5 Tips FOR Fostering a Community of Engaged fans on Ravelry

One of the biggest lessons I've learned from being a small business owner is that my product (my patterns) will sell if I do one of two things (both is better): 1) my pattern fulfills a need or 2) the customer is able to make a personal connection with my work or brand. I'll be focusing on #2 in this post.

The topic for this blog post was requested by a dear friend of mine who was feeling frustrated on how to use Ravelry in order to better engage with her audience. She wanted to know how I was able to foster a community there, especially in the forums. So I'll be sharing 5 tips on how to foster a community of engaged fans on Ravelry. 

1. Figure Out What You Want to Use Each Platform For

I use several different platforms to connect with my audience: Instagram, Facebook, my blog and Ravelry, and I use each one with a select purpose in mind. I use Instagram to put my best foot forward (that's why I'm so particular about what images I post there), Facebook to show a more relaxed side of me as well as some behind-the-scenes looks, my blog to educate, inspire and motivate and the Ravelry group to have conversations with my followers.

By separating each platform for a select purpose, your audience can choose to follow you based on how they want to interact with you.

2. Host Routine Threads for Participation

Before I started up my first Aroha Knits KAL, every week I had a let's chat topic that I would pose to my group to get a conversation started and also get to know my followers better. To encourage participation, I entice my followers with a giveaway prize. All they had to do was post one in the thread to be entered and the more weeks they participated in, the more times their name would be entered in for the running. And at the end of the month (or four weeks) I would draw the winner and announce it. The prizes were pretty simple, a pattern of choice or a surprise package from Japan (many of the winners wanted the package). This resulted in engagement in the forums every week, where knitters from around the world got to chat with each other and with me!

This created a greater bond between the brand and the audience. And I say greater bond for the brand to the audience and not the other way around: by getting to know my audience better and seeing the engagement weekly, it drove me to want to provide better products for them. Basically, every day I love you all a little bit more so I want to do better for you.

3. Use Your Other Social Media Outlets to Link to Your Ravelry Group

When I posted my weekly let's chat threads, I made sure to announce it on my Instagram and Facebook. Why? Because my audience on those two outlets were growing weekly. I wanted to give the new members the chance to connect with me and the rest of the community in different ways.

4. Don't Be Afraid to Bring In Help

Managing a Ravelry group, posting consistently to Instagram and Facebook, writing blog posts, preparing new designs and products all while trying to stay healthy and happy takes a LOT of work. I found out that posting weekly topics to Ravelry took a lot of work for me and tired me out so I asked a community member who participated often and enjoyed being part of the community to come on as a moderator. We switched back and forth every week for the let's chats and it really helped me. You don't have to do everything alone!

5. Participate in Not Just Your Group, But Others As Well

Ok. I'm going to say upfront that this is a do as I say, not as I do because this is something I do need to work on. That said, participating in your group should be a no-brainer. However, it is also a good idea to post in other groups as well, especially in the general threads (such as "Designers", "Budding Designers"). Putting your name out for others to see is important for developing name recognition (as it goes without saying...). Double points if you are able to provide value to the threads you post in and people will start tagging you for your expertise. I struggle with this because I am more of a lurker. If you also struggle with this, but know that it is a good idea to participate in these threads, set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day to just writing one post or reply in a thread you feel like you could really contribute to. And then click out of the thread and don't return to it until the next day. 

Tip: If you want to start your own group, you can do so by going to the tab "Groups" then clicking on "Start a Group Now". 

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