Brand tips

How to Build an Online Community: 9 Sure-Fire Ways To Create Online Engagement

To build deeper connections and create a lasting impact, here are nine ways to help you build a thriving online community.

How to Build an Online Community: 9 Sure-Fire Ways To Create Online Engagement

With the increasing number of people and brands coming online every day, it’s more important than ever to be seen and heard by your community. No longer can your attention be on how often you post on Facebook and Instagram, instead the focus must be on your community and how you can build, grow and deepen those relationships.

To cut through the noise, build deeper connections, and create a lasting impact, here are nine ways to help you build a thriving online community.

#1 - People should come first in online communities

The better you understand your audience the easier it will be to authentically engage with them. Social media is about making emotional connections and creating shared experiences and this will come much easier if you deeply understand the needs, wants, goals, behaviours, challenges and aspirations of your community. Put your people first and then focus on the social networks and the tools and content you’ll create to communicate with them.

For example, if you’re targeting parents, you might want to consider the different needs of stay-at-home parents, working parents, and parents with school-aged kids. Once you’ve identified these different needs, you can better engage with each subgroup by sharing content that is relevant and useful to them instead of generalising the entire group.

#2 - Consistency is everything in community building

Your messaging, communication style, language, frequency of content posting, and level of engagement must be consistent across all your social networks. You don’t have to be everywhere on social media.

Stick to the social networks your audience uses if you want results. You’re much better off using one or two platforms consistently than spreading yourself too thinly across five or six. Your own community expects a seamless customer experience so ensure everything you do on social media is aligned with your vision, values and brand.

#3 - Personal connection is the key to social media success

Take time each day to connect with individuals in your community. Your community managers should start personalised conversations to engage them. Note that this is not to advocate blatantly selling or promoting your services to them. Start a meaningful conversation, talk to them, ask a question, respond or comment to one of their posts or tweets.

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By doing these, you’ll make connections, create stronger bonds and build trust. With systems and processes set up, this doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time each day. Think of it as an investment in your community and your business. People buy from those they trust.

#4 - Humanise your brand for community members

Successful communities thrive on giving people the opportunity to find out more about you and allow them to go behind the scenes. People and brands want to build relationships and work with those that share the same values. They want to get to know the real you and this is why it’s important to mix some personal content into your brand story. Don’t share everything. Only share personal content that is appropriate, brand-aligned and relevant to your audience.

For instance, you can't share everything about your personal life on social media, but you can share photos from company events, snippets of your workday, or things you’re passionate about that are related to your brand. It’s all about giving people a little taste of who you are so they can connect with you on a deeper level.

#5 - Write for your audience using their language or voice

When you’re writing social media content, creating videos or imagery always keep your active members in mind. Write specifically for them. Use the language they use. To help with this, picture your ideal client and pretend you’re writing just for them. By doing this you’ll be able to create more personalised content that will resonate with your current readers and attract new ones.

It's helpful to write using the same tone as your audience. If they’re light and fun like most gamer communities, then write in a similar tone. If they’re more serious and professional, adjust your language to match. You can also vary your tone depending on the social media platform you’re using. For example, LinkedIn is a more professional social network, so your posts on there need to be a little more serious than on your Facebook community.

#6 - Create compelling content on your community platform

Think of innovative ways to share your story that will be meaningful to your audience. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, take the opportunity to do things differently. Mix it up, use video, share and create beautiful imagery and focus on standing out from the crowd.

Keep in mind that everything you create or share on social media must be aligned with your brand and educate, inform, help or entertain your audience in some way. If you authentically tap into the values and emotions of your audience they will naturally want to share your content with their friends and their own online community groups. Don’t forget, the majority of people skim read and will be reading your content on a mobile phone so keep it short, sweet, easy to read and engaging.

#7 - Repackage and repurpose content

If you’ve created a piece of content don’t use it once and then forget about it. Instead, look at ways you can repackage or repurpose it for social media. Do you have a blog post that can easily be turned into a video? Can you turn your blog post into 10 individual Facebook posts or Tweets? Or do you have an eBook you could turn into a short video series? Everyone likes to receive information in different formats. As a community manager, you need to think about the different ways you can serve your content to your community.

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You can also use different content formats to attract new members to your community. If you’re running a contest, for example, you could promote it using an old video or infographic to demonstrate how the contest works. If you’re running a webinar, you could create short videos from previous webinars as a teaser to promote it. The more creative you get with your existing content, the less work is required.

#8 - Include your community in your story

Including your team, clients and community in your story is a brilliant way to build relationships, create brand advocates and build your online community. This can be any type of content from testimonials, to videos, photos, blog posts and contests. Your community will love to be involved and be a part of your story. User-generated content will create opportunities for you to share your message to a wider audience and it will create social proof which is incredibly powerful on social media.

#9 - Measure everything you've done

Monitor and measure everything. If something isn’t working, you have the ability to fix it or move on to something else. Regular review your social metrics, data and insights and use them to better serve your community and to grow your business. The more you test and measure, the more efficient you’ll be and you’ll be in a much better position to build and grow your online community.

What makes a good online community?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the success of your online community will be determined by your industry, target market, and the goals you have set for your community. However, there are some key ingredients that all successful online communities have in common:

  • A clear purpose or goal
  • Engaged and active members
  • A strong sense of community spirit
  • Paid or free community platforms that already works for the audience
  • Clear and simple community guidelines
  • Useful and relevant content
  • Regular communication and engagement from the community manager(s)
  • Effective moderation policies
  • A focus on solving problems
  • An appreciation for feedback and suggestions from members

If you can create an online community that has these key elements, you’re well on your way to success.

Building an online community for your business

Building an online community for your business can be a great way to connect with customers and create a support system for your brand. It can also help build brand awareness and create advocates for your company.

When creating an active online community for your business, it's important to think about the goals you have for the community and what you want it to achieve.

You'll need to think about the medium or delivery. Is it going to be a subreddit or Facebook group? A Discord channel? A membership section on your website? Select an online community platform that will work for your target audience.

You'll also need to think about engagement. Find out how will you encourage people to become active community members.

Once you have these basics in place, it's time to create a content strategy for building and growing a successful online community.

Online community building for your business can be a lot of work, but it's well worth it if done correctly. By using the tips in this article, you're on your way to creating a thriving online community for your business.

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With thanks to Debra Sinclair

Featured image from Lifestyle Sydney