Online communities have been gaining traction for a long time now. Social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram indeed steal much of the limelight. But, online communities are rising in popularity too! They are a safe space for people to connect with like-minded individuals from all over the world. Besides, online communities offer business value through driving engagement, building customer relationships, offering support, and creating awareness.
Here is a compilation of 7 rules and practices community builders should follow to make a mark in the competitive digital landscape.
1. Define the goals and purpose of your community
You may have many goals in mind for your community, but it’s best to focus on a small, achievable proportion of the goals. But remember, people, don’t join communities for the fun of it. They get on board only if they believe there is some value in return. Hence, community builders must ensure that the goals represent values for the business and the community. For instance, a brand community can create value through product innovation, enhanced customer support, discounts, incentives, encouraging members to share their experiences, and promoting an inclusive culture.
2. Lay down community rules and guidelines
Online communities are winning over popular social platforms. One of the main reasons is that communities offer a welcoming space, free of abuse, harassment, and trolls. Hence, as a community creator, it is your responsibility to put forth a moderation strategy to keep your community members protected from any kind of mistreatment. Community guidelines should cover the following aspects:
• Behavior of members
• The behavior of moderators and what they can and can’t do
• How members can place complaints and how you resolve them
• What topics are relevant for the community and what is inappropriate
• Zero tolerance policy for discrimination, abuse, and harassment
3. Set tangible metrics to measure your goals
Key Performance Indicators or KPIs are tangible metrics that will help you measure your progress towards your goals. Of course, KPIs will differ depending on what the community platform offers. But some universal metrics include user growth and user engagement. The former represents the total number of users, new user growth, lost users, etc. The latter gives an idea about user engagement in the form of likes and comments. But don’t be so caught up with engagement metrics that you overlook standards that reflect your purpose.
4. Differentiate between “audience” and “community”
While many brands equate the terms “audience” and “community”, separating the two can have a higher impact on the organization. When you say audience, you are referring to all the people you can reach out to through channels like social media, blogs, emails, conferences, etc. But, a community is a specific subset that falls within the broader concept of an audience. Even within your audience, the quality of engagement might differ, but a community is more involved with your brand. The distinction is important because companies that equate the two terms will set incorrect goals, hire the wrong experts, and fail to achieve the full potential of a community.
5. Identify your community stakeholders
If you’re running a brand solo, there is not much to consider about stakeholders. But if you have a team, identifying the stakeholders will be beneficial for your business and the community. As your community grows, you may find yourself investing more time in your community than your business. That’s when you know it is a ripe time to hire a community manager who can do the community management for you. Even if you don’t have the resources to hire a manager, consider reaching out to other members of your team who’d be willing to help you out.
6. Drive engagement
Let’s face it, the tech-savvy society today is hard to please when it comes to content. Everybody has access to a sea of entertaining and educational content. But not every meme, article, or video will be viral. Hence, you have to make your community users feel that engaging with your brand is worth their time. The entertainment and educational factors are one thing. But making your content relatable and actionable is also important to draw and keep users. You can go for videos, memes, webinars, discussion threads, live streams, chatrooms, and gamification elements to drive user engagement.
7. Rely on expert strategies!
Communities are indeed capable of thriving on their own. But, it’s not necessary that as a community builder you wait for the ball to get rolling. With strong community strategies in place, you can create an environment that fosters natural connections. Plus, you’d be making a big mistake thinking that community management is a hobby that anyone can master. Consider hiring an experienced consultant who can help you plan your community-building process.
Online communities have changed our perspective on how we network with friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers. Moreover, the value they bring to businesses is no less than what a standard social platform would do.
As online communities become the talk of the town, new-age community builders are looking for innovative ways to deliver an engaging and personalized community experience. The community-building strategies listed here are a great way to start. But in the end, it’s all about your business goals and what you intend to deliver to your customers.