So, you want to build an online community. You have a message, a movement, or a product that you want to bring people together. An online community allows your customers and target audience to connect, share information, and become part of your movement. You will gain trust, authority, and have a reputation as a leader in your industry.
Where do you start? How do you go from having 5 members to 10,000? Here are some tips on how to build an engaging online community for your business.
Find Your Niche
When you take your first steps to build an online community, you should have a very specific group in mind. Make sure you know who you are targeting, based on people’s interests, desires, life goals, work ethos, etc.
The more specific your target is the higher chance of creating a successful online community of engaged people.
Write Community Guidelines
Community guidelines are paramount to make sure you are all on the same page. Write a clear mission statement, to ensure people understand what the group is about.
Follow this with some specific do’s & don’ts, to give examples of behaviors and language allowed in the community. These should align closely and carry through your mission statement.
Bear in mind you are trying to inform people, not scare them away. Use clear, polite language and a friendly tone. Most of all, you don’t want to sound intimidating!
Invite Your First Members
It’s time to find people for your online community! A good place to start is seeding the community, start with people you already know, before it goes live to the rest of the world.
For example, reach out to your personal network of friends and family, work colleagues, and current clients.
Word of mouth is still the most powerful advertising tool. People will trust a personal recommendation, so encourage your members to share the news with their own network too.
Once your community is starting to grow, you should keep a close eye on the group and monitor interactions, especially at the beginning when members are less familiar with the rules.
This may include deleting offensive or unrelated comments and posts, to make sure the tone stays respectful and the content is relevant to your topic. If you get a positive response and constant stream of activity, try to create subtopics, to categorize interactions and keep the content flow clear. You can even set up specific days for a specific type of content or discussions.
Whenever a new member joins, make them feel welcome and part of the group. Ask questions and encourage others in the community to do the same.
Sometimes there might be a dip in the content frequency or the number of interactions. This is normal, as the social density of a community is something that will swing up and down, especially at the start.
If this happens, don’t worry. Just carry on keeping people engaged and attentive, by sending personal thank you’s and shoutouts to particularly brilliant and active members.
You Are Not Alone
Community success will depend on whether people are engaged or not. Always remember to create content to encourage engagement, by asking questions and giving members the opportunity to discuss and debate.
Stay present in your role as a moderator by reminding members of the group rules as and when necessary. And if it all gets too busy, why not ask a particularly active member to become an admin or a moderator? After all, you’re all in this together!
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