You'll create an online community that shares your passion and allows people to get the latest news, share their love of the niche, and even become your most vocal, best-selling product advocates.
However, just because you have built an online community does not mean that people will automatically join. It requires effort from you, along with a lot of listening and strategy.
Successful online communities have personality and momentum. People visit online communities not only to see what's going on but also to take part, to advocate, and to have fun.
You can see my point by looking at Reddit forums. Redditors visit Reddit communities frequently, sometimes multiple times per day. They comment on others' posts and create their own. They vote on threads and comments, then come back the next day to do it again.
This is what a marketer wants to create when they start an online community. How do you start?
Choose your niche wisely.
You may need to make this a product-specific time. Let's take, for example, the ABC Guide to Super Duper copywriting. Instead of trying to build your community around a specific product, you may choose to focus it on copywriting tips and critiques or instruction for all copywriters. While you are still allowed to promote your copywriting products within the community, you create you will attract many more people (and possible customers) if your circle includes people who don't know or care about your products.
Find out who you're serving.
It's easy to believe that you already know everything about your niche and can therefore be an expert on how people interact with you.
You don't. One person can have one view. You might think that every copywriter wants to learn the best copywriting courses. Many of them are still trying to figure out if copywriting is for them, how it will be promoted, and if it is something that they enjoy.
It is a good idea to reach out to as many copywriters as you can, ask questions, and listen. I mean, listen a LOT. Notes. Do not try to convince them or change their mind about something you hear. Get their opinions on everything that is directly relevant to your niche. Then, use this information to create your plan for building your community. This can be tedious, but it can pay off big.
Befriend early adopters
People who are active in your community will also be the first to contact you personally. You heard it right. Call them and ask how you found them, what they think about your community, and so on.
It might seem not easy if you prefer to do everything digitally. But, I promise it is worth it. Many of the early adopters you contact will become your greatest advocates and even community moderators if you need help.
Recognize that not everyone is going to be active
It is said that 1% of users create content, 9 percent interact with it, and 90% view content without creating.
Although the numbers may vary, it is important to remember that most of your community members will be "lurkers," and that's okay. A growing community means lots of lurkers. It's great if you can turn some of these lurkers into active members. A license can also buy products.
Regardless of this, your community should be designed for active users. You can make them happy, and then the rest will follow.
Instead of using an iron hand, rule with a soft glove
You'll find that each member has their own ideas about how your community should function and what they want it to offer. Listen to them. These people are invested in your community. In most cases, their insight can prove to be very valuable in growing your community.
You might need to delete older features when adding new features. This could cause problems because change is not always easy. People will be upset if their favorite feature disappears. You might consider overlapping features to allow users to adjust to the new way of doing things before you force them to change.
You need to be aware of these things when you are building an online community
1: Critical Mass Is... Critical
It might seem easy to think that you can create an online community with just a few people and grow it.
Although it's a good idea, it rarely works. Consider the last time that a forum had not received a new post in a month. What were you doing? You went, and you never came back.
This is what you will see if your community doesn't have a critical mass of passionate users.
Ask yourself if there are enough people who love your brand to join a community centered around it.
Can you reach enough people in a matter of days to gain a few hundred new members to your topic-based community?
If you answered yes, then you can start building a community.
2: Your community does not exist in your community
You don't get to decide what is and is not discussed in the community you created.
Don't sanitize negative feedback. Do not suppress certain topics. And never discourage open discussion.
You'll alienate your users, and they'll disappear.
It's OK not to have all the answers and that you don’t like some of the discussed topics. Relax and allow your community to grow naturally. Listen to what is being said and, if possible, use that information to build and sell your next product or service.
3. Provide plenty of options
Your community will not attract everyone for the same reasons. Instead of offering just one or two options, offer as many as possible. You can have an online product support forum, discussion forum, feature requests area, and a knowledge base. There are also job boards, software, Q & A, help request areas, personal stories, and many other options.
Test new features to see which areas get the most activity. You can change or remove a feature if it doesn't receive enough attention. You want every area of your community vibrant and active. If one area seems dead, or if it happens to be the first person who arrives in your community, that could make people think the whole community is dead.
4. Provide a strong infrastructure
You don't need to worry about infrastructure if you already have a social network. However, building your community through another platform like Facebook Groups can make it difficult to maintain control. Facebook can shut down your account at any moment for whatever reason. You have no recourse.
