Key Takeaways 📈 📊
- An Online Community Strategy Fosters Relationships. Building an engaged online community allows brands to foster meaningful relationships with their audience and tap into their collective intelligence, which is especially valuable for B2C brands that want to connect directly with customers.
- Content and Discussions Should Align with User Interests. Rather than solely providing product support, communities should create content and discussions that align with users’ interests, as this fosters greater involvement and connection to the community.
- Customer Experiences Should Cultivate Shared Identity. Designing customer experiences that cultivate a shared identity and belonging among community members, such as local meetups and exclusive perks for engaged users, helps strengthen interpersonal bonds within the community.
- An Online Brand Community Offers Deeper Connections. Online brand communities hosted on a company’s owned domain allow for authentic community building centered around a brand’s products, services, or mission, fostering deeper connections than social communities.
- A Hosted Online Community Provides Continuity. A hosted online community platform provides an always-on home for customers and fans, allowing for more meaningful relationships to develop over time and fostering a shared identity and purpose.
- An Online Community Enhances Owned Media Engagement. An online community enhances a brand’s owned media presence by providing a space to share content and conversations on a brand’s domain, allowing for more control over data and the user experience.
Online Community Strategy
Building an engaged online community can deliver tremendous value for B2C and B2B brands. In today’s digital landscape, consumers expect to be able to engage with brands beyond just transactions. An online community allows brands to foster meaningful relationships and tap into the collective intelligence of their audience.
For B2C brands, communities enable direct connections with customers. They serve as spaces where people with shared interests or needs can interact. This builds brand affinity and loyalty. For B2B companies, communities create spaces for customers, partners, and employees to collaborate. They facilitate knowledge-sharing and problem-solving.
Online Community Examples
This video offers valuable insights into building an engaging online community that fosters loyal participation. Rather than solely providing product support, it emphasizes creating content and discussions aligned to users’ interests. For instance, a Fitbit community publishes articles and advice on healthy eating and wellness goals. This lifestyle content provides value beyond just supporting a product. It enables members to suggest ideas for new features and also facilitates greater involvement and connection to the community.
Companies like IQS University, Cochlear, (RED), and Greenpeace have built branded communities on Salesforce and seen benefits like better student and partner engagement, increased donations and advocacy, and more volunteer participation.
Additionally, the video stresses the importance of designing customer experiences that cultivate shared identity and belonging among members. Local meetups, exclusive perks for engaged users, and collaborative creative projects all help strengthen interpersonal bonds within the community. When participants feel part of something meaningful, they become more invested and contribute greater ongoing value through active engagement.
The Role of Building a Social Community for B2C and B2B Brands
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow brands to reach a broad audience and build awareness. However, the social communities formed on these platforms are not owned by the brand. There are limitations to the depth of relationships and conversations that can occur.
Online brand communities hosted on a company’s owned domain are different. They allow authentic community building centered around a brand’s products, services, or mission. Deeper connections are forged when people come together in a community owned and moderated by the brand.
The Differences Between a Social Community and an Online Community
|Social Media Community||Hosted Online Community|
|Platform||Public social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn||Branded community platform on company domain|
|Control||Little brand control or data ownership||Full control over features, design, data|
|Purpose||Broad interests or ephemeral conversations||Focused interest or brand affinity|
|Relationships||Loose connections and minimal profiles||Stronger bonds with full member profiles|
|Engagement||Reactive responses to individual posts||Ongoing conversations within persistent community|
|Experience||Scattered across newsfeeds or timelines||Immersive experience focused on community|
|Revenue||Limited monetization||Can directly monetize through subscriptions or ads|
On social channels, engagement tends to be ephemeral – reactive comments or likes in response to individual posts. There is no persistent space for customers to interact over time.
A hosted online community platform provides an always-on home for customers and fans. There is continuity in the community, as it persists over the years, not just posts. Members have profiles, share resources, and participate in discussions on an ongoing basis. An online community allows for more meaningful relationships to develop. Members get to know each other and the brand. This fosters a shared identity and purpose that comes from belonging.
How an Online Community is an Extension of Owned Media
An online community expands a brand’s owned media presence. It provides a space to share content and conversations on a brand’s domain. This allows for more control over data and the user experience.
