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Top 10 tips for creating an online community

In our previous article, we talked about the benefits available to organisations that want to create their own online community, click here to read the article.

In this article, we’re going to cover the most sensible approaches to building a community from scratch.

Building a community takes time, effort and strategy.  Providing these key ingredients are implemented, a community very quickly becomes an invaluable asset to any organisation. 

Just as a flower needs sunlight and water to grow, a community requires attention, ‘love’, and care for it to flower and blossom. Interactions and engagements between a brand and its users, responses to questions, replying to concerns, rewarding active users and acknowledging thought leaders, are all key elements to achieving community success.

Care about the community, and the community will care about you!

OnSerro empowers organisations of any size to achieve their full community potential by enabling quick and simple access, via a branded browser and mobile applications, to their end-users. Want to find out how OnSerro can help your customers? Get in touch for more information.

 

OK, this all sounds great, but how do we start to build a community?

Listed below are 10 simple, common sense, tried and tested methods, that once implemented, will put an organisation on the right path towards community success.

 

1. Start inviting

You’re all ready and set up, now what? The obvious thing to do is invite people, but who? A great place to start is an existing customer base, people who are already certificated brand / organisation advocates, where an invitation would not seem ‘out of the blue’ and cold.

Also look to invite family, friends and anyone else who is personally connected with the organisation, this can help give the community a ‘nudge’ in the right direction, certainly in the early days, as the more people the better. To further help grow longevity, meaningful content and relationships over time, look to invite and incentivise people who share similar interests.


2. Establish goals

With any new channel and method of engagement, it’s important to set goals and adopt a strategy. You wouldn’t join a gym and the very next day expect to be able to compete in the London Marathon! Much like personal fitness goals, the same should be considered when growing a community.

Set goals and work towards achieving those goals. For example, aim for 100 active and engaged users within the first 2 months, and then build to a new 200 users over the next two months, and so on…

Remember :  ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, don’t become disgruntled if invitations aren’t immediately responded to, be encouraged by initial user adoption and build on the success as you go.

 

3. Promote the community

Discuss it with everyone and anyone. Get in the habit of talking to people about the community, this new and important sales, marketing and customer support channel needs internal organisational support and ‘buy-in’ to help it grow.

Promotional ideas include…

– Promote the launch of the community on your website via banner ads and links.

– Advertise the community on the website’s contact page. Being able to inform prospective customers that they can talk directly to and ask questions of, existing customers/members is a simple yet effective way to help boost lead generation and sales.

– Promote the community through dedicated email communications, and by having sales teams and customer service representatives tell existing and potential customers about the launch.

4. Give benefit – Purpose, passion, and cause

In today’s modern world, the number of apps, content providers and digital distractions is overwhelming, not only does this highlight the benefit, and need for, dedicated branded and laser-focused communities, but it also serves to highlight user benefit.

Community users must feel they are benefitting as a result of account creation or application download. Constant ‘digital-bombardment’ from other sources requires organisations to think carefully about what content they initially want to share with users, and what is the driving force behind the community in the first place.

Does the organisation want to…

  • Sell more
  • Provide better customer service
  • Allow for more transparent peer to peer feedback and reviews
  • Gain Market research
  • Help boost customer loyalty
  • Gain customer insight

Whatever the objective(s), the benefit for the end-user must be the catalyst to achieve those goals.

Potential user benefits could be…

  • Product updates
  • Exclusive news
  • Product and service offers
  • Q&A discussions
  • Exclusive downloads
  • Customer service support
  • Tech support
  • Exclusive competitions

Whatever the incentive, make sure it’s interesting and relevant enough to warrant initial user adoption and engagement…GIVE BENEFIT!


5. Make your users feel special

Make users feel special, welcomed and ‘loved’, their opinions and feedback are highly valued to you as an organisation.

Community users are being considered thought leaders, so it’s incredibly important to nurture those relationships from the start. These people are your ‘objective’ pioneers and champions and through this third party support and advocacy, the community will grow.

