Build an online community

5 Essential Steps to Build an Online Community

Social media is all about being social. To be social online you need a group – a community – that you are interacting with. Building an online community is no easy task. Here are five things you need to do to build an online community.

Online communities offer great ways for people and brands to build awareness and brand loyalty, grow sales, and create ongoing engagement with customers.

1. Have a launch plan

You need a plan. Without one, your community with wither from lack of a solid foundation.

Map out the specifics of your community: goals, activities, target audience/members, tone and voice, purpose, and content.

Allocate the resources needed to act on your plan.

  • Who will manage each aspect of the community?
  • How much time is needed?
  • What budget is needed?

2. Plan for engagement

Your community can’t be all about you. Remember that the primary purpose of a community is to serve the needs of the members – your target audience.

Have a plan that speaks to the needs and interests of community members. Provide information and opportunities they value and create opportunities for a two-way flow of information.

Also, pay attention to comments and questions from community members. The better you are at understanding their pain points and expectations and making adjustments to meet them, the stronger your community will be.

3.  Let everyone have a voice

Communities that thrive have a balance between order and interaction among members of the community. There needs to be a focus that meets expectations, yet enough room for people to discuss what is important to them.

Manage your community in a manner that ensures that it is is a welcoming and friendly space where people can share knowledge, learn from one another, and offer feedback. Instead of always being the expert to answer every question, make introductions, start conversations, and encourage members to connect with one another.

4. Build a content stream

Have a plan for regular content postings to your community. A month-by-month or week-to-week calendar can be very helpful here.

If you are just getting started, be sure there are several content postings that attracts the right audience to the community.

5. Keep an eye on your community

All communities need constant tending. Answer questions. Correct mistakes. Encourage members to participate.

Pay attention to metrics as well. Your plan should identify the key metrics that you will monitor as part of ongoing assessment of the health of your community.

Metrics you may want to monitor, depending on your goals:

  • Member growth/decline
  • Member participation as captured in number of comments, likes, posts, etc
  • Level of interaction with various types of content
  • Days and times for best engagement
  • Demographics of members, both active and inactive

As with many social media efforts, building a community takes time and attention. Be sure your plan carries you through for at least 6 months so you can have a good shot at building members and momentum.