In simple terms, an online community is a group of people brought together based on a specific purpose, subject, or concept. Online communities have a broad spectrum in terms of scale – from a handful of book lovers that mutually read and discuss popular titles, to established behemoths like Instagram that boast billions of users globally.
From the perspective of your brand, there are quite a few benefits that can be explored by building online communities. From a rapid surge in brand awareness to building a robust base of loyal customers, the benefits are quite significant and definitely worth pursuing. Moreover, online communities are completely relevant regardless of your industry, which means that you can build an influential online community irrespective of the market or brand you’re working with.
In this article, we shall discuss the basics of building an online community in 2022 and take you through the essentials that help you understand the kind of online community your business needs.
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Building a Successful Online Community for your Business
Even though the task might sound insurmountable at the onset, building an online community is not undoable. Finding the purpose and promotion channels are the essence of building a successful community. The below-mentioned steps can help you get there.
Setting up the Purpose of your Community
As with almost everything else, any great operation begins by asking “Why?”
Knowing why you are setting up the community is the first logical step towards actual execution. To be more specific, the question you should ask yourself is – what experience will my customers gain out of this community?
Now, your community should be directly linked to your business and the domain you operate in. As an example, if you are a travel operator, you may want to launch a travel-related community where your customers get together to share tips, information, and ideas. The inherent idea here will be to provide exclusive tips and information that would be hard to find otherwise. This will also serve to draw members to your community.
Setting up the Team
Now that you have the purpose all figured out, it’s time to outline the members responsible for organizing and operationalizing your community. You must treat this community the way you would any business, and at each stage, your members participate in operations while remaining accountable for specific functions.
One of the most important and essential members that any community will need is a community manager. A community manager is the liason for a particular community between the brand and the audience, and will have similarly overarching responsibilities on both fronts. The ultimate responsibility for the success of your community will lie squarely on their shoulders, and as such, they will be the chief decision-makers for your community.
Selecting the Right Platform
Now that you have the right people at the right places, it’s time to select the right launchpad for your community. The key considerations here include:
• Do you want to build a collaboration-based platform?
• Do you want to keep the community informative?
• How many people should be the right fit for your community?
Let’s address them one by one. First, if you want your customers to simply connect and talk about common interests and topics, then a collaborative community is what you should go for. Do keep in mind that these communities are self-fueled, i.e., the collaboration between users will be key here.
Alternatively, if you wish to build an informative community, you must share content about your products and services searchable by users looking for answers. Here, the onus will be on your team members to constantly update the community with relevant information and titbits to facilitate the smooth inflow of traffic.
And lastly, answering the first question should grant you an idea of the scale of your community. And the platform you choose should reflect that. If you foresee membership in double digits, a WhatsApp group chat might do the trick. However, if there are thousands of members, you might want to harness an existing social media platform like a Facebook group or Reddit.
Build a Rulebook and Setup the Community
Make sure to have a copy of the rules and regulations that people need to click to agree to before becoming full-time members of your community. These rules will ensure that the community runs smoothly and serves the purpose it is originally intended to serve.
Some common rules will include members not being allowed to market their products, restricting profanity and other offensive content, and negative comments on other members.
Once that is taken care of, it’s time to launch the community! Just keep the following points in mind:
• Create community categories based on topics
• Watertight the member registration process
• Configure spam controls
• Outline features to be enabled
• Implement theme to enhance brand recall
• Conduct robust, thorough, and repeated testing
• Spreading the Word
Now that you are all done, only one thing remains – Awareness. Here is a quick list of simple and common things you can do to shoot up the popularity of your community:
• Make it part of your marketing strategy – Treat your community like a commodity that you wish to sell
• Inviting people you know – Make sure everyone you know is aware of the community. Word of mouth can often do wonders.
• Invite everyone else too – Cultivate the habit of talking about your community on all occasions. Remember, the keyword here is awareness. You need people to know what your community offers.
• Offer incentives to members – Build a rewards program for your initial users to invite new users. They know the purpose of your community the best.
• Partnering with influencers – Social media influencers today have huge droves that hang on to their every thought. Chances are, you will find a group of users interested in your community. This might just be worth the investment.
In the age of digital media consumption, the impact of an online community aimed at your business is hard to overstate. With some careful considerations and a little planning, you, too, can get started on building a vibrant community that boosts your business and sets you up on the course of being an industry trendsetter. And that’s something simple marketing ploys might not be able to deliver.