If you type in ‘how to build an online community?’, you’ll find many articles talking in length about online communities and why they’re important. But they often give you more to chew than you can swallow.
This article is written with the precise intention of clearing out that same doubt and showing you how to build an online community. We will use short comprehensive points to make it easy to understand how to build an online community and how it can be highly profitable for your business. And if you’re convinced (which we know you will), you can continue reading about the best platforms that let you create an online community. This article will also provide valuable pointers that help you in creating an online community.
As you already know, an online community is a virtual platform that allows people with similar interests and purposes to interact with one another. You understand that it’s different from a social network as people in a community may not have any pre-established personal connection. It’s a bit more professional than that.
So let's get straight into why you need an online community for your business.
Reasons Why You Should be Creating an Online Community Right Away
Before you understand how to build an online community, you need to be sure why you're building it in the first place. Here are some well-established pointers that will show what you’re missing out on by not creating an online community.
• Increase Customer Loyalty
People are more liable to visit your website and check out recent updates and product-related news than going on your social handles. By building a community, you can engage these people and create a sense of belonging for your loyal customers. With a community, they get to come together and discuss various issues, provide solutions and associate with the product.
• Create Brand Advocates
Ever noticed those people who never stop talking about their favorite brand of clothes or the new smartwatch that they recently bought? These people are your word-of-mouth marketers who promote your brand without many resources. By creating an online community you can empower these brand ambassadors and influencers to spread your product throughout the globe.
• Control of Your Data and Customer Experience
Though you have the community online, it’s still a private space between you and your customer, which competitors cannot access. So you can not only control customer relationships and communication but also have a pool of valuable, secure customer data in the form of comments and opinions.
• Boost Sales
By allowing your community to grow, you can increase your customer base and draw more sales by targeting your online community. Your community can also draw visitors who land on your site and become long-term consumers based on the strength of your online community.
• Broadcast your Message
The best way to spread the message is by word of mouth. Combining the powers of the internet and online communities, you can launch products, updates or services without much hassle. Your community will help spread the word and create the hype that your product needs.
• New Possibilities of Consumer Insights
The insights and consumer perspectives that you can receive on an online community is priceless. Especially with consumers being able to post pictures and videos, it helps the research and development team in improving the product or service.
• Reducing Market Research Costs
From the previous point, you know that you can collect a lot of valuable data through your online community. Well, this reduces the resources directed into market research. In case you don't already have specific information on the forum, you can put up a poll or a survey to ask the right questions to your core audience and grow your business.
• Get your Board of Directors Involved
Online communities are windows that allow companies to get first hand experience of what consumers really think about their product. This is a great place to let your bosses see what consumers think of new products or enhancements on old ones. This can help the board make informed decisions on product improvement using direct consumer insights.
Now that you're clear with why it's so important to create an online community for your business, you need to understand what type of community works best for your business. Only then will you know how to build an online community that’s perfect for your business.
Types of Online Communities
There are majorly three different types of communities that consumers generally associate themselves with:
1. Social Community
This is a social platform, much like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These are excellent tools to build brand awareness and marketing. Companies use these communities to build a social connect with consumers by showing their personal side, broadcasting information, releasing exclusive product related news and understanding consumer behaviors.
2. Support Communities:
As the name suggests, these communities are meant for product or service-related communication among consumers. This is a great place for companies to gather information about products or services directly from the consumers themselves.
3. Advocate Communities
This type is for all those unofficial brand ambassadors and influencers who promote the brand. It's a good way to enrich your brand through ordinary word of mouth. These communities are specially created with the intention to improve sales or improve brand visibility.
Before we get on with how to build an online community let’s take a quick glance on how to identify a suitable platform.
How to Choose the Best Online Platform to Create an Online Community
What are the best options for creating your online community? An internet search will give you a list of the best platforms, but how do you go about choosing the best for your needs and requirements.
Here are some pro tips that’ll help you choose the best platform while building your online community.
The platform must be simple to operate. The more complex it looks and feels, the harder it would be to perform simple tasks related to increasing user engagement or managing the community.