It also provides a source of user-generated content. Brand advocates can organically create content like reviews, how-to’s, and testimonials. This authentic content helps convert and engage site visitors. Overall, an online community enhances owned media by keeping people active and engaged on a brand’s digital properties. This level of engagement isn’t possible on social media alone.
Best Practices for Building an Online Community
|Identify Business & Marketing Goals||Define specific business and marketing goals the community will support||Prioritizing potentially competing goals|
|Research the Audience||Conduct thorough audience research to understand target members||Resource intensive; Requires ongoing research|
|Choose the Right Online Community Platform||Evaluate custom vs off-the-shelf solutions to meet goals and budget||Balancing customization, cost and speed to launch|
|Build a Community Team||Hire community manager and supporting roles like content creators||Finding the right skillsets; Budget constraints|
|Using Social Listening||Monitor external social conversations to inform content and engagement strategies||Identifying relevant signals in large data pools|
|Create Valuable Content||Develop excellent content suited for target members||Consistently creating fresh, high-quality content|
|Community Analytics||Track engagement, conversions, and satisfaction metrics||Identifying the right KPIs; Data-driven culture|
Building a thriving online community takes careful planning and execution. By following proven best practices, brands can launch and grow communities that deliver value. Here are some critical steps for developing an impactful online community.
To build a thriving community that fuels business goals, brands must first get crystal clear on their objectives. An online community can help achieve many aims – from driving sales to enhancing support. Defining specific goals guides effective community development and management.
Identify Business & Marketing Goals
Defining clear goals is crucial when developing an online community strategy. Consider what purpose the community will serve for the brand. Common goals include increasing brand loyalty and advocacy by fostering deeper customer relationships, generating leads by engaging prospects, crowdsourcing innovations by tapping collective insights, or providing enhanced support and reducing inquiries.
The community’s overall structure, features, and activities should tie directly to the business objectives. For instance, if top goals include generating leads and increasing sales, focus community efforts on content, resources, and tools that educate prospects and assist the buying journey.
Setting concrete goals also allows brands to quantify community success. Relevant benchmarks can be established to regularly track metrics like member registrations, engagement levels, conversions, customer satisfaction, referral traffic, and revenue influenced by the community.
Generate 100 sales-qualified leads per month through the online community platform. This business goal focuses the community on attracting and engaging prospects to drive new business. Success is measured by conversions into the sales pipeline.
Achieve 80% monthly member engagement measured by active logins, content views, and participation. This marketing goal focuses the community on attracting an audience and nurturing ongoing participation. Success is measured by consistent interactions over time.
Research the Audience
Once goals are defined, brands should conduct thorough audience research. This provides important insights into target members’ demographics, interests, needs, preferred online behaviors, and brand perceptions.
These insights will inform strategies for attracting the right audience to the community and crafting experiences that facilitate meaningful interactions and relationships once they join. For example, personas can be developed to customize community features, tone, and engagement approaches to resonate with priority customer segments.
Ongoing audience research is also crucial after the launch. Community analytics should be regularly monitored to identify who is – and isn’t – engaging. These usage insights guide adjustments to content, discussions, and community initiatives to continually refine the experience to boost member participation.
Choose the Right Online Community Platform
Selecting the optimal online community platform is a strategic choice brands must weigh carefully. Two key options exist – building a custom community platform or using an off-the-shelf software solution. There are pros and cons to each approach that must be considered.
Custom-building an online community platform allows extensive personalization to match a brand’s desired functionality and aesthetics. However, this option requires a significant upfront investment of time and developer resources. It also demands ongoing technical maintenance and feature development.
In contrast, leveraging existing turnkey community software is more affordable and enables much faster launch, as the foundation is already in place. Configurations and integrations still allow some customization. However, brands must work within the constraints of predetermined features and design capabilities.
Choosing the best platform option depends on budget, business and community goals, audience needs, and required functionality. Brands must outline must-have features and ideal experience to determine if an off-the-shelf solution or custom build will better deliver on the defined vision and strategy. Regardless of approach, ensure the platform choice strategically aligns with community objectives.
