Building an online community is unequivocally an important part of creating an enterprise of any size, be it a niche expert, online course creator, or a Fortune 500 company. An online community helps to increase brand recognition and revenue.
In addition to generating traffic to your website and helping you retain customers, communities can turn your followers into evangelists that promote your brand. You can identify what your members are interested in and what concerns them. In turn, you know what you can offer them.
You can reap incredible benefits from starting your own community if you do so correctly. It’s all about building a strong foundation: planning an engaging online community that will thrive, and building loyalty among your members, customers, employees, or users.
What is an online community?
The term online community refers to a group of people who are unified by common interests, goals, and opinions who meet in a virtual area.
For example, if your business goals are to share fitness learnings and transformation stories from your program, this may look like a private group. It may also look like an open forum where thousands meet to share resources and feedback.
You can use an online community to foster meaningful connections with your followers, regardless of your platform of choice. Online communities allow you to:
- Discuss topics that matter to the members
- Interact with brands, online course instructors, and other community figures
- Exchange knowledge
- Work together on different projects and exchange advice and news
How to build an online community in 7 steps?
Creating an online community is an effective marketing strategy. In comparison to brands attempting to gather feedback through focus groups or customer research, brands with online communities will have a tremendous advantage.
In order to build an online community, you need patience, strategy, and creativity. Here are seven steps to help you develop an online community of any kind.
1. Define the goal of your community
The first step towards building a successful community for your organization is to understand the goals and motivations behind the need or decision for one.
A solid plan at the beginning is vital to avoiding obstacles that could prevent online communities from becoming truly valuable. While some communities have discovered the secrets of engagement, others have struggled to build an online community that’s truly valuable. A community’s goals should be based on both the goals of your organization and the goals of your users.
Community is often viewed as a siloed offering, relegated to one department, like marketing, rather than part of the whole organization. However, different teams within your organization can overlap their goals so that strategies work together. If you figure all of this out at the start, you’ll ensure your community effort succeeds.
What are the benefits of creating a community for both you and your members? It is also crucial that you understand the goals that stakeholders are seeking.
2. Assess your user’s needs
As you develop an online community, be sure to consider both why your organization needs it and what your users are looking for.
What are people looking for when they join a community? What can they expect? A sense of camaraderie, insider knowledge, or answers to a question might motivate you to reach out.
Creating a community that belongs to your users, not to you, is the key to its success. While you will gain from this, it is your users – and their needs – that must come first, in order for you to be successful. However, you can blend your organizational goals with what will be valuable to your users.
Before creating an online community, consider how users will access it, what content they will engage with, and how they will communicate.
- Access: In what ways do they like to communicate?
- Content: What kind of content is valuable to them?
- Communication: What prevents them from communicating with their peers and collaborating with your organization?
If you’re ready to initiate conversations with your future online community members, be sure to assess their behavioural inclinations and social affinity for various collaboration opportunities (this will make it easier to develop a community engagement plan).
3. Choose a community platform
In order to build an engaged community, it is necessary to build it in the right place. For community-builders, there are many options available, some of which can be integrated with a newsletter or membership site. A few examples are listed below:
- Slack – The communication platform Slack is more designed for teams than for communities, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of community builders such as Nomadlist and Demand Curve from using it for this purpose.
- FLOOR – FLOOR is an all-in-one platform to build, grow, and deliver immersive experiences for your community. You can host engaging discussions, live streams, chats, and more using a single platform.
- Discord – Discord is most commonly used by gaming communities since it is a Slack-style chat application. It takes just a few clicks to set up a server on Discord.
- Ease of use: Easy-to-use tools are more likely to be used. Make sure your platform is easy to sign in to, has easy navigation, and can be accessed from a mobile device.
- Affordable cost: Even if your intention is to make the group free for members, many robust community tools come with a cost. Consider a tool that provides an affordable entry-level price point, does not take a percentage of your profits, and will scale with you as your business grows.
- Alignment with goals: As you spent time exploring why and how your group exists, you should have a good sense of what features will help you accomplish these goals. There are various platforms that can serve different purposes, so it’s worth trying them out before selecting one.
4. Set up, organize, and onboard
As soon as you’ve selected a platform, the next phase of your work revolves around nailing down the details of what your members will see and experience.
Among the tasks to keep in mind are:
Set up: Create a group name, customize branding colours and imagery, and check member settings (language, permissions, etc.).
Organization: Organization: What channels/rooms/threads are available? How will you initiate and encourage interaction? Do you have a schedule for certain types of content?
Onboarding: When a member logs in, what is the first thing they will see? Do the community rules appear publicly? Do new members receive any special emails or checklists? Do new members have access to an introductions area?
Your approach to each of these will depend on the type of community you want to build.
5. Create content
In order for users to come to you and not immediately leave, you need to create starting content around which the community will grow. You can fill your blog with articles on your topic, for example, if your community is a blog. You can also invite guest bloggers to contribute. You are sure to have your own thoughts and ideas on the subject. Feel free to share them with your community.
Use simple language, as if you were talking to a friend. You set the format for your visitors with your articles. Visitors will find it easier to express ordinary thoughts than to create a masterpiece. Make your website, app, or social media page a convenient entry point to other resources by collecting links to the most useful resources on your topic.
6. Launch, promote, and track
In order to build an online community, you must recruit people to join it and then measure what they do once they are there.
Here are a few tips on how you can start a paid community:
Start by inviting early adopters or VIP members from your existing audience.
Let your list know you’re launching a new community, and offer them free or discounted access for a month. Consider inviting your most active members personally first if you know who they are.
Make sure you check out the statistics that your chosen tool provides.
FLOOR, for example, allows admins to track analytics such as the number of members added, how many are active or inactive, and what spaces are generating the most engagement.
You can use this type of information to gauge what’s working so you have more data to make future decisions.
7. Moderate your community
Take the time to determine who will be in charge of your community and how many hours they should plan to devote to it on a weekly or monthly basis, whether you’re a solo creator or part of a team.
Start by answering some basic questions in a shareable document about how the group should function:
- What is the process for inviting and adding new members?
- What kind of language and topics will be tolerated?
- What will be done about conducting issues and removing members?
- Where can you find inspiration or guidance as you create your own community?
You can use these items to create the rules that members must follow.
Most groups post a public version of the rules so that members can ensure they are following the community’s best practices. Explicit guidelines can go a long way toward curbing unwanted content in your community while keeping it relevant and appealing to new members
The easier it is to maintain (by setting clear expectations, asking for help, and using automation when possible), the longer it will be around to serve its members.
Online communities can be powerful amplifiers. Your audience’s loyalty, trust, and engagement with your content can be boosted with them. However, these rewards come at a cost, as healthy communities require time and effort.
Build, engage, and manage every member of your community effortlessly via an all-in-one community platform – FLOOR. Request a free demo today.