Hosting your own community requires the right software. It will make it easy and enjoyable to use your community.
This is a way to keep an eye on how the community operates but not monitor every communication. While you are responsible for providing structure and ensuring that things run smoothly, you don't have the authority to monitor users' communications.
5: Don't worry about ROI
You want to see the number of sales that have come from your online community. You won't know the truth. You meet someone in your community who joins your mailing list and purchases your coaching program for $3000 a year later. That person made you nothing for 11 months... or did they? They actually told a friend about your group, who then told their friends. Those friends bought products from you within the first week of joining. Another person couldn't decide whether they wanted to purchase your service. They found your community and decided to buy the service.
You won't know what your ROI with your community is, so have fun and relax.
You can ask interesting questions and share great teachings to help your community grow.
This brings us to...
7 Strategies to Increase Community Growth
Your online community can help reach influencers, build brand recognition, increase website traffic, collect user feedback, and connect with potential customers.
These 7 strategies will help you grow your online community faster and intelligently, even if you are a new business and don't know where to begin.
1: Get started now
Planting a tree 20 years ago is the best time while planting it today is second. This is true for online communities as well. It might seem tempting to wait until you are a pro at what you do, but now is the time to begin planning how your community will function, how it will be managed, and how you will attract new members.
2. Match your community with your audience
A community built around young professionals will look and feel very different from one geared towards bass fishermen.
Once you know your audience, start searching online for the locations where they can be found. These sites have a variety of styles, colors, languages, and so forth. It's not your goal to blend in but to appeal to their existing tastes and preferences. Your ideal audience will feel at home in your community if they look and feel they like it.
3. Promote your community
You might believe that your goal when building a community via social media is to get people to visit your site. If you do this, your group's energy will be only a fraction of what it could be.
Even if your site is the hub of your community, it's important to promote the entire community and not just your own website. Invite others to join the group via email or social media. You can use all the resources available to bring in new members. This includes guest posting, getting mentions by other marketers, and even being paid to advertise.
It will grow if you promote the group.
4. Develop and contribute content
It is entirely up to you how much time you spend creating content for your community. You might feel like you're spending a lot of time creating content that a few people only appreciate. Your content will help you build a community.
Your community will die if you don't create value for it. Participation by even a few people per day can make a difference in the number of people who continue to visit your community.
5. Reach out to new members
When it comes to recruiting new members to your group, third-party sites and groups are crucial. To cross-promote each other's communities, network with forum moderators and group owners.
Reach out to bloggers, influencers, and news media to include your community on the "best-of" lists. You can also get a spot on podcasts or blogs where you invite your audience members to join your community.
6: Find advocates
Ask your customers, followers, users, influencers, and colleagues to join your community.
Ask them to share the post on social media and to invite their friends.
It's easy to wonder why people advocate for your brand and you if they aren't being paid. Sometimes they believe in you and your brand. Sometimes they enjoy being an early adopter and at the forefront of exciting new things. Sometimes they want to help.
7: Recognize that your community is meant to be shared.
It is not a quick-term business idea to build an online community. Successful communities last for a decade or longer. Be prepared to stay involved or sell the community after it has become a huge success.
Selling your community is possible. You might even decide to make it public and buy stock.
Although we are not discussing building and flipping communities, it is worth remembering that you are creating an asset similar to an active email list or a specialized social network site that can be sold later for a profit.
Common Questions and Answers about Building an Online Community
Q. To clarify, what exactly is an online community?
A: An online group is a group that has a common interest, opinion, or goal and meets online.
You can start small with a handful of your best customers, or even a mastermind team, or you could have thousands of people who meet to share their knowledge, experience and give feedback on a particular topic or niche.
Q. Why do people join an online community?
A: While there are many reasons, here are some:
Q. Why would you like to create an online community?
A: There are two main reasons, and possibly a thousand reasons for each of them.
You may want to create an online community for personal or professional reasons.
Personal could be because you are passionate about sharing your passion with others, finding like-minded people, and networking.
The profession is likely to be about growing your business. It could also be about networking, growing your network, increasing your authority within your niche, and so forth.
Let's suppose you are a woodworker and sell how-to products. Although you could join an online woodworking community (which you probably have), you are only one of many. You don't have any authority, are not well-known, and can't promote your products.
