Human beings are naturally social beings, and they tend to seek out people who have the same interests and hobbies. This is how communities are born. Presently, there are tens of millions of groups on Facebook alone, each catering to a specific interest, belief or clique. The number of forums built and maintained by online communities are in the billions, with new ones being created each day.
This may lead you to think that building an online community is easy because people will find and gravitate towards your community naturally without you having to do anything about it. However, a lot of online communities are deserted, maybe because of poor management, or maybe it wasn’t filled with interesting content to keep users interested.
Today, let’s talk about how to build a community, and how to keep it alive. We’ll go through each step of the process and give you some best practices to help you grow a thriving community on the Internet.
Step #1: Choosing Your Platform
First off, you have to decide where to create your community. You can choose to create one using a third-party platform, or embed one into your own website.
Free Third-Party Community Platforms
If you are on a tight budget and simply need to set something up quickly, you can choose a free community from sites like Facebook, Reddit, Discord and Quora among others. There are a lot of benefits to building your community through other platforms:
● Because the platform is already established, you do not need to spend a lot of time increasing your reputation and exposure.
● These platforms are free
● Setting up your community takes only a few minutes
● The platform itself will promote your community for you. For example, if your community is focused on motherhood, the platform will recommend your community to users who are interested in motherhood-related discussions.
Of course, there are a few disadvantages as well:
● Your community is subject to the rules and regulations of the platform. If your community violates the platform’s rules, your community may be removed or deleted.
● You are limited by the features offered by the platform
You may also choose to embed a community right into your company’s website. Currently, a lot of websites have their own forum or message boards. Here are some of the advantages you get if you choose to do this:
● Members of your community are more likely to become loyal consumers of your products or services
● You make the rules of your community
● The community feels more official and legit
● Because your community board is a part of your website, your website is considered active as long as your community is active.
Some of its disadvantages include:
● Hosted community platform software can get expensive.
● It’s harder to find brand-owned communities.
● You need to develop your own community system and framework.
There are arguments both for and against each option. Choosing a platform for your community will depend on what industry, interest or field your community is all about. Some communities may thrive better on a social media community such as Facebook, while others are better off housed inside the company website.
Step #2: Decide on the Key Members of The Community
A community is made up of people, but no community has ever existed without rank and roles. After deciding which platform to use for your community, now it’s time to decide how to organize your people.
Managers and Admins
No community can exist peacefully without admins. Even the most innocuous communities will have a few bad apples, so you need to have admins and managers who will keep people in line and ensure that there’s peace and order in your community.
Head managers or administrations will come from inside the company itself. However, you may also choose to delegate moderators from long-time community members. The potential to rise in rank will also encourage members to be more active and to be loyal to the community.
Company Departments Affected by the Community
Some of your company’s other departments may also require communication and involvement with your community. For example, if your company has a customer service department, some may be assigned to the community to answer member queries. People in the sales and marketing department may also find inspiration for your next marketing campaign from community member suggestions.
Step #3: Implementing Community Rules
Once you’ve decided on the “where” and the “who”, now it’s time to lay down the rules. This step is even more important if you’re using a free community platform because you are subject to the platform’s rules. For example, if your community is lax when it comes to sexual content, that content may still get flagged by Facebook because of its own rules on sexual content.
Creating rules will not only prevent your community from getting shut down, it will also create a safe environment for all. Communities have died because of poor management. Usually, the community becomes toxic and drama-ridden because nobody is regulating what content is posted on the community. Members argue frequently without limits and this causes other members to leave the community.