Strikingly’s responsive templates are child’s play when it comes to user experience. We pride ourselves on having the best software and technological features but with easy to use, video-assisted instructions that even laymen can follow and implement.
Image taken from Strikingly
• Cost Effective
You need to balance your accounts while choosing the website you want to host your online community. Be sure to know the features you need in your online community before you choose the platform. Or else you might end up paying for website features that aren’t of much use.
Strikingly offers different plans and prices to help you get the best from our website builder. You don't need to worry about uninformed deductions and charges. Strikingly’s customer support team takes care of all customer grievances 24/7.
Image take from Strikingly
If you’re planning to draw some revenue from your online community, you better be sure to check if the platform allows you the option. Most of the platforms do have the option, but you can just check to be on the safer side.
You can create a custom ad unit and display ads on your online community with Strikingly. You can do this by copying the ad’s code from Google Adsense and pasting it in the HTML section from the Strikingly app store. You can find detailed instructions that’ll walk you through the process at Strikingly’s Knowledge base.
Image taken from Strikingly
Know how good the platform is at being updated with the latest technological advancements. Is it offering you the latest display features, plugins and is it compatible on various devices?
The app and html extensions at Strikingly allow you to enable various features on your forum. You can embed pictures, events, comment sections, emails and more just by the push of a button. Check out our extensive add-on list here.
Image taken from Strikingly
Safety of company and consumer information must be top priority. Know what types of security features and encryptions the website offers.
At Strikingly, you can allow free or paid registrations and create a member’s only page to restrict unwanted audiences.
Image taken from Strikingly
• Analytical Tools
Like any other social platform, it’s important to track how many members you have in your community and their engagement level. This will help you tweak your strategy for the future.
Strikingly lets you analyse google analytics for your online community, in order to keep tabs on its activity and performance.
If this is getting a bit confusing, don’t worry, it’ll become clearer when you understand how to build an online community. So, let’s get to it.
How to Build an Online Community
We’ve understood all the technicalities and necessities involved in building an online community. Let’s now find out how to build an online community. Here are 4 steps that will guide you to build a cracking online community and change how the world sees your product/service.
1. Understand the Purpose of the Community
Why are you building an online community? Are you looking to improve your customer engagement, reduce the cost of customer support or increase brand awareness? If you get these questions sorted out, you’ll have a well-targeted community idea that would be essential for both consumer and company.
2. Identify Stakeholders
Your online community requires a table hierarchy to run efficiently. You need to clearly organize each and every section, from administrators, moderators and managers. Apart from the consumers who will create the content on your network, you’ll need content creators and subject matter experts who can actively create valuable content for your community. Remember, your online community is no less than a company in the way it functions.
3. Setting Up the Community
Using the pointer given in the previous section, you should be able to choose the right platform to host your community. You can set up an online community with strikingly, one of the best platforms for website building. You can add a section for an online forum or set up a separate page for the community. When you’re editing Strikingly’s custom templates and create an online community, be sure to:
- Create definitive categories for your consumers. These initial categories can be generic at first. You can later improve the categories based on user feedback.
- Have an easy review process to sign up to the community. Complications kill interest!
- Clearly define roles and responsibilities for staff and be sure to assign the required permissions for their activities. You’ll need to define user restrictions as well
- Organize your online community according to usage. Different users have different levels of recognition in the online forum. Define it.
- Set up rewards and badges for active users to improve engagement in your community.
- Align the community to your brand by designing it according to your brand’s image. The theme and design of your online community must be a reflection of your brand.
- Last but not least, testing! Be sure to test every click, scroll and add-on on the community. You can never be too prepared.
Once you’re done setting up your online community, you need a buzz among the target audience. They need to be excited about your online community and become a member immediately. You can do this via existing channels such as your website or your social handles or have paid ads to reach more people.
Now that you understand how to build an online community, deciding where to host the online platform and getting the best options to customize community options have become a piece of cake with Strikingly. So sign up with Strikingly and get started with your online community right now.