Reach out to your most valued and trusted customers. If you already have an enthusiastic and passionate audience around a product or service, it’s a ‘no brainer’ that these people should be initial invitees to an online community.

Early / existing adopters will take ownership of the community and, providing they are properly acknowledged and incentivised for their efforts and contributions, ‘will become your biggest advocates and ambassadors in helping and driving continued community growth through their comments and contributions and by sharing across other social channels as well as by word of mouth.

 

6. Acknowledge founding members

Acknowledge founding members, it sounds obvious, but thanking people for their time and effort is hugely effective.

Simple acknowledgments could be…

  • Sending a welcome message thanking people for becoming a member
  • Creating custom badges that acknowledge ‘founding members’

Once recognised by the organisation, founding members act as champions, thought leaders and can also be considered as trusted community authorities.

 

7. Create a sense of exclusivity

Create a sense of exclusiveness that draws in, entices and encourages adoption. By creating a hive of exclusive content and potential engagement for like-minded peers, the message is conveyed that, as an organisation, you’re not simply ‘reinventing the wheel’ with ‘just another’ social platform.

If curated well a community will grow into a thriving hub with content and knowledge that will become ‘the go-to’ place for existing and prospective customers and users.

Allow these people access to exclusive content only available through community membership, for example…

  • Latest product information
  • Access to industry tips and knowledge
  • Downloads
  • Access to Q&A session and guest speakers

 

8. Apply Gamification

Gamification is an incredibly powerful method to help increase user adoption. The ability for users to earn badges and gain social recognition from other peers can create an active and buzzing environment where status is sought after and earned.

Create custom badges and engagement trigger points, that allows the community to self administer and boost engagement.

Simple gamification could be…

  • Add the ability to ‘Like’ across posts and comments
  • Create badges for posts, eg 10 posts = ‘Bronze level poster’
  • Create badges for comments, eg 10 comments = ‘Active contributor’

Once properly implemented, gamification can help increase adoption and engagement dramatically.  This public digital podium becomes addictive in nature as engaged users vouch to retain their socially recognised status from other peers who share similar interests and passions.

 

9. Routine and focus – Don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen!

Ensure the community becomes part of the daily routine. Marketing channels take routine, you wouldn’t expect to receive thousands of followers from a newly created Twitter account, that, of course, takes a routine of social activity.

With routine comes habit, and the more an organisation ‘buys into’ the concept of community, the quicker it can be recognised and adopted by internal stakeholders, followed by passionate internal and external advocates, followed by new and existing customers.

Create a content schedule that includes daily posts, replies, likes, and share community content across other social channels.

  • Ask daily questions
  • Post daily ‘thought of the day’
  • Create daily/weekly competitions
  • Acknowledge the week’s most active user
  • Create weekly Q&A sessions with expert speakers

Don’t wait for engagement to happen, by creating a routine you’ll make it happen!

 

10. Listen, learn and adaptPublish a road map, don’t get complacent

Continuously engage and educate users as to what’s coming next.

Don’t get complacent : keep users up to date by publishing a road map that includes feature updates, improvements and new releases. Let users know you are working hard to continuously offer the best possible UX and benefit for their membership, this will further strengthen bonds and loyalties.

Continuously listen and learn as the community grows and matures. Users are the lifeblood of any community so be open and responsive to suggestions, feature requests, and ideas that may not have internally discussed or brainstormed.

The more feedback the better, it shows people take the community seriously and take ownership of its direction and future.

 

Contact OnSerro today to speak to a member of our sales and partnership teams and discover how we can help your customers increase your sales and develop stronger customer relationships through intelligent community solutions.

About OnSerro
OnSerro empowers companies to brand and customise their own community platform, we help remove the barrier of user adoption by offering our customers solutions across web and mobile. Through intelligent push notifications, recommendations, and gamification we help grow and nurture our client’s communities by making them an important touchpoint for customers and a trusted channel within their business strategy.

Want to find out how OnSerro can help your customers? Get in touch for more information.