5 proven tips to build your business online community
Once upon a time, businesses would publish a variety of content to attract followers online and promote their brands. While that approach is still valid to some extent, the one-to-many model of content publishing is falling out of favor thanks to the rise of many-to-many online communities. If you’re trying to build an online community around your brand, these simple tips will help you to do it right.
Identify Your Audience First
Before getting started with a forum or social media profile meant to act as a community hub, you need to know your audience. Do a little digital reconnaissance using Facebook Pages or Twitter handles. You may find that your current audience isn’t your desired audience and that you need to rejigger your public image to attract sought-after demographics.
Lay a Solid Foundation
The first few weeks and months of your online community’s life are always the most critical. As a result, it’s vital that you take your time building momentum at the outset. It’s easier to gradually improve an online community and redirect its focus than fix a broken portal that’s lost the respect of potential members right out of the gate.
Minimize Barriers to Entry
Above all else, an online community shouldn’t make it difficult for members to join and interact with one another. For starters, don’t use a paywall or close your content to outsiders. Sharing content and commenting on it should only require a simple sign-in process where users provide a name and an email address. Basically, do what you have to do to curtail spam and allow users to interact seamlessly.
Don’t Become an Echo Chamber
The most vibrant online communities are comprised of members that don’t march in lockstep on the opinion front. A bunch of people agreeing with each other and shouting down the few outliers that don’t is a weak community indeed. Promote respectful discussion to ensure that your community is a rich resource that makes your brand look good.
Don’t Allow the Mob to Rule your Online Community
The key to running an online community that furthers your brand’s promotional goals is maintaining the right level of top-down control. Reddit is a great example since the site is built on community-level organization. The site’s top brass only step in when things are getting out of hand. Set sensible ground rules but allow users a fair amount of freedom.
Make Sharing a Top Priority
Unless you have a massive staff that can be dedicated to content creation, promoting the submission of user-generated content (UGC) is a must. Prime the pump by fleshing out your community portal with evergreen content such as how-to guides in written and multi-media formats. Encourage your followers to submit content of their own for the good of the community.