Building an online community is a cost-effective marketing strategy.
Not all brands have the resources to put together focus groups or invest in research studies. Do you identify with these problems?
Online communities can be the solution for you.
Don’t know how to build an online community?
In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about online communities, how to build one, and why you must!
Excited to build your online community?
Let’s get started!
What Is An Online Community?
An online community is a group of people that shares interests or values and communicates with each other online. Online communities can be branded or free.
Branded Community Or Owned Community
A branded community is one created by an organization for its users. Such a community is typically hosted on the brand’s own platform and has strict entry barriers.
These communities are created to satisfy the needs of the consumers and must address this goal directly.
The organization exercises many restrictions and controls over this type of community.
Free communities are hosted on third-party platforms. There are fewer restrictions on entry and only the platform’s rules apply.
Some examples of such free communities are Quora, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram.
Why Is It Important To Build an Online Community for Your Business?
If you’re a business, then building an online community is important for you. Here are a few reasons why.
- To understand your existing and potential consumers
- Build trust in the minds of users
- Communicate with users in one place
- Save research costs
- Get honest feedback on products
- Reduce customer support costs
- Gain key points and use them for product innovation
- Improve marketing messages based on consumer inputs
- Find keywords used by consumers to craft better copy
- Increase consumer satisfaction, retention, and acquisition rate
- Increase demand for a product or service
- To become an industry expert
Steps for Building an Online Community
1. Define the Purpose, Goals, and Needs of the Community
Every business must first ask itself what the purpose of their online community is.
A purpose will give your actions a direction and a goal and the consumers a clear reason to join. The purpose should also solve a consumer problem directly.
Defining goals is also important if you want to use your online community to achieve a result. These goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-specific).
But your job does not end after outlining the purpose and goals. You’ve also got to put together a plan of action and set KPIs to measure your progress.
Here’s an example.
You start by setting goals for six months at once. Then you list KPIs that you will be studying at the beginning, during, and end of these six months.
Here are some KPIs to check the progress of your online community.
- Engagement rate
- Conversion rate
- Sign-up rate
- Click-through rate (CTR)
2. Identify Potential Members and Build Their Profile
Once you know who the stakeholders are, find out who makes up the rest of your community. By this, we mean the community members (consumers).
How do you find out who these members are? By creating a member profile.
Answering the questions below will help you build a member profile.
- Who is the target consumer of your products?
- Whose problem does your community aim to solve?
- How do they prefer to engage with a community?
- What are their social media habits or behaviors?
- What content do they like to consume?
But why do you need to build a profile for the members?
A member profile will
- Help you build your community on the right platform
- Help you craft the right marketing message
- Identify where your potential members are and publish your copy there for maximum exposure
- Prepare proper guidelines around the community to make members feel safe and seen
3. Pick a Platform to Host Your Community
The next step is to choose the right platform for your community.
So how do you select the right platform? The right platform should:
- Allow you some control over community activity
- Host the required number of people
- Be appropriate for your business
- Help you achieve your goal
- Encourage community members to engage with the community
As we mentioned earlier, there are two types of online communities—free and owned. These are differentiated based on the platform they are hosted on.
Free communities are hosted on a (third-party) free platform and owned communities are hosted on brand-owned platforms.
4. Craft a Plan of Action
A plan of action keeps your community activity on the right track that is beneficial for your business.
It will tell you what to do next when the community members aren’t active for a while. If you don’t know how to craft one, ask your company’s marketing team for help.
5. Assign Roles to Internal Stakeholders
Internal stakeholders are the members of your organization who are assigned specific roles and jobs in the community. These are the stakeholders who will help you organize your community and run it efficiently.
How many stakeholders you need depends on how big your community is and the number of jobs that need executors. Typically, every community should have stakeholders to work in the following roles.
This is the most important role in the hierarchy of stakeholders.
The community manager’s role involves making sure the community is running smoothly. They work closely with both the community stakeholders and community members (consumers).
Individuals from various departments in the company can work on tasks related to their area of specialty in the online community as well. You can assign any person from a particular department for a related task and managerial role.
Here’s an example.
A brand identity designer is assigned the role to create guidelines for aligning community identity with that of the brand.
They will also need to help address feedback on the online community that’s related to their department.
You may also want to assign temporary or specific roles to stakeholders. These roles involve addressing situations. For example,
- Deleting inappropriate posts that violate community guidelines
- Responding to complaints on the community page
- Removing or taking appropriate action against members who violate community guidelines
6. Outline Community Rules And Norms
You’ve set the barriers to entry on your community platform and group. But how do you make sure the people in the community group don’t promote their products or use profanity?
By exercising control over the group and setting some ground rules first.
Use clear and minimal words to outline these rules. Also note down the disciplinary action or result that members must face for not following the rules.
Once you’ve decided on the rules and norms of your community, make sure to publish them for all members and stakeholders to see.
7. Align Community Identity With Brand Identity
Aligning your community identity with your brand’s identity will help you create a stronger sense of connection among the community members.
But how do you do this?
You can start by aligning the visual elements and move on to defining voice, tone, and communication guidelines for stakeholders.
8. Set Up Your Community and Run a Demo
You can now begin setting up your community and categorize it as necessary. This will involve setting up multiple groups for niche communities within the larger community.
The next step involves ensuring the sign-in process is simple and the instructions, easy to understand. You can conduct a trial run where stakeholder members go through the sign-in process and point out any difficulties. Now’s the time to fix these issues and familiarize yourself with the platform to resolve consumer queries later.
You may also choose to keep the launch private or do an internal soft launch first to identify and fix issues.
9. Set Up Spam Control
reCAPTCHA is a useful tool that prevents spam accounts from creating member profiles on your community page. After all, you don’t want your community to serve SPAM accounts, do you?
10. Promote Your Community on Other Platforms
You’ve done all your research and found the best platforms to market your community. Now’s the time to go out there and let people know about your community.
You can ask the marketing manager to take the lead on this.
Promote your community by sharing its purpose, member profile, and USP.
With the average person spending a total of 23 hours a week online, online communities have become an integral part of our world.
An online community is a great way for brands to build stronger relationships with their users. A healthy community can help you develop better products, reduce errors, and address user concerns. It’s also a great way to gain insight into consumer behavior, needs, desires, and problems.
If you were clueless on how to build an online community before, we hope you aren’t anymore.
Did our guide help you? Let us know what your purpose for creating an online community is in the comments below!