Build a Community Team
|Community Manager||Develops strategy, facilitates discussions, creates content, analyzes data||Project management, communication, analytics, content creation|
|Analyst||Tracks and interprets engagement metrics to surface insights||Data analysis, statistics, visualization|
|Moderators||Monitors discussions and ensures adherence to rules||Diplomacy, conflict resolution, communication|
|Editorial||Writers who create compelling content for the community||Writing, editing, creativity|
|Designer||Handles aesthetics like layouts, graphics and visual identity||Graphic design, UI/UX, branding|
|Customer Care||Provides support related to orders, billing and technical issues||Customer service, product knowledge, communication|
Managing a thriving online community requires dedicated staff. At a minimum, hiring an experienced community manager is essential for ongoing nurturing, facilitation, and moderation of member discussions and interactions. Depending on the size and scope of the community, additional roles like content creators, analysts, and customer service liaisons may be warranted.
The community manager is the central host and conduit between members and the brand. They set the tone, onboard new members, drive participation through engaging initiatives, and moderate effectively. This multifaceted role requires understanding the brand perspective and empathizing with audience motivations and needs.
Look for community managers who are natural communicators, creative in keeping members actively engaged, and empathetic to foster a sense of belonging. Strong data skills are also crucial, as managers rely heavily on community analytics and feedback to gain insights and inform strategy decisions. Assembling a team combining these competencies lays the foundation for nurturing a thriving member community.
Using Social Listening
Listening to broader social conversations provides valuable consumer insights to inform strategies for managing and growing online communities.
Powerful social listening tools can track mentions of the brand, competitors, industry news, and trending topics across the social web, forums, review sites, and blogs. Monitoring these external conversations identifies consumer interests, pain points, and questions. Community managers can use these insights to steer community conversations and content to resonate with what is top of mind. Attracting new members may be as simple as discussing a trending topic and making waves online.
Social listening also generates ideas for community content formats like articles, discussions, Q&As, and webinars. Managers can spot debates and unanswered questions to address through content. This content will deeply engage the community since it connects directly to customer needs.
Create Valuable Content
Content is indeed the lifeblood of any online community. To continually attract, educate, and engage members over time, a steady pipeline of high-quality, value-added content is essential.
This content should aim to entertain, inspire, or educate members, not overtly sell. Focus on creating content that directly speaks to the interests, motivations, and goals of your defined target audience. Identify which formats will best deliver value based on your community’s purpose, whether it be customer support, advocacy, or peer knowledge sharing.
Potential content formats include long-form articles, short tips, discussion forums, webinars, Q&As with experts, polls, and more. Consider developing an editorial content calendar to organize the ideation, agile content creation, and content promotion across these different formats.
|Activity metrics||Tracks member participation and content usage||Pageviews, unique visitors, posts created|
|Member metrics||Tracks community growth and retention||New registrations, returning users|
|Engagement metrics||Measures interactions and contributions||Comments, shares, reactions, downloads|
|Business metrics||Ties to key business goals like sales||Conversions, revenue influenced|
|Satisfaction metrics||Gauges member experience and sentiment||Net Promoter Score, survey feedback|
Community analytics should be the guiding light that informs online community management strategies. Monitoring key usage and engagement metrics on an ongoing basis is crucial for understanding audience behaviors and identifying opportunities for improvement.
There is a diverse range of performance indicators community managers should track, both quantitative and qualitative. On the quantitative side, examine metrics like new member registrations, number of active users over time, page views, posts created, social shares, comments, and conversions or desired actions.
Compare these metrics to past benchmarks or targets to assess growth trends. Create dashboards to monitor whether initiatives are driving more traffic and participation.
Surveys and focus groups also provide qualitative insights into members’ motivations, satisfaction levels, challenges, and ideas. Combined with quantitative usage data, community managers can spot gaps, form hypotheses for change, and continue refining strategies and engagement approaches to foster greater involvement over time.
The right community analytics can empower data-driven decisions to guide communities successfully toward business goals. Qualitative insights bring the data to life for impactful community cultivation.
