1 — Fulfill A Need
First and foremost, you cannot create community. You can only fulfill people’s need for community.
All communities fulfill a need. They help us stay informed about the world around us; they help us feel safe, or proud, or good about the world. They help us achieve bigger and bolder initiatives. And perhaps one of the most powerful needs: communities help us not feel alone in the world.
2 — Content Is Still King/Queen
content is king
You’ve heard that content is king/queen when it comes to building an audience, but it also applies to when you are attempting to convert that audience and start building an engaged online community.
Be sure to continue to produce stellar content that fuels the community–content that is educational, inspirational, or laugh-out-loud funny. Â
Pro tip: When creating content, we recommend using the 80/20 rule and providing value and great content 80 percent of the time, while asking for something of someone only 20 percent of the time.
3 — Join And Learn From Other Communities
One of the first things I do when starting on the path to building an engaged online community is researching the groups that already exist in that space.
I recommend joining 5-10 Facebook groups, Meetups, LinkedIn networks, SubReddits, and other support groups related to your cause. Read through people’s posts, look at what is resonating with its members, and take notes on the trends.
Pro tip: Once you get a decent understanding of the landscape, join the discussion and give recognition to fellow group members. When the time comes to build your own online community, you can reach back out to people and let them know about the group that you’re building. Â
4 — Celebrate Your Community Members & Leaders
One of the easiest ways to start building an engaged online community is by recognizing and celebrating your community leaders as well as your newest members.
Recognition goes a long way in life, especially if the individual is volunteering their time, expertise, resources, etc. Be sure to make time and space to recognize certain people in your community in a public manner–either in a Facebook post, an email, on your website, at an event, etc..
Pro tip: For your most valuable community members, consider writing a handwritten thank you note to show them how much they are appreciated.
5 — Choose The Right Platform
There are literally thousands of tools and apps to choose from to build your online community. You could use a social media app like Facebook, a workplace tool like Slack, or a customizable software solution.
When choosing a platform, consider the following questions:
What platform and device are the majority of my community members already on?
Is the platform easy to access? (Single sign-on, part of an app the individual is already used to using, etc.)
Does the platform allow for someone to easily share content and interact with other community members?
Does the platform allow for push notifications (e.g. notices that pop up on a person’s phone) or text message integration?
Can you customize the platform to your liking (logo, colors, layouts, etc.)
Does the platform integrate with your CRM/database?
Pro tip: Use GetApp or Capterra to discover and compare apps and software for your community.
6 — Create Daily/Weekly/Monthly Checklists For Yourself
Building an engaged online community requires consistent nurturing. We recommend creating daily, weekly, and monthly tasks for yourself or your team. Here are some suggestions:
Respond to group or individual comments.
Respond to any direct messages or emails from community members.
Research stories in the news for relevant topics to discuss in your community.
Schedule your posts and communications for the week.
Look at basic post and communication metrics.
Check in on the other communities that you are a part of and take notes on what kind of content or messages are trending and consider using for your own community.
Communicate with your core members about what is coming up for the week and how they can help.
Create personal content for your community (stories, vlogs, etc.)
Conduct more thorough post and communications analyses (engagement, reach, etc.).
Create and maintain your content calendar.
Communicate with all of your community members (via email, website, social, DMs, etc.) giving them a quick update, highlight for the month, and vision for the next month.
7 — Hire The Right Community Manager
When building an engaged online community, not only do you need at least one full-time staff to manage the community, but you need the right full-time staff.
Here are some characteristics that we recommend when looking for a dedicated community manager:
Passionate about your cause and willing to put in the extra hours (nights and weekends) if necessary.
Proactive by nature, i.e. someone who can track down an answer to a question, and/or see and address problems within the community before they arise.
Equipped with strong people skills, i.e. personable, patient, and willing to bend over backwardÂ to help a member of the community.
Creative and fun, i.e. someone who can develop an innovative way to recognize someone as a member of the community–beyond a Facebook post–that is fun and meaningful.