Building an online community – Business 2 Community
Online communities exist and brands are starting to realize how important they are. But how do you create one? Should we create one? We take a look at the key points behind this growing phenomenon.
While some would say social media is all about community, there is another layer involved. Some brands are working hard to create a real online community that unites their followers and helps to retain them over time.
What is an online community?
An online community is a group that comes together to interact around a common interest. Sometimes this community comes together around a common goal. Perhaps the most general example of an online community is Facebook, which is obviously huge, and based largely on the idea of ââ’shared interest’.
But Facebook is a special case. There are many other smaller and more specific communities online. And when you think about it, Facebook can to say it has a community feel, but it really is a social media platform.
Isn’t our audience our community?
Well, yes and no. The main difference between an audience and a community is the direction of communication. With an audience, a brand delivers one-sided opinions or messages, with audiences unable – to some extent – to contribute. They can like, comment, and so on, but it’s the brand’s initiative, not the audience.
With a community, if a brand succeeds in creating one, the audience becomes a community with a common interest. Ideas are shared and conversations are driven by the community. Discussions will follow in an established community due to this shared interest.
The benefits of creating an online community
For brands, there are three distinct advantages that make online communities attractive:
- Improved customer support and experience
- Increased brand loyalty
- Market study and feedback
These three advantages make the development and promotion of a community more than profitable. With customer support, it’s easy to see brands picking up on the challenge lately. There are online chat services and question and answer forums that encourage customers to get involved in the discussions. These discussions can cover a wide range of topics, from how to get the most out of a product to your favorite features of a product.
Communities build loyalty by making customers feel like part of a tribe. This loyalty then turns into advocacy, where customers share their positive experiences with friends. This translates to more business.
With the feedback aspect, brands can easily start conversations that create clear feedback and data. It’s much more effective in a community where customers feel like they belong.
Create an online community
There are a number of steps you need to take to create an online community.
Focus on creating a structure. Find and assign a community manager. They should have full oversight of what’s going on in the community, how it’s run, and how the work aligns with the brand’s work. After that, make sure the right people in your organization are involved, such as marketers and others who can help you with the branding and message.
Pick your goal. You can’t just build a community for the fun of it. You need a goal, a goal. Determine what you want your community to offer members and make it the focal point. For example, you can create an entire community around a product. Or you could have a discussion board community based on customer ideas on product improvement.
Choose your platform. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, and WhatsApp are free. These are platforms where members of your community (and you) can register for free and your community will live on the platform as an internal micro-community. There are also platforms owned by communities and brands. Websites that have their own username and password are called Community Owned Platforms. Members of your community would log into your own website to virtually enter the community.
Create rules and standards.You can’t let your members make all the rules, even if your community is for them. Show them the ground rules and ask them to agree to follow them before they become members. You will need to remove them if they do not comply. The rules and norms of a community may include, for example, that members cannot speak negatively to each other; verbal profanity is not allowed; or members cannot defend their own products.
From there, it’s just a matter of assigning more roles, making sure you have the right platform, and then promoting the community.
Your primary source of membership will be audiences on your social media accounts. These people will need to see regular promotions about the community and how it will mean a lot to them to join.
Online communities retain and develop leads for brands. If you have a reason to have one and have the right team, it is worth considering a new project.