How to build an online community

Communities surround us. From the moment we are born, we become members of several communities. These communities could be made up of our family members, friends or people who share a specific interest. 

An online community is not so different from an ordinary community besides being virtual. 

In this article, we will discuss what online communities are and why they are important. Moreover, we will discuss how brands can build their own online communities and benefit from them.

So, let’s get started!

What is an online community?

While you are likely to be a member of a few communities, defining an online community might be difficult. 

According to Wix eCommerce, a community is about the relationships between your brand and your customers. Communities usually are formed by shared values or interests. Therefore, a community is a space where people meet and interact

An online community is a group of people who interact with each other on an online platform. These people use the internet to communicate with each other and share their thoughts and ideas. 

Since the definition is broad, communities are varied. Communities can be formed around an influencer with lots of followers, or they could be made up of a few coffee lovers who talk about their shared interests through a private Facebook group. 

Branded online community

Branded online communities are communities that are designed by a specific organization to gather people who love that organization under one roof.

A brand’s loyal customers and engaged fans are invited to these communities to create value for their favourite brand.

Benefits of having an online community

There are various benefits to having an online community, and brands create online communities for different reasons. The benefits of having an online community include:

Getting feedback

An online community is a perfect place to get feedback from the most loyal customers. Regular communication with brands communities help businessesimprove its products and services to serve its customers better.

When a brand builds a community comprised of its most engaged fans and advocates, it creates the perfect opportunity to get valuable feedback from real people who actually care about the quality of its products and services. 

Innovative ideas from the most engaged fans

Just like getting feedback, a group of engaged and loyal customers are a great source for innovation. Your loyal customers are the best people to tell you what product improvements need to be made.

Sometimes, the most engaged fans of a brand have really good ideas for future products. Since they know and love the brand, they can come up with innovative and useful ideas. By having an online community, brands can directly collect these ideas and put them to good use.

Fostering meaningful relationships with loyal customers

Another benefit of having an online community is that brands can build a relationship with their valued customers.

Fostering a meaningful relationship with loyal customers is a great way to get to know them. And the more a brand knows about its customers, the more likely it is to succeed in trying to create and sell more relevant products and services to them. 

Building a long-lasting relationship with customers can also help the brand increase brand loyalty. 

Increasing engagement

Online communities do a great job of keeping a brand’s loyal customers engaged. The more engaged a customer is with a brand, the more likely they will continue advocating for that brand. 

For many users, online communities provide a space where they can exchange ideas and share their thoughts. Brands having a dialogue with the members of their online community can improve their level of engagement. 

An affordable source for creating word-of-mouth

As you might know, word-of-mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing. According to Invesp, people are 90% more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended by a friend.

An online community is a great place to create word of mouth for brands. The members of a brand’s online community can help it share its story in a more authentic and affordable way

User-generated content

Besides creating word-of-mouth, online communities can inspire customers to create content. User-generated content has immense potential for gaining valuable social proof and engaging audiences

More engaged users in an online community can create valuable content to further advocate for their favourite brands. It includes reviews, videos, social media posts, etc.

Online communities are also the perfect place to exchange ideas and get loyal customers inspired to create more UGC that can greatly benefit brands.

How to build an online community

Now that we have enough information about what online communities are, it is time to move to the next step: building an online community. To create an online community, brands need to:

Create a space

The first step in building an online community is to create a space to host the community.

There are different spaces that brands use to host their communities. Some brands prefer to use public spaces, while others like to use more private and exclusive ones. 

Public spaces include social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. These platforms are usually free of charge. However, these spaces do not have the professional tools needed to manage an online community. 

Brands that like to have their communities in more exclusive spaces have two options. They can design their online communities themselves or use community management platforms.

Choosing where to host an online community is essential since it determines the success or failure of a given community. 

Identify and invite suitable candidates

The next step is to look for suitable candidates to invite to the community.

This step is of great importance because the members of a community can immensely influence how that community operates. The more engaged they are, the more benefits they can offer the brand. 

This article explores the type of users that should be invited to a brand’s community. In short, the users who are invited to an online community should:

  • produce high-quality content,
  • have an audience that is relevant to the brand,
  • and communicate with their audience regularly.

Develop house rules and guidelines

Developing house rules and community guidelines are the next steps. In this step, the involved parties should discuss the goals and objectives for the community. Based on the goals set, they should develop clear guidelines and rules for community members.

This article includes four tips for writing house rules for online communities. House rules should be clear, firm, and brief. It is also a good idea to provide examples to further clarify the expectations and inspire community members.

Engage with community members

Now that the community is set and members are accepting the invitations, it is time to engage with the community members. 

Brands should keep in mind that creating a community alone is not enough to reap the benefits of having an online community. They need to communicate with their community members and keep them engaged constantly.

To know more about why brands need to keep their community engaged, check out this article.

Promote the online community

Another critical step for having a thriving community is to promote it. By promoting the community, a brand ensures that new members join its community and keep it fresh.

There are several ways for brands to promote their community. For example, they can use their social media accounts, have in-store announcements, put the relevant information on their website, etc. 

By reaching as many loyal customers as possible, brands can make sure that their community is prospering and is producing valuable results for them!

You do not have to do it yourself!

While brands can find a lot of benefits in creating online communities, it is a demanding job. The good news is that they do not have to do this themselves. There are a number of community management platforms like Pukket that can help brands build their perfect communities. 

Pukket can automatically handle all the community management tasks such as identifying engaged fans on social media, on-boarding advocates, and rewarding community members for creating engaging UGC. 

If you are in need of a professional team to help your brand build its online community, be sure to reach out by filling out the following form: