In the fast-paced world of modern technology, building online communities for your customers or members to learn, share, and collaborate is critical for increasing your organisation’s growth and relevance. Successful online communities can help you engage and inspire your audience. Communities do not grow on their own. Different kind of users will be activated differently. The “fame seeker” might be driven by a member spotlight article, the “connector” by a thank you email, the “problem-solver” by a quick reply to an idea and the “influencer” by early access to information. Broadly, 1% of users will be super users, 24% will be regular users, 74% will be lurkers. Longer-term, you will need to keep developing the community with the help of members’ feedback and suggestions.
Benefits of online communities are:
- An available space around the clock for customers, suppliers, employees, and partners to share ideas and collaborate.
- Cheaper costs in support because in good communities, members interact with one another and questions are answered by other community members.
- Improvement of an organisation’s reputation and retention with good community management.
- Quick gathering of results because a research question can be answered in an online community in days rather than weeks or months.
- Obtainment of rich data through the exploration of member profiles’ demographic and the opportunity to easily ask follow-up questions about the “why” of members’ choices.
1. Plan Creating a community plan
You start by creating a plan concerning the target audience, the community values, a welcome process, activation strategies, measurement metrics and more.
2. Welcome Creating an effective welcome process
Human connections matter to new members and will result in higher engagement rates than emails, pre-produced guides and training. Things to consider are a video welcome tour, welcome webinars and introduce-yourself discussions.
3. Relationships Starting with meaningful individual engagements
The key to building a successful online community is to start small by building individual, meaningful relationships between you and potential members and among your members. A feeling of safety is needed for them to share. Trust, empowerment, belonging and fun are essential for engaging people and making them interact.
4. Activities Activating community members to share
You will have to invite individuals at the beginning and even ask them to share something in your community or reply to a post. Different kind of users will need a different activation approach.
5. Needs Measuring and adapting to the members’ needs
Apart from growth in numbers, you can measure: engagement depth, member satisfaction and membership referrals through interviews with members and data analysis. Adapting the community to the member’s needs will be essential to keep the community alive.