Deep Dive: Measuring Online Community Engagement
Understanding what drives member involvement is critical for nurturing online communities. Tracking key engagement metrics continuously provides valuable insights for community managers to refine strategies to keep members active and engaged.
|Activity Level||Tracks logins, content views, posts||Defining “active” user|
|New Members||Measures community growth||Retaining new members|
|Page Views||Counts views of content pieces||Attributing to sources|
|New Posts||Tracks user-generated posts||Ensuring post quality|
|Engagement||Likes, comments, shares, reactions||Qualifying meaningful actions|
|Actions Taken||Conversions like downloads, purchases||Attributing impact of community|
|Search Visibility||Monitors keyword and page rankings||Competition for rankings|
Monitoring Activity Levels
A critical signal of community health is the activity level on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Useful metrics to analyze daily or monthly active users show how many members are logging in and browsing or posting content regularly and whether this number rises or falls over time. Page views are also insightful to reveal the total views community content like articles, discussions, and polls generate. Trends can expose whether specific content formats and topics drive more traffic than others.
Analyzing posts created shows the volume of user-generated posts and responses being contributed and how many comments members post to discussions or blogs. Observing these activity metrics helps reveal where engagement may be lacking. For example, if page views remain steady but new posts have declined, it suggests members are reading but not actively participating. This indicates community managers should introduce new discussions or initiatives to reinvigorate interactivity.
Tracking New Member Registrations
While driving new member signups is essential for growth, evaluating factors like traffic sources provides valuable intelligence. Monitoring where new registrants come from can inform promotional strategies to reach untapped audiences. Analyzing onboarding engagement shows whether signups are productively oriented to the community and features during registration and if introductions and first interactions optimally drive future involvement.
Tracking new member retention reveals what percentage of signups become regular, lasting participants versus one-time visitors. Analyzing new member behaviors continuously provides data to refine onboarding and retention tactics. This ensures engaged members rather than one-off participants.
Page Views of Community Content
Page views are essential for assessing engagement with the diverse forms of content shared within an online community. Community managers should regularly monitor page views generated by key content pieces like articles/blog posts, discussions, Q&As, event pages, and more.
Substantial traffic to new blog articles indicates interest in the topics covered, while lower views may signal boring subject matter or ineffective promotion of recent posts. A highly participative discussion thread with many views reflects an engaging, relevant topic connecting with members, while minimal views suggest the discussion topic missed the mark. For Q&As, high page views for active threads imply members find value in the community’s knowledge sharing, while low views could indicate unanswered questions or topics that are too narrow.
For communities hosting live or digital events, event page traffic reveals anticipated attendance and engagement. Weak traffic is a red flag of ineffective event marketing or disinterest in the event.
Analyzing page views by content type and topic guides decisions about the subjects and formats to prioritize. This page view data helps optimize content creation and curation for maximum impact.
Number of New Posts
The volume of new posts – including blog articles, discussions, Q&As, and comments – shows members’ willingness to contribute actively. Higher numbers generally reflect a community that encourages participation through its tone, etiquette guidelines, and moderation standards.
However, it’s also crucial to evaluate post quality beyond just quantity. Too many low-value or off-topic contributions can be detrimental. The goal is meaningful engagement, not just maximizing posts.
Comparing member-generated posts to marketer-created content is also insightful. A healthy balance of both demonstrates an engaged, loyal community. If marketer posts overwhelm member contributions, creative strategies may be needed to spur more user-generated content.
Tracking engagement can provide invaluable community analytics to optimize experiences and content. Metrics like reactions, comments, shares, and other forms of interacting with content offer insights beyond passive reading or views.
These engagement indicators reveal which specific pieces of content and topics resonate most deeply with members. A highly commented-on discussion, for example, shows an exchange of ideas members find worthwhile. Sparse comments may signal the discussion topic missed the mark entirely or failed to notify members adequately to drive participation through emails and alerts.
Looking at social sharing levels shows how community content is expanding reach beyond just enrolled members. Content eliciting high social sharing demonstrates sharable value worth replicating. Likewise, minimal sharing highlights content not worth promoting.
Monitoring all these engagement metrics helps managers identify what content formats and topics to expand and which to eliminate or change. The analytics optimizes future content planning to match community interests and engagement preferences. The more members like, comment, share, and interact with content, the stronger community bonds become over time. Engagement metrics are a barometer of the vibrancy and connections within a community.
Community Actions Taken
For communities that drive measurable business impact, tracking conversion metrics is crucial. These analytics quantify how well the community is converting members into valued customers and driving desired actions.
