Building an online community is definitely not an easy task. It involves a lot of perspiration leading to often unpredictable results. To make the process a little easier, here are 5 tips which we have picked up along the way:
Tip 1: Be a model citizen
The Community Manager and their team will make up are the core of any online community and their behaviour, passion and integrity should be a model for all other members of the community. The core members will be the first people to be involved in your community and it up to them to get the ball rolling. Setting a good example will help bolster organic membership growth because new visitors will see the quality of conversation created by the core members and they will be more likely to participate within the community.
Tip 2: Know which medium is best for you
It is important to understand that not all social networks are suitable for your brand and your community. Mediums such as Facebook and Twitter are fast-paced and have a very energetic personality whilst mediums such as email newsletters are slower paced and more intimate. Choosing a medium which is not appropriate to your existing community can cause damage to your brand.
Your customers might feel as if you do not understand who they are and what they are looking for.
Certain specialised communities will prefer to congregate outside of the more established social networks in places such as forums, blogs and IRC channels. These mediums are generally more exclusive and have a higher barrier to entry. Engaging with these communities can often yield the most passionate brand ambassadors who can be used to form the core of a community on more popular social networks. But be warned, these brand fans definitely know what they are talking about and they will jump on the Community Manager if they make even the slightest mistake.
Tip 3: Incentivise participation
These days competition for the attention of your customers on the Internet is incredibly rife. The easiest way for your brand to stand out from the crowd is to create an incentive for new members to join and participate in the community. It is important to remember that the incentive which is used to encourage participation is appropriate to your audience and the brand. This will ensure that members who join and participate in the community are actually interested in the product and brand and will continue participating in the community once the incentive is taken away.
Tip 4: Make an effort
Until such a point where the community itself takes over responsibility for content creation, the core members of community will need to shoulder this responsibility. It is not an easy task to ensure that there is always discussion around new and interesting topics. Making sure that content is continuously being updated and that comments and questions posed by the community are promptly and correctly answered, will give members of the community a good reason to keep visiting the site which will build loyalty and an increased desire to participate in the community.
Tip 5: Burst a bubble
Occasionally take a pin to the bubble of a commonly held belief. Doing your research and picking an intelligent fight is a great way to get people talking. It is a fine line to ensure that people aren’t offended and that the conversation doesn’t spiral downwards into a flame war but if done properly, it can increase people’s interest in your community.
Remember that there is no tick-and-bash solution to growing and retaining your online community. Always take the time to get to know your community members, treat them well, be truthful in all communication and reward their participation with something valuable.