81% of small and big businesses have an online community – and for a good reason. Online communities are proven to improve relationships with customers, gather valuable feedback, test launches, and new products, and build brand awareness and trust as a whole. Businesses are finding communities valuable enough even to hire a dedicated community manager!
Still, there’s more to online communities than what meets the eye. Besides improving communication between consumers and businesses, communities encourage consumers to connect and consult with one another about potential purchases and past purchase reviews. But, what exactly is an online community?
What is an Online Community?
According to the MBN, an online community is defined as “An online community is a group of people who have a common interest and communicate through the Internet.” Typically, this would be through online community platforms such as Facebook groups, Reddit, Discord, and other similar programs.
Although traditional communities still hold relevance (and value) in marketing, online communities are not bound by geographical restrictions – they simply require you to have an internet connection via a computer, phone, or tablet. While it’s easy to place too much emphasis on the “online” part of an online community, these communities are known for being as connected as traditional communities – to the point where “community” truly comes first.
How to Create an Online Community
Since online communities are becoming more popular by the day, it’s easier than ever to get started! The key to success is by carefully choosing where to start and making sure you’re meeting your community needs:
1. Identify Your Community Needs
Think about where your audience is, who they are, and what they want! Determine how they self-organize, are they all interested in one thing or have one main trait in common – like they’re all moms or maybe all a part of one generation. Take this info and start thinking about where your community should be hosted and if you need one large community or sub-communities.
2. Find Your Community Platform
Now that you have a rough idea of what your community needs, you can look for a suitable community platform. Popular community platforms include Reddit, Facebook groups, slack, and discord. If you’re a larger business, you may want to consider investing in building a decided app or online platform to self-host your community.
3. Build Your Community Support Team
If your community loses traction or engagement, it can have the opposite effect. Build out your community support team prior to community launch. Teams can include Community managers, social media managers, graphic designers, etc.
4. Launch Your Community!
You don’t have to plan a fancy launch for your online community; a simple soft launch or frequent linking in your standard marketing can go far! Communities build primarily from those who are interested in something your business offers or previous customers – otherwise, it relies heavily on word of mouth (which is why you want community members to have a great experience).
How to Keep Your Community-Engaged & Growing
Although online communities are easy to start, they’re a pain to recover if your engagement drops or members have a bad experience and leave. Here are a few tips to keeping your community happy, engaged, and growing:
- Listen, and respond. Especially if your community is small, your participation as a brand leaves a lasting impression, making your community members feel heard.
- Avoid technical issues. Slow loading speeds, hard-to-navigate platforms, glitchy apps or websites are all (easily fixable) ways to leave negative impressions on your community.
- Keep a good team on hand. As mentioned in step #3 of building a community, your community support team is important for keeping the community engaged and moderated.
- Be aware of your community members. Make sure you know when members are online and active and cater to their time zones. If all your members are active in the evening, plan more content in the evening rather than the morning.
- Communicate clearly with other marketing teams/members. Everyone makes mistakes, but it would be bad marketing to announce incorrect information, early/late information, or offer an exclusive sale to the wrong audience because of miscommunication!
If you’re ready to build momentum in your marketing strategy by launching your own online community, contact the Stellapop team today!