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Ways for Growing a Vibrant Online Community in 2021
Many business leaders feel that it’s more than enough to build a brand, and then let people come to you. Sure, your followers and customers will gladly gather around a common cause, get interested in a social contest, or take part in a survey. However, for long-term engagement, you should consider building an online community – both in its private and public formats, online communities are living, breathing entities that require a strategy to grow.
A community cannot survive if you think of your digital outlets as individual and separate forms of existence for your brand. You need a unified approach to create the right environment for your community members to feel welcome and valued, and for the community itself to start growing organically.
Empowering your online community and all of its instances, from your social media groups, private platforms, all the way to your newsletter subscribers – it all begins with solidifying your strategy. While 2020 has been unique in every possible shape and form, we have another busy year ahead of us, so it’s best to prepare early for 2021, and grow your online community with ease!
Find and train your key stakeholders
Maybe the universe likes entropy, but you need to treat your online universe with the utmost level of strategic planning and preparation. With that in mind, to make sure that you can operate efficiently, start by assigning critical stakeholders to your local communities to take the reins of community interactions, analytics, and overall management.
While you may perceive your online community and all of its outlets as one, unified group of people, the simple truth is, people naturally gravitate towards local hubs, or topic-specific conversations, or any subcategory of that larger unit.
That is why having several carefully-chosen individuals who are educated and trained to retain your brand’s tone of voice successfully is the best possible way to keep all of these communities alive and their members engaged.
Analyse your community performance
Just like you need to track and learn from your social media strategy and improve based on what your customers and followers prefer, your online community depends heavily on how eager you are to learn. Although you’ll be able to forecast specific topics of interest, create natural conversations out of your useful how-to blogs, and start vital debates, you should incorporate your community interactions into your marketing analytics.
By tracking and analysing your community performance with your comprehensive marketing dashboard and by building up your database of knowledge, you’ll be able to grow your community organically.
You’ll also be able to spot the most and the least popular topics, times to post and recognise the most active members to reward so that others will be incentivised to contribute even more. Automated reports with summarised data can come in handy for all of your future community efforts and content strategising.
Create a content strategy
Just like with your traditional Facebook groups, your online community needs to have access to consistently published content from your brand. While some conversations will flow naturally, and members will often take the initiative to kick-start an important topic, your taking charge of content output and engagement will dictate the community’s interactions.
Suppose your online community platform exists in a “bubble”, then all the more reason to focus on diversifying your regular content output with exclusive, and member-specific content so that your community members feel valued and recognised.
By offering something that only members can access, you elevate the relevance of your community. Adapt your publishing schedule to match the times when your members are most engaged and eager to communicate.
Ensure content diversity in terms of formats and volume, so that they can sometimes enjoy a quick video glimpse into your brand’s “behind-the-scenes” footage, and then publish an expert article on an industry-relevant topic. Your content allows you to position yourself as a leader, not just in your community, but in your industry.
Empower member interactions and collaboration
Your community managers will naturally listen to what your members need and what they prefer. They can steer the conversations, mitigate potential conflict, and provide helpful tips when someone needs guidance. What needs to happen over time is for your community to encourage and reward member-to-member conversations and collaborations slowly.
Whether you’ve turned your blog platform into a community, or you have an exclusive, private community platform – your followers need to recognise that their voice matters. In addition to regulating the language used in your community, you can also reward creative suggestions, and encourage collaboration in all kinds of formats.
User-generated content has become the pinnacle of modern-day marketing, so users in your community should feel happy to publish their own stories related to your brand, or an industry topic that you hold dear post images, and keep these threads alive for as long as possible.
Build your brand presence in your community
Finally, your community managers aren’t just there to stay invisible, collect data, or discretely steer the conversations. On the contrary, whether you represent yourself in case you’re an entrepreneur, or if you have multiple offices across the globe, whoever is in charge of your communities needs to build a distinct brand presence and ensure brand voice consistency.
When your brand comes to life through these interactions and takes an active part by asking relevant questions, regularly responding to comments, posting and reposting other members’ content, you humanise your brand and create a more interactive environment for all.
Online communities have become one of the most significant sources of lead generation, customer engagement, and reputation building for brands across the globe. The challenges of building and maintaining your community will be numerous and varied depending on your industry and your community’s preferences.
However, with the right strategy and the right plan, you’ll be able to overcome all obstacles, turn them into growth opportunities, and grow your brand through your online community in time.
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