Community managers should identify key actions and conversion goals based on business priorities. For example, goals might include generating sales, encouraging content downloads, event signups, service enrollments, profile updates, or collecting high-value data through surveys or reviews.
With goals defined, track community contribution to conversions through data and touchpoint attribution. For example, analyze if more members download gated content assets after a community email campaign. Or monitor whether introductions of new discussion formats increase event registrations or service enrollments mentioned in the forums.
Tying community initiatives and content to measurable actions provides hard evidence of business impact. This focuses community management efforts on doubling down on what moves the needle most. Conversion analytics quantify the community’s value in influencing customer behaviors, not just fostering engagement.
With data connecting community efforts to conversions, managers can continuously refine strategies and better align member interactions to desired business outcomes.
Visibility in Search Results
Having an online community surface prominently in search engine results can significantly expand reach to attract new members. Community managers should track key SEO metrics to optimize discoverability and conversion from organic search traffic.
Monitor which branded and non-branded keywords and pages rank in top search positions. Are core community pages like “register,” “login,” and “discussions” appearing on the first page for relevant searches? Tracking rankings over time gauges whether foundational SEO efforts are succeeding.
But also analyze actions taken by visitors who land on your community pages from organic searches. What percentage then convert to become registered members vs. bouncing immediately? This indicates whether your SEO content is resonating with the right audience.
Optimize SEO by interlinking related community content, profiling member activity, and matching search intent with pages. Ensure onboarding flows capture and engage visitors from SEO traffic. Prominent visibility in organic search results provides a crucial influx of qualified prospects already seeking your community’s offerings. SEO and conversion analytics optimize this channel for member acquisition and growth.
The Importance of Hiring a Community Manager
|Definition & Role||Serves as facilitator and conduit between brand and members||Balancing brand and audience advocacy|
|Key Responsibilities||Wide-ranging skillset required||Wide ranging skillset required|
|Skills & Qualities||Communication, creativity, empathy, analysis, strategic thinking||Finding a candidate with a blend of hard and soft skills|
|Shaping Brand Image||Daily interactions influence brand perceptions and culture||Maintaining consistent brand alignment|
|Impact on Customer Engagement||Build relationships and foster member collaboration||Keeping communities vibrant takes constant work|
|Managing Crises||Prepare for and judiciously respond to issues||Difficult to predict crises and minimize damage|
|Working with a Community Manager||Provide empowerment, open communication, clear expectations||Allowing autonomy while governing the onlne community|
|Tools & Resources||Analytics, social listening, automation, education||Budget constraints on robust tools and training|
An experienced community manager is essential for nurturing a thriving online community. Their strategic oversight sets the tone, facilitates meaningful connections between members, and inspires ongoing participation.
Definition and Role of a Community Manager
A community manager acts as the day-to-day host and facilitator of an online community. They are responsible for overseeing member interactions, fostering engagement, and ensuring a positive environment aligned with the brand’s purpose. This strategic role blends marketing, customer service, and community building. Community managers advocate for the brand and members – building relationships to ensure all participants gain value from the community. Their oversight and involvement are critical for success.
Key Responsibilities of a Community Manager
Community managers juggle a diverse range of responsibilities. These include developing and executing the overall community strategy to support defined business goals, whether driving growth, engagement, or lifecycle management. They also serve as brand ambassador – sharing news, building hype for launches, responding to feedback, and conveying the brand’s purpose authentically. Content creation and curation are core duties, as community managers continually create entertaining, educational content to attract and engage members.
Moderating discussions, building rapport with members, and facilitating a constructive, on-brand tone in all interactions take a watchful eye and a light touch. Additionally, community managers must analyze platform data and member feedback to gain insights to refine engagement approaches. Finally, collaborating with internal teams like marketing, support, and product development to share insights is critical to strengthening customer-centricity across the organization.
Skills & Qualities to Look For in a Community Manager
An exceptional community manager possesses a blend of hard and soft skills. Strong written communication abilities enable productive interactions with diverse members daily. Social media savvy and creativity allow them to execute campaigns that inspire sharing and participation. Analytical skills help derive insights from community metrics that inform data-driven strategy.
