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Building an Online Community around your business can significantly engage your customers and strengthen your brand. Before you dive in, however, it’s important to answer 2 crucial questions about why you want to create one and what kind of platform you should use. You may be surprised by the answers!
Why You Should Launch an Online Community for Your Business?
An Online Community can help you build relationships with your customers and establish yourself as an industry expert and thought leader. They also allow you to showcase your customers’ passion and your brand’s support, giving potential buyers more confidence in purchasing from you. To start an online community, it’s important to answer two crucial questions: why do you want one, and how will you use it? When you know the answers to these questions, choosing the right platform becomes much more manageable and effortless. This blog post will answer these two questions to help you launch an online community that effectively supports your business goals.
The power of building relationships
Building relationships with customers is a powerful way to establish yourself as a trusted leader in the industry. Research shows that personal; one-on-one interactions are far more effective than mass marketing when generating leads, so adding a human touch to your Online Community can pay off big time. The best part about building relationships? It’s not nearly as expensive or time-consuming as you might think! A well-designed blog post costs pennies on the dollar compared to other promotional channels like print advertising. It can be shared virally through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Creating videos is even cheaper: You only need a video camera (or smartphone), some creativity, and somewhere to upload your content (YouTube).
In contrast, email marketing requires high engagement rates to create an ROI – 10% of email recipients typically open messages, while 4% click on links – and social media campaigns take months of lead time before they yield any results. The beauty of blogging is that you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to: People will come across your content organically as long as it’s quality and relevant. If people love what they find, they’ll also share it with their networks. And this leads me right to my next point… What’s the best platform for hosting an Online Community? There are two main options: Owned vs. Free Community Forums: What’s the Right Move?
The effectiveness of digital communities
It’s difficult to predict what makes a thriving online community. There are no set rules, but there are some factors you should consider.
1) Why do I want to create a digital community?
2) What platform is best for my needs?
3) What will it take to make my community successful?
4) Who will be the right person to lead this project and manage the day-to-day tasks?
5) How will I measure the success of this project?
6) How much time and money am I willing to invest in this project?
7) Is there anyone who can provide guidance and mentor while launching my digital community?
8) How often should I post content to my community, and how long should each post be?
9) Will posting content too frequently cause me to spend more time managing the community than engaging with its members?
10) When creating my online community, am I targeting a specific demographic or audience segment?
11) What content should I share on my social media channels before launching a new forum on another channel or platform?
12) Do most of your customers communicate with each other through your Facebook page or via email list/group?
13) What features do these platforms offer that others may not?
14) Which types of communities have proven successful in the past?
15) Which type of user would be interested in my community based on their interests or preferences?
16) Should I decide which features my digital community should have after reading the answers to questions one through four or five through nine?
The steps to launching your own successful Online Community
The Benefits Of Having An Online Community
It’s a great way to engage with your customers and strengthen your brand.
- It’s a low-cost or no-cost marketing channel.
- It can help build customer loyalty and retention rates.
- You can create strong social media engagement.
- It helps you gather customer feedback, which is crucial in developing any business. – An online community gives them a voice and makes them feel listened to.
- It encourages them to share their experiences with other community members.
- They feel more inclined to recommend products and services because they are invested in what they are talking about.
- The word will spread faster if your product/service has flaws that need correcting, so there are fewer chance people will be disappointed by it later on down the line (aka buyer beware). – Customers want to feel like they’re part of something, and building an online community provides them with this feeling.
- It also offers people thinking about buying your product the opportunity to chat with someone who’s already done it before – not just read reviews. And those reviews have a higher value because they’re personal opinions, not just feature lists!
- There are several platforms you can use to start your own online community: Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter Chat rooms, etc., but all of these have different pros and cons depending on what kind of content you’re looking for.
You should also answer 2 critical but crucial questions before deciding which platform:
1) Why do you want to launch an online community?
2) What kind of platform do you want?
Remember that each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, so only choose one according to what you think would work best for your company. For example, Facebook Groups are excellent for keeping in touch with current customers and building loyalty; LinkedIn Groups allow you to focus on specific demographics, and Twitter Chats are perfect for engaging more extensive groups of people in real-time discussions. Another thing to consider is whether you want to host an open forum where anyone can join or keep it invite-only.
The Benefits Of Having An Open Forum: –
Customers feel like they belong to a bigger group of people.
The discussion becomes broader, more affluent, and more profound because participants know they won’t always get the last word.
The Benefits Of Keeping It Invite-Only:
- Fewer spammers will bother joining your group since only subscribers can see the posts.
- If you allow newbies into the group too quickly, old-timers may find themselves overrun with useless posts that might discourage participation over time. That said, an invite-only approach does mean that some people might not take the time actually to follow through and apply for membership. So what works best depends on your goals. A closed group means you’ll probably get better quality conversations but at the expense of quantity. And conversely, an open forum will likely garner more activity in terms of replies but risk sounding like a bunch of mumbo jumbos unless moderated carefully. So it’s essential to decide what you’re looking for first, and then pick the most suitable platform.
- It is a good idea to decide on a name and theme for your online community ahead of time, as it will make it easier to identify the right community when scrolling through different ones. If you are using Facebook Groups, try searching for FBA – and you will find communities dedicated to selling vintage books, guitars, and similar items. You can browse through a list of people with common interests that might want to participate in your community by clicking Who’s interested in FBA?
- If you want to speak with people in an environment that feels more private than Facebook Groups, try out Ning. You can set up a Ning community for free, and it’s easy to moderate by setting permissions and blocking spam. The downside is that Ning will generate an email address you might not want to share with the public. If you’re just starting out, it might be best to stay on Facebook so people can contact you through your profile. You can also set up a Twitter account with a hashtag and turn it into a chat room for your online community – but remember to include instructions at the beginning of the conversation so people know how it works.
