An online community is defined as a group of unified individuals by common opinions, interests in a virtual space. Online communities are one of the great ways to facilitate meaningful conversations among your followers.
Online communities empower the audience to:
- Discuss topics that evoke interest in them
- Learn together
- Share advice ad other related news
- Collaborate on projects
- Engage with a community figure, online instructor or a brand
Building an online community is an excellent way for brands to bring together all the customers in one place so that they can discuss strategies, share ideas and get proper feedback on the products or services of the organization.
Some of the significant benefits of building an online community include:
- Being able to respond to the market shifts
- Increase revenue for your business
- Creating brand ambassadors for your brand
- Getting feedback from your consumers and audience
- Be a leader in your space
Online communities also provide opportunities for businesses to identify and understand the knowledge gaps and fill them.
Essential Steps to Launch a Successful Online Community from scratch
Choose a Platform
There are various options available to build an online community. Businesses can consider using social media platforms or build their own online membership websites to interact with the audience group.
The major platforms that help brands to develop community and engage with the audience are:
Facebook- a platform with excellent features like group pages which are already community platforms and help the audience easily engage with your brand while allowing you to share content, get responses and drive traffic to your website.
Slack is an exciting platform that allows businesses to create channels for a specific topic and come with customizable features.
Custom membership site on WordPress- membership sites can be quickly built on WordPress while allowing organizations to feature their brands on the website. This allows companies to automate processes such as subscription charges, payment collection and user registration.
Develop a Launch Framework
Businesses need to consider what are the problems they wish to resolve by building an online community:
The problems can include anything such as:
- Increasing customer ratings
- Increasing demand for products or services
- Identifying influencers
- Decrease costs
- Increase collaboration
Identifying these factors helps businesses align with the purpose of launching an online community with intended business goals.
Identify the key stakeholders
Once the need to launch an online community is understood, the next step is to identify the stakeholders for your company.
There are three types of stakeholders:
- Those who manage the community- This group of stakeholders include the marketing department, customer support or community manager.
- Those whom the community will impact- This group generally involves the marketing team and product management team.
- Upper-level Management- Includes manager who is responsible for the community and people who are affected by the community.
Setting up community
Before launching a community, it is always essential to make sure you are familiar with the software you are willing to use.
Once you are familiar with the software, the next step is to make essential set-up decisions that include:
- Displaying the list of recent discussions for the forum
- Keeping the pre-launch of your community private
- Creating initial categories
- Defining the role of employees and members
- Reviewing the sign-up process
- Deciding on the features that will be enabled
- Assigning permission for the roles
- Implementing the theme
- Setting up outgoing email
- Configuring spam control
Begin your soft Launch
Once the organizations are satisfied with the working of the community, the next step is to begin the soft Launch. The purpose of the Soft Launch is to get your community ready for the official public Launch.
This step helps businesses identify any problems or changes that need to be made and understand what all needs to be included. The objectives during the soft Launch should include refining the community, getting the public involved and receiving feedback.
Online communities help businesses promote meaningful conversations with the target audience and help in the growth of their brand along with many other benefits. ONPASSIVE, for instance, is an IT company that has developed its own social network platform O-Net.
O-Net platform helps connect with communities who share common interests while allowing users to connect with friends and family while discovering highlights and watching the marketplace. O-Net platform is great to have meaningful discussions and have high quality shared content.
Building an online community is a complex process. However, organizations can create an online community with various free options such as Facebook that are available to start a community. Companies can also add a paywall to their community in order to get ownership and control of it.
Therefore, businesses need to ensure they have all the essential tools and have taken all the necessary steps to create a social ecosystem or an online community for the most engaged followers.