You create your online woodworking community. It is unique in a way that makes it stand out from other similar communities.
Over time, you can increase your membership base by sharing great information and providing lots of opportunities for interaction with one another.
You also give your members access to all of your woodworking products. This is not something you should be doing. Your customers and members tell others about your products' results, which leads to more sales.
It's almost as if you were creating your own shopping channel complete with testimonials.
Q. What are the other benefits of building an online community?
A: You can be considered a leader within your niche. You are growing your network, your audience, and your reputation as an authority.
The people who can or will become your customers provide a lot of feedback. You learn what your customers think about your products, what other things they are looking for, and how to market them. You'll also be the first to learn about market changes and, hopefully, to adopt them.
Increase revenue. Sales will naturally follow a more engaged audience.
Brand ambassadors are created. Your products will be promoted by people in your community who will tell others about their experiences.
Organically, you can create products. For example, some of the most successful course creators started by creating learning communities with Facebook Groups. Then, their own communities asked them to create courses. Sales were immediately achieved when the courses were launched.
Q. What are the most popular types of online communities?
A: Learning - Members are brought together to study a course or learn more about a topic. The members meet to discuss and collaborate on assignments and interact with the instructor.
Interest - This group is focused on one interest, such as organic vegetable gardening or building a successful publishing business.
Profession - This group focuses on the various aspects of a specific profession and excels at their job.
Action - This group is focused on changing something such as reverse climate change or electing a candidate.
Place - Geographic boundaries define these groups. For example, you might want to plant in the northwest or hike a mountain range.
Brand - These groups are organized around a particular brand. This could be a shared mission, goal, or lifestyle championed and promoted by the brand.
If you think of brands, Apple has done an amazing job at turning customers into loyal fans. They have made it so that they are willing to wait in line for hours to purchase the latest version of their products. You can build a brand-centric community by generating just 10% of this level of loyalty with your customers.
You might be able to see that groups can overlap with one or more of these categories. For example, a group dedicated to building thriving Midwest chiropractic businesses could include interest, professionalism, and place.
Q. What software do I need to create an online community?
A: It will depend on what kind of community you are trying to build.
You could create a Facebook Group if you wish to use an established social network. Facebook can shut down your Group at any time. It's easier to find new members and bring them in using a social networking site like Facebook, as they are already part of the network.
If you are looking to create your own community, separate from any social networks, these are some ideas to think about:
Disciple - Build your own community app without coding https://www.disciplemedia.com/ga-community-build
Higher Logic helps you build lasting relationships with customers and members. https://www.higherlogic.com/lp/higher-logic-engagement-platform-brand
Influitive: Create a community of advocates, invite customers, partners, developers, and employees to take on challenges. https://influitive.com/
Mighty Networks - build a membership site by community https://www.mightynetworks.com/membership
Mobilize – Create communities that delight your audience, and get amazing results. https://www.mobilize.io/
Socio is a virtual platform and integrated software that allows you to host large events for your online community. https://get.socio.events/socio-event-platform
Tribe Community Platform is a fully customizable platform that connects, engages, and retains customers. https://tribe.so
Verint/Telligent allows you to connect in digital spaces that matter most. https://www.telligent.com/community-platform/
Vanilla Forums is a community platform that offers a seamless experience. https://page.vanillaforums.com/community-engagement
There are many other providers of Community Website Software. These are just a handful of options to get you started.
The Last Thing about Building Your Community
It is the easiest way to start to create a practice community that revolves around one thing. This could be your own product, a product from someone you love, a specific location, a breed of pet, or something else.
This community is a learning opportunity. This is where you can make all your mistakes, try things out haphazardly, learn from the worst, and most importantly, have fun.
After six months of building this small community, it will be ready for you to take on a larger one. This will allow you to potentially make six figures per year and eventually sell it for six to seven figures.
It's important to jump in and see how it works. Then, you can build the community that you want around the topic or business that you love.
People will notice your enthusiasm and knowledge and will be drawn to you. They will become your greatest advocates and ambassadors.
You'll have the time and joy of your life managing your online community.
Join our monthly marketing magazine to receive the latest news and updates from our team of professional marketers and copywriters.
(Don't worry, your information will not be shared.)