- When promoting your online community, try posting about it on social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, including images of what goes on in your group.
The Challenges Of Running An Online Community
It’s not easy to establish and maintain an online community. There are a variety of reasons why some communities struggle to thrive. One of the most common struggles is that they’re not active enough: no discussions are happening, or only one person is talking with everyone else, just listening in. Another common struggle is that people don’t know what the community is about because there’s nothing to tell them in the description or header.
Sometimes it’s also tough to get started, especially if you don’t know what direction you want your community to take. In these cases, try having an event like a live chat with someone engaging in order to spark discussion. It can be challenging to keep conversations going on the same topic, so consider creating questions people have to answer before joining the community. The more information you provide upfront will make it easier for new members to join. Finally, allow others to contribute by inviting guest posters who can write posts on your behalf and occasional contributors who can add content as needed when you’re unavailable or busy with other tasks.
Allowing contributions from outside sources can help your community grow and feel more alive. When moderating, consider whether their contribution advances the goal of the community. Remember that you might need to say something sometimes, but you should do so sparingly–don’t edit comments unless necessary! With everything we’ve talked about today, we hope this post has given you some ideas for how to launch a thriving online community. We’ll end our article with a few critical steps to launching an online community around your business:
Tips For Launching A Successful Platform
- Have a clear goal in mind. What are you hoping to achieve with the community? Perhaps you want to engage with customers, or maybe you want to build a loyal customer base. Whatever it is, make sure that your goals are realistic and achievable. If not, you risk giving up on the community before it has had time to grow.
- Choose what kind of platform makes sense for your business. There are many different platforms available, and all have their own strengths and weaknesses; the best suited for your business depends on the content you plan to share, and how engaged with your audience you want them to be.
- Set expectations. It’s important to let participants know what they can expect from your community. For example, if you are looking for more active participation from members than just posting comments on blog posts, then let them know this upfront and provide ways for them to get involved, like hosting a monthly Q&A session or encouraging interaction with other members through online chatrooms.
- Provide value without asking for anything in return. The key to any successful relationship is mutual benefit. Often, your community won’t need much encouragement when it comes to providing feedback or sharing their thoughts about new products. However, don’t forget that you will inevitably come across some criticism by creating a space where people can openly discuss topics related to your industry. Don’t take this personally. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to see where improvements could be made and react accordingly (e.g., create better products).
- Make social media integration part of the strategy. Many companies already use social media, but few realize how powerful it can be as a marketing tool. Integrating social media into the strategy means connecting with current followers and establishing new relationships. To do this successfully, here are some tips:
- Monitor what others say about your brand. When using social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Mention, keep tabs on conversations about your company, both good and bad, so that you can respond accordingly. Social media monitoring also helps identify influencers who may be interested in partnering with you on projects in the future.
- Monitor what others say about competitors or potential clients. Like checking out conversations around competitors, monitoring information shared by potential clients is another great way to stay aware of who may be interested in buying your services and learn valuable information that could help improve your sales pitch.
- Engage with customers who mention competing brands or products—interact with these individuals through messages such as Sorry to hear that! Have you tried our product?, or Do you think our product would work for you? Give you a chance to show off the benefits of your product and encourage them to try it. Just be careful not to sound too aggressive or pushy because this behavior turns people off.
- Solve problems for your community. This can be as simple as setting up a Facebook group with FAQs, tutorials, and answers to frequently asked questions in order to make it easier for customers and prospects to find the information they need.
Now, it’s up to you. There are many ways to create an online community, but it all starts with clearly understanding your goals and objectives and how you want your community members to feel. Some common strategies to consider are hosting live chats, facilitating online discussions, or simply utilizing social media as a platform.
Launching an online community is a great way to build brand loyalty and grow your business. Start by determining what platform you want to use, who will be the moderator, how often you want the community meetings to take place (daily? weekly? or monthly?), and how formal or informal the environment should be. The first meeting is crucial because it sets the tone and expectations of the group. Make sure you have plenty of time set aside before you start brainstorming ideas on how to get people excited about joining!
Once you have your plans together, tell everyone why they should join.
Keep in mind that not everyone has the same interests, so if possible, focus on one topic per meeting, so there’s always something to discuss. For example, if you sell jewelry, make sure to touch on both types of jewelry that you sell – necklaces and earrings. It’s also essential to provide incentives for users to come back, such as freebies or prizes, when someone reaches a certain number of posts/comments.
In addition, don’t forget about digital assets like photos which can easily be shared among users through message boards. When posting pictures, choose ones that relate to the topics discussed at the meeting so attendees can remember them more easily. Try posting pictures in chronological order with captions explaining where and when they were taken. Also, promote yourself within other communities outside of your own network. Posting relevant content from your blog into groups related to your industry will attract followers and potential customers.
Social networks are also a great way to introduce yourself while simultaneously conversing: comment on posts instead of just liking them, share articles others may find interesting, answer questions posted by others, etc. Be careful not to spam, though–doing this too much could lead to being blocked or banned from the group altogether! Remember to keep things lighthearted and fun. Who knows, you might even make some friends along the way. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Pinterest or Reddit’s Ask Me Anything pages, where celebrities respond anonymously to any question. On Reddit, try starting by commenting on recent threads that might be pertinent to your company’s mission or interests. This will let the moderators know you’re committed and genuinely interested in participating in the discussion.
Author: Priyasa Banerjee
Secretary, Advocacy Unified Network
Priyasa Banerjee. (2022). 2 Questions You Must Answer Before Launching An Online Community. Advocacy Unified Network. https://doi.org/10.57939/V6WY-TK71