Do you want to build an online community for your business but don’t know how to get started?
Almost every business is online these days.
This is because of the large audience that the internet offers.
Building an online community is one of the effective ways you can reap the many benefits the internet offers.
However, it’s not just enough to build an online community but a successful one.
So the real question should be;
How do you build a thriving online community for your business?
We’ll answer this question and other relevant information you need to know when building an online community.
Online Community; An Overview
An online community is a virtual space that binds people with similar interests and goals.
As a business owner, having an online community for your business means bringing together a group of individuals with similar interests unified by a specific purpose.
The purpose could be;
- For learning/discovery
- Sharing ideas
- Gaining a sense of belonging
- Building relationships & creating connections, among other things.
More so, there are different types of online communities, such as;
- Learning communities: a community of people who share common academic goals and interests.
- Brand communities: This is a community of loyal customers with similar interests in a brand.
- Membership communities: This is a community of people who share similar personal and social interests.
- A fan community consists of people with similar interests in a particular form of entertainment/culture.
- Experts, Advisory, Professional communities: This consists of people with a high level of expertise in a particular field of knowledge.
- Among others.
Clearly, the type of online community you need for your business is the brand community.
Overall, there are so many things having an online brand community can do for your business.
Exciting Benefits Of Having An Online Community For Your Business
Research reveals that online communities generate a whooping 6,469% ROI.
Aside from this huge ROI, there are other tangible benefits of having an online community for your business.
Some of these include;
Provide Real-Time Insights Into Customers’ Preferences, Needs, And Struggles
In an online community, your customers interact with each other.
A close look into their conversation within your community will give you valuable insights into all you need to know about them.
It would help you identify their pains, struggles, and deepest desires.
This insight can help you know how best to serve your customers.
It will also help you provide the exact solutions to their problems.
Boost Customer Engagement And Brand Visibility
Online business communities can also help to increase engagement with your brand.
Imagine your customers posting product reviews on your page or sharing your content with their close associates.
The more they engage with your brand by performing all these activities, the more visibility your business gains.
Increase Customer Retention And Loyalty
This is another significant benefit of building an online community for your business.
It increases customer retention and brand loyalty.
This is true, especially when you help your customers solve problems they may be having relating to your business.
Establish Niche Authority, Credibility, Reputation, And Thought Leadership
If you need to build niche authority and credibility, an online community can help you do just that.
It can help you share knowledge and information with interested participants in your community, thereby giving you the reputation and credibility of possessing extensive knowledge in your field.
Saves Business Cost
Yearly, businesses spend a fortune on research and marketing.
However, you can save this cost in your business by simply having an online community.
This is because you can gain valuable insight into your market from observing how your customers interact within your community.
Specifically, they ask questions and express their preferences as well as dislikes within the group.
All these could give you valuable insight to make more informed business decisions.
Online communities also give you easy and quick access to a ready market that you can easily sell to.
It will also expose your business to individuals with specific interests in your business.
As a result, giving you access to potential customers to sell to.
Helps You Improve Your Business
You can improve your products and services based on the feedback and insights gathered from customers’ conversations within your community.
Helps You Stand Out From The Competition
Having an online community will help you establish real and personal connections with your customers.
This can be the competitive edge that helps you crush your competition in business.
Overall, having an online business community is one of the effective ways to promote your business and build a lasting relationship with your customers.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that there are any challenges or drawbacks.
Let’s find out what these are.
Major Challenges Of Building And Managing An Online Community
Resistance From Some Community Members
You may have to deal with resistance from some community members because there’ll be people who won’t believe in your brand.
Likewise, there’ll be people who won’t believe in the value you have to offer.
Due to this, you may have to deal with opposition or resistance from such people when you put out a message about your business within your community.
Keeping The Community Engaged And Receptive
You may struggle with keeping the users engaged and receptive to your brand.
This is because they’re tons of things seeking users’ attention online.
A lack of engaging activities/content within your community could make you lose members.
So, you’ll need to think of creative ways to keep members engaged and willing to hear from you frequently.
Rebellious Community Members Who Disregard Group Rules
Regardless of how clearly outlined your group rules are, some people will intentionally go against them.
So, you may be faced with situations where you have to remove someone from the group due to unacceptable behaviors.
These are some of the problems you may have to deal with when you own an online business community.
Similarly, there are also some things you need to know before you even build one.
Important Things To Keep In Mind When Thinking Of Building An Online Community
This is what forms the foundation of the activities within your community.
So, knowing what goals you want to achieve and keeping them in mind will help you create a community designed to fulfill those goals.
Consistently Providing Valuable Content, Engagement, And Support
You’ll need to consistently provide valuable content, engage, and support community members.
This may not be an easy role to fulfill in addition to running your business.
Hence, you need to be sure you’re ready to commit to this before you begin building a community.
You also need to have a plan for how you intend to meet these commitments and manage your business altogether.
Building A Great Community Takes Time
Another important thing to note is that you’ll need to be patient because building a great community takes time.
At first, you may not gain as much visibility and engagement as you desire.
However, you should keep pulling your efforts in the right direction until you see tangible results and achieve your goals.
Now that you know what building an online community entails let’s discuss how to build one for your business.
9 Effective Ways To Build And Manage An Online Community For Your Business
1. Define Your Goals And Establish A Clear Purpose For Building An Online Community For Your Business
The first thing you need to do is identify your goals and clarify your “why.”
As we said earlier, there are different types of online communities, and each type is tied to a specific purpose.
We also established that a brand community is ideal for a business.
So, be clear on why you want to build one for your business.