Organization and attention to detail are vital for juggling many responsibilities and building trust through reliability. Relationship-building skills allow for connections with external community members and internal teams. Strategic thinking enables seeing the big picture and building programs supporting overarching goals. The right community manager will set the tone – their passion and personality should reflect the brand’s voice and values.
How a Community Manager Can Shape Your Brand’s Image
A community manager’s daily interactions with customers significantly influence brand perceptions. Through thoughtful engagement and moderation, they shape the image projected to members and potential members encountering the community. Managers should consistently reinforce brand values like quality, transparency, and goodwill. This establishes trust and rapport. Handling member complaints professionally prevents crises while building loyalty.
Sharing behind-the-scenes details provides exclusivity that makes fans feel valued. Celebrating user-generated content and member milestones boosts advocacy. Overall, an empathetic, brand-aligned community manager nurtures positive perceptions. This drives recommendations and growth as an authentic brand image attracts people.
How to Work with a Community Manager
To optimize collaboration, provide ample empowerment and trust so community managers can represent the brand independently day-to-day. Maintain open communication channels for sharing feedback, brainstorming innovations, and aligning on initiatives. Set clear expectations and benchmarks, but allow creativity in execution. Give community managers access to business priorities and strategies to align community development efforts accordingly. And importantly, recognize their vital impact and provide professional development opportunities to sharpen skills.
Tools & Resources for Community Managers
Essential tools include platform analytics to track engagement, social listening monitors to identify trends in employment, marketing automation software to streamline outreach, and member profiling capabilities to understand the audience. Helpful resources include communities of peer community managers to exchange ideas, publications on community-building best practices to stay on top of evolving tactics, and continuing education through workshops or certifications to build capabilities. Investing in the right tools and ongoing learning enables community managers to maximize their strategic impact.
The Role of Community Marketing
While online communities should focus on value for members, brands still need to monetize through marketing initiatives. The key is balancing promotional elements authentically without detracting from the user experience.
Tactful, transparent integration of marketing builds trust. Overt sales pitches damage community rapport quickly. Instead, highlight member benefits with any product or service spotlighted.
Surveys gauging interest in potential offerings can guide plans. Co-creating value-added monetized elements with enthusiastic members fosters goodwill. For instance, a private forum for power users could provide exclusive assistance as a subscription offering.
Responsible community marketing reinforces the brand purpose. Savvy managers find creative ways to generate revenue that aligns with audience needs. The value given ultimately enhances loyalty and advocacy.
Final Thoughts on Building an Online Community Strategy
Online communities require careful cultivation but provide tremendous value. Defining the purpose and target audience sets the direction. Choose a platform matching the desired functionality and scale. Dedicated community managers are instrumental – they set the tone and facilitate enriching exchanges.
Fostering participation takes strategic community marketing and quality content that resonates. Tracking engagement metrics identifies opportunities for improvement. Ongoing optimization based on insights, paired with delivering tangible value, sustains vibrant communities that support business goals.
The takeaway: Building a thriving community is an investment, requiring resources, creativity, and commitment. However, the long-term benefits of customer relationships and brand growth make this effort worthwhile.
An online community is a group of people who regularly interact and connect through a digital platform dedicated to a specific interest, purpose, or brand.
Examples of social communities include Facebook groups or subreddits on Reddit, which form around shared interests, demographics, or topics.
Types of online communities include member-initiated like forums, brand-sponsored like customer communities, geographically-based like neighborhood sites, and purpose-driven like support communities.
Some of the largest online communities by active users include Facebook, with over 2 billion users, and Reddit, with over 50 million active users.
Tips for finding an excellent online community include identifying your interests and goals, searching review sites, joining established niche communities, and evaluating factors like engagement level, tone, and member profiles.
Online communities build connections by providing a dedicated space for members tointeract regularlyt through discussions, content sharing, private messaging, profile pages, and collaborative projects.
Factors for athrivingl online community include clear purpose and rules, engaging content, active moderation, encouraging civil discourse, and fostering a sense of belonging through shared identity.
Strategies to gain online community members include social promotion, SEO optimization, relevant quality content, email outreach, collaborations, contests, and incentivized invites.
Signs of a failing online community include inactive discussions, unanswered questions, poor moderation, spam, cliques, hostility between members, andmeagerw registration rates.