How To Build a Successful Online Community
Communities are the untapped powerhouse of marketing. That's why we've put together the ultimate guide for everything related to launching your own successful community.
In this article you’ll learn:
The average ROI for a brand having a community is 4,530% and 72% of brands with communities have increased site traffic (Higher Logic, 2020).
So why would you NOT want to start a thriving community!?
What is an online community?
An online community can be defined as a group of individuals unified by common interests, opinions, and goals who meet in a virtual space.
We have our own KIND COMMUNITY, which focuses on sustainable marketing tips, climate positive news, contentious consumerism & kindness. A lot of what we do centres on giving back, whether that be to our community, clients or the environment. For a start, for every new signup to our newsletter, we’ll plant a tree! So, if you're interested in making an impactful decision today with just a few clicks, we’d love for you to join our ever-growing KIND Community.
Why build an online community?
1 in 3 said checking what online communities were saying played an important role in their buying decision. Also, 2 in 3 community members are loyal to the brand.
Online communities can be a great way to bring like minded people together who are looking for a place to discuss their ideas and find a sense of belonging. Having your own community can bring your audience together in one place where they can co-innovate, apply their learnings, and ask questions. This also helps you get a pulse check on what your audience wants to learn from you.
Benefits of online communities
- Become thought leaders in your niche. Showcase your knowledge and expertise & become the ‘go-to’ brand for anything relating to your niche.
- Create brand ambassadors. Increase referrals to your business by way of brand ambassadors in your community who truly believe in you and your brand.
- Feedback from your audience. Allowing organic conversation to foster enables you to see what your audience is most interested in. It also enables you to have an authentic & regular dialogue with your community, an important part as the community leader.
- Increase revenue. A community will help foster more engaged followers, increase retention, which can ultimately increase conversions. The trust and authenticity garnered from developing a community also increases AOV and customer lifetime value.
- Respond to market shifts. Digital communities help you maintain a relationship with your audience when physical events aren’t possible. Virtual communities are more economically viable and have a reduced environmental impact.
- Drive product innovation. Why not use your community for market research? to Gain feedback on your products & services from your most dedicated fans & qualified target audience to better understand how to serve your customers.
- Get to know your customers. Use your community to understand the before-and-after state of your customers and the journey they took to being converted from a follower to a fan. Analyse the community’s language to make sure your ad copy speaks to them on their level, resonates with their values and uses vernacular they do.
- Reduce support costs & returns. Look for patterns or discussions about the post-purchase issues customers are having & address them at the source.
- Increase engagement. Having a dedicated following who is willing to unbiasedly shout you out, tag you or share your content is the most effective form of organic marketing. Most marketers see exponential growth after establishing a core group of fans, so it may seem slow at the start, but don’t give up because everyone’s gone through the same process!
How to build an online community
STEP 1: Identify Your Organization’s Big Picture Goals
Pinpoint your company’s goals and priorities, allowing you to better understand how your online community can serve those goals. 85% business owners believe their community positively impacts their business.
STEP 2: Asses Your Community’s Needs
To make sure you’re providing a community that meets the needs, provides value and truly appeals to your audience will ensure people want to join and motivate them to share with their peers.
STEP 3: Validate The Need
Consider a pre-launch of your idea internally, where you informally gather research & validate the want for a community within your niche.
STEP 4: Measure Success Through KPIs
Before you launch your online community, you’ll want to set goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) so that you can make sure you’re on track. Define achievable and measurable KPIs from the start to allow for measured progress & understand what does and doesn’t work.
PRO TIP: You can measure engagement metrics within your community such as: number of posts; length of community membership; session times; engagement metrics; purchase history or more broad metrics like retention rate.
STEP 5: Decide How To Structure The Community
Depending on the size and needs of your community, you may opt to keep everyone in one large community with subcommunities, or you might want to segment users by topic, location, product type, or role type into their own communities, each with their own libraries, events, blogs, and discussion threads. Whatever you decide, ensure your community layout is intuitive to navigate.
STEP 6: Choose The Right Platform That Aligns With Your Goals
To maximise community engagement, building it on the right platform is critical and ensures users can meet their needs and gain what they intended from becoming a community member, whether that be resources, friendship or a sense of belonging. 77% of customers say online communities are the most important group they’re a part of.
STEP 7: Decide How You’ll Manage Your Community
To ensure the community remains a positive place that aligns with your goals, some level of management is necessary. Management can also help encourage engaging or create daily talking posts to keep the community active.
STEP 8: Develop A Community Engagement Plan
Base your community in these key three pillars: Find, connect, collaborate and build a destination that maximises each of these pillars.
PROTIP: Think through these questions as you build your community engagement plan:
- How will you ensure the members’ needs are being met?
- Does the community give members a place for them to have a voice?
- Can members connect with each other?
- Have you created centralized and categorised topic-based areas for users to get what they need?
- What value does your community provide?
- What calls-to-action (CTA) are you using to maximise engagement?
STEP 9: Launch!
You should now have a validated idea with a group of people ready and waiting for the community to launch. You’ve got a strategic plan in place and measurable KPIs to monitor its performance!
Features of a Successful Community
To create a thriving online community, start by trying to include these 4 features to harness the enthusiasm of your customers and build a strong, authentic community.
1. Activated brand advocates
Empower your most passionate community members to act as brand advocates; they’re your super fans, often organically contribute a lot of content to the community and will be willing to actively share and recommend you to others. This will increase brand awareness and conversions since people inherently trust the reviews of their peers over brands’ advertisements.
2. Relevant user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is one of the most effective methods of social proof; it increases engagement between community members and acts like an unbiased vote of confidence for your brand and community, which ultimately strengthens a community's bonds and perceived value.
3. Crowdsourced ideas
Successful online communities use their platform to crowdsource ideas from their most invested customers, which allows you to make sure your content is truly aligned with the wants and needs of your community members, since the ideas are coming from your audience themselves!
4. Searchable repository
The goal is to have a wealth of content that is ever-growing; this means content eventually gets buried or becomes difficult to find. However, this content is still highly valuable, and so ensuring you have a searchable repository allows your customers to easily find tips, answers, and advice shared in your community and improves the experience of being a community member.
Hopefully you now have everything you need to launch your new online community! You can confidently move forward in managing and growing your own online community, and understand what features make an online community successful.
Over time, you will see these simple building blocks create a strong foundation for your online community where you can create a tribe that belongs to you!