites, and generate dialogue with potential customers.

Once you decide to dip your toes into the social media pool, make sure you’ve established some goals (x number of new followers, x% increase in web traffic, x% increase in product sales, etc.) and developed a clearly defined and sustainable content strategy (what are you going to talk about?, where will your content come from?, how often will you post? etc.). 

When possible, be sure to include those juicy product photos and some well written teaser content as part of your social media status updates. That way, you’re able to tell your story using a combination of words and images, increasing the likelihood that you’ll really grab the reader’s attention.

Build Awareness Constantly and Consistently

Start by creating a unique voice across all your promotional channels (in-store, e-mail, social media, and your website and ecommerce platform). Then look for every opportunity to educate your customers on what they’ll be able to find online. You want to convince them it will be worth their while to check out your new ecommerce site by highlighting some of the potential benefits which might include a wider product selection, lower prices, or convenience (if they live out of town or want to save on gas).

“Awareness is absolutely imperative,” said Matt Schmitt, President and Chief Experience Officer of Reflect Systems, a full-service provider of in-store digital media solutions. “Using services like Shopify can give a business a jump-start in ecommerce but then the needle gets moved from 'How do I set up an ecommerce platform?' to 'How do I get customers to my site?'” Schmitt added.

Harness the Power of Happy Customers

If you’ve created an unforgettable in-store and/or online shopping experience for your customers, they’re going to want to tell others. Provide them with the information they need to help you tell your story. Use enewsletters and social media channels to highlight new offerings and incentive programs to encourage them to help spread the love.

Monitor, Measure, and Tweak as Needed

Once you’re off and running, be sure to take a look under the hood to see what’s working and what isn’t. Look at your analytics to see how much time people are spending on your site, where exactly they’re coming from, and which items and pages are the most popular. Use the data to help you continually enhance your offerings and marketing efforts. When you do, you’ll be able to drive better results. 


Shawn Graham is an Expert Blogger for Fast Company, a nationally acclaimed speaker, and a marketing/brand strategist for badass small businesses. He's also the author of Courting Your Career, a highly successful book about matching yourself with the perfect job. He's a former Associate Director at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the former Assistant Dean and Director of MBA Services at the University of Pittsburgh. You should check out Shawn's website and  follow him on Twitter


  • Rachel Miller
    Rachel Miller
    November 10 2011, 12:00PM

    Cool, I love Fast Company!

  • Justin Winter
    Justin Winter
    November 11 2011, 10:59AM

    This is a great starting point and primer to developing community around your brand. With Diamond Candles we have found that (for our market at least) a very active facebook presence, consistent promotions on our blog and on our facebook for our existing customers and fans to participate in, and an extremely responsive and quality customer service experience has been keys for great community fostering.

    We have done a lot of testing and tweaking with different types of promotions that our fans are more apt to participate inso we can make sure we are doing things that people enjoy participating in.

  • Mike Mason
    Mike Mason
    March 16 2012, 02:49PM

    Great article Mark,

    Worth noting as well is producing an internal manifesto that acts as a guiding light when conversing with customers on the web. We’ve found it quite useful when several employees are managing our social channels. The manifesto is a great way to keep the brand voice consistant and develop lasting relationships.

    Here is ours:

    It’s actually s sub segment of a comprehensive how-to created by the former senior marketing manager at Megan Berry. Her approach to community building is much like the lean development approach to building web apps. It is a paid item but worth checking out.

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