Communities are extremely valuable tools for marketers.
So much so that 77% of companies believe that an online community significantly improves brand exposure, awareness, and credibility!
The catch though is that the community sites should be fun and engaging for the target audience. Sample this - increasing engagement through communities can result in up to a 25% increase in revenue. Easier said than done; there are several steps that you need to take into consideration for building a highly engaged online community.
The first and foremost step is to know your goals. This means what do you want the community to be – the next big thing in social media such as Facebook or do you want to focus on a niche interest group of your customers and come up with a network targeting them exclusively? This will get you started.
Let’s take a look at what all things you should consider to make your community the go-to place for your target audience
- Find out what your audience wants: Focus on a niche to begin the community. Think along the lines of – why would someone want to participate in the community? What topics would be discussed and why? What would people expect from the community?
- Provide value: Effortless networking, useful tips, connections with like-minded people are some of the things that provide real value to people. You need to identify and define the key value proposition of your community. For example, your community could be about solving the issues of working moms or sharing experiences of solo travelers.
- Have a strong team of community managers: Hire passionate and proactive managers for your community. They should be able to assist the members, create a unique culture for the community, and also moderate the discussions and content on the community. Make the job of moderation and management easy for them by providing the right information at the right time through various dashboards and easy-to-use tools. Provide them with tools to help them grow the community - for example, you can provide them an option to send automatic email invitations and reminders to their contacts.
- Encourage content creation: One of the critical factors in the success of your community is the creation of content by the community members. You can facilitate this by asking questions that can pick up their interest levels, sharing useful information, allowing people to share their experiences, or holding some fun contests. You can even encourage community-related discussions and watch the feedback closely.
- Foster authentic and positive conversations: Several communities don’t quite make it to the top because of negativity surrounding it, from the comments to the interactions between the members. This is where the onus is on the community managers to encourage authentic and positive communication. People should be able to have light-hearted conversations, post inspiring content, and engage with others in a non-threatening way.
- Encourage interactions: The quality and quantity of interactions between the community members shape the community. One of the cool ways to encourage interactions is by making it easy for the members to chat with each other privately or even create group chats. Such instant communication tools that help members start communication with other online users in their network can create a lot of engagement. Another option could be to allow Like/ Dislike on the content. Allow the members to add their comments along with that.
- Help members grow their network: Platforms such as Facebook thrive on network suggestions and people you may know. These features propel the users to connect with others in their network and outside. Enable features on your community to drive more people to become connected. Allow the community members to find people within their city, state or countries or find other people who share the same interests. For instance, a group of friends belonging to the same school/college or batch can find each other via suggestions. The other option is to allow people to increase their connections by suggesting new people with whom they can interact. The suggestions can be based on their current friends.
- Listen: Ask users feedback about the community or what more they would like to have in the community. Ask people to share their opinions. Keep the questions simple and structured to elicit the right feedback. Such posts nourish the feeling of community. Actively listen to people’s feedback, acknowledge it, and when you act on the feedback, don’t forget to share it with the members.
- Reward contributors: You can introduce some gamification and create vibrancy in the community. Give prizes based on member contributions or suggestions. Give badges to the users on their first post or reply. Or you could send a personalized response to specific posts.
- Make them come back: The next step is to find your most engaged users and make them come back. One of the ways to do so is to send them personalized invites and newsletters. Highlight what are the new additions to the community such as a new feature and tell them how they can use it to their advantage.
Do you have any other ideas? Do share those through comments and we will add them to this list (of course, with credits to you! ☺ )