Ideally, your goals may be;
- Increasing brand awareness and visibility
- Researching and gathering insights for a more effective marketing/selling
- Providing and improving customer service
- Building customer relationships and loyalty
- Lead generation and attracting new customers
- Creating a steady pool of clients, you can consistently sell to
- Among others.
In the same vein, your purpose may be;
- To build a strong brand image and reputation
- To make sales in your business.
Building an online community is an effective marketing strategy that can help you achieve your business goals.
However, being clear on your business goals and the purpose for those goals will make them much more achievable.
Overall, it will help you develop an effective action/implementation strategy.
2. Identify The People You Want In Your Community
The next step you should take is identifying the right people that will help you achieve the goals you outlined earlier.
Ideally, you’ll need to look within your target market.
However, you’ll need to go the extra mile to identify the specific people who will be interested in joining your community.
Some people in your target market may only have transactional interest in your business; that is buying from you.
This is why you need to find people in your target market whose interests align with your goals for building an online community.
To achieve this, it may be helpful to create a profile or an outline of who your ideal community member should be.
For instance, let’s assume you offer a tourist/travel guide service business and want to create an online community.
Your ideal member won’t be anyone who just wants to hire your services.
Instead, it will be travel enthusiasts who love to share their experiences with others.
It will also be someone interested in learning about new destinations they can explore.
Overall, your ideal community member may not necessarily be everyone in your target market.
It should be people with specific interests in what your online community intends to offer.
3. Identify The Ideal Platform For The Type Of Online Community You Want To Build
Most online communities are created on social media platforms like Facebook, Telegram, Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram, and others.
This is because social media platforms have a large pool of audiences you can easily tap from.
All you need to do is identify the social media platform most used by your target audience, create a page, and they’ll find your community.
Alternatively, some people start from scratch and build one up by themselves via a website or a forum.
Both ways are effective for building an online community for your business.
However, the best one for you depends on the following factors;
- The number of people you want in your online community.
Most social media platforms have rules that may restrict the number of members you can have in a group.
So, starting a website or forum of your own will allow you to accommodate your desired number of members.
- The nature of discussions or topics you’ll be sharing in your online community.
Again, most social media platforms have strict rules guiding activities and discussions on the platform.
This may restrict the kind of topics permissible on the platform.
So, if you want to make your own rules and decide your topics of discussion, creating your own forum from scratch may be a better option.
- Will it be a free or paid membership community?
Again, having a personal website or forum will allow you to do this without any restriction.
In all, using a social media platform will make building an online community much easier.
However, having your own forum or website will give you a lot of freedom.
4. Create Guidelines And Regulations
Without set guidelines and regulations, everyone will do as they please in your online community.
This is why you need to create strict rules that will regulate behavior within your online community.
Ideally, create rules and guidelines that will prevent;
- abusive language, investigative comments, and profanity.
- Cultural/racial discrimination
- sharing irrelevant content or information that doesn’t align with the goals of the community.
- People from promoting their personal business or other businesses within your community, etc.
Overall, the guidelines should help moderate behavior and maintain peace within the community.
5. Create/Build Your Online Community
Now it’s time to start putting everything in place and build your online community for your business.
Your activities here will depend on what you’ve decided, either to use a social media platform or build a website/forum.
So, you may need to;
- Buy a domain name if you don’t have a website already
- Create a special page or space for your community members
- Designing a logo for your page
- Creating topic categories
- Take care of technicalities by setting up spam control on your page, etc.
Generally, this step involves everything you do to get your online community up and running.
6. Get An Online Community Manager
This is also a crucial step in the process of building an online community for your business.
The community manager will be responsible for moderating the activities on your page/forum.
More so, the community manager will be responsible for managing and growing the online community by engaging with members constantly.
His/her duties may also involve analyzing and tracking the performance of the community/forum.
You may take on this responsibility from the start if possible.
However, as the community begins to expand, you’ll need to assign professionals to handle this, so you can focus on other important aspects of your business.
7. Promote Your Online Community
Now that you have your business page/forum up and running, it’s time to tell people about it.
There are several ways to do this.
- First, you could search for people within your network/target market that match your members’ profiles and invite them to join your community.
- You could also form partnerships with other business owners/top influencers in your niche and have them recommend your community to their audience.
- Also, you could create a referral program where existing members get a reward for referring your community to their network of friends/associates.
- Create ads through banners and pop-ups.
- Create and promote content that highlights the benefits your community offers to attract your ideal members.
- Leverage your personal and business network.
8. Encourage Engagement In Your Community
Building an online community for your business is easy.
Keeping the members of your community engaged is the hard part.
One way to do this is to consistently create valuable content that community members can relate to.
This way, they can learn, like, and even share your content.
You can also create contests and reward participants.
Likewise, you can create a reward program for top contributors in your community.
These are some of the ways to drive engagement and keep the group active.
9. Don’t Forget To Measure Results And Track Progress
One way to know if you’re doing the right thing is to measure your results.
This is the only way to know if you’re on track to achieving your goals.
So, as you put in effort towards growing your online community, analyze your efforts and measure results.
Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your progress.
Precisely, KPIs like;
- Customer retention rate
- Customer Churn rates/Numbers of members leaving the group
- New members
- The number of converted leads ( people who click the links in your group to buy stuff), etc.
Overall, KPIs like this will point out what you’re doing wrong.
Using this information, you can restrategize and implement again.
However, bear in mind that it takes time to see potential growth in a new online community.
So, you’ll need to be patient and consistent with your efforts to achieve your goals.
Overall, there are many ways to promote your new business online.
This is one of those ways that have proven to be effective over the years with an outstanding ROI.
So, you’re right to consider building an online community for your business.
Use these steps outlined above to achieve your goal and start reaping the many benefits of having an online community for your business.