We get it. The idea of building an online community can feel daunting.
Hear us out, though: The benefits of an online brand community are numerous, and the ROI from a thriving community is unmatched.
You’re also not starting from scratch. You’ve already got an audience—an online brand community simply helps bring them together from separate channels into a single destination where you can more easily build a relationship with them. An online community allows you to identify, nurture, and cultivate your members to become advocates for your brand.
If you want to build a winning online community that gives you access to these benefits, then we’ve got you covered. Use these 8 tips to get you on track with building and maintaining an online community.
1. Share Your Brand & Community Purpose
Here’s something you might not know about building an online community: Your products and services aren’t always the main reason why members join.
More often than not, your brand will draw in community members through a consumer connection with your brand’s overall purpose and mission. To capitalize on this, you’ll need to share your brand mission.
What is it that your brand is trying to accomplish? What’s your mission statement?
This is where your brand can stand out from the competition.
For example, look at Seventh Generation’s “Generation Good” community. Seventh Generation’s community members weren’t die-hard product users. Instead, their members came from people looking to connect with the lifestyle and environmental advocacy associated with the brand.
Sharing your brand and community purpose is one of the first steps to building an online community that lasts.
2. Create a Strong Value Proposition Based On Emotional Ties
The most successful online communities create a strong value proposition that builds an emotional connection between the brand and its consumers.
It’s all centered around providing a sense of belonging, which can be anything from promoting special language used only inside the community, to recognizing community members across their interactions with your brand (even outside the community.)
For example, Veggies Made Great gave their community members a special nickname: #VegHeads. Something as simple as a nickname can spark an emotional connection between you and your community members that they won’t find elsewhere.
3. Actively Gather Insights & Use Them to Improve Your Community Experience
Building an online community allows you to collect valuable consumer insights from your audience. Using these insights, you can elevate your brand, from your marketing strategy to your product and service development.
That isn’t where the benefits of insights end, though. You can use these insights to actively improve the community experience for your members. After all, there’s no better way to deliver a strong community experience than to ask your members exactly what they want from your community.
Collecting insights from your community members gives you answers to questions that can help you provide the ideal community experience:
- Why did your members join the community in the first place?
- What do they want from your community?
- What type of content and activities do they enjoy the most?
Continuously improving is an important part of building an online community that keeps members engaged and elevates their connection with your brand.
4. Cultivate a Two-Way Dialogue
For members, one of the most attractive parts of a community is the relationship they can create with your brand. They get the chance to have personal conversations with your team members and have their voices heard. They can share their opinions and co-create with your brand, influencing things like new product development.
When you’re building an online community, these two-way dialogues are something your brand needs to focus on.
Dedicate time to scan through discussion boards in your community and participate in the conversations. Share the impact their feedback had on your product development efforts. Highlight comments and UGC your members created. They will thank you for it.
5. Empower & Enable Members to Attract & Invite New Members
The most successful and engaged communities will organically build over time. The best approach is to focus on quality over quantity.
Once your community is established, there are several channels you can use to bring in new members, from social media to your email list.
If you focus too much on these channels, you might miss out on one of the best ways to grow your community: Your members themselves.
Part of building an engaged and thriving online community involves empowering your community members to attract like-minded new members to your community. The best way to do this is through the word-of-mouth and user-generated content that they create and share with their friends and followers.
Word of mouth promotion helps spark brand advocacy and will bring excited new fans into your community.
6. Celebrate Members for their Contributions & Achievements
Building an online community is all about the community members—so celebrate them!
Recognizing the contributions and achievements of your community members is one of the best ways to show appreciation and make members feel valued. There are a ton of different ways that you can do this, including:
- Public recognition
- Name ambassadors who are honored for their WOM
- Sharing their UGC – in the community, in emails, on social media, etc
- Select members of the month
- Creating a VIP council to provide insights
- Special badges
If you want loyalty from your community members, celebrating their contributions to your brand is a fantastic place to start. Don’t hesitate to put their achievements on display for the rest of the community to see. It may also inspire other members to participate and engage more with your brand.
For example, Clio Snacks migrated from a Facebook community to a brand community they own, an environment that made it easier to build true brand connections and reward their Brand Ambassadors for their contributions. The brand celebrates its community members by delivering exclusive benefits and honoring ambassadors for their role in driving WOM and authentic advocacy for the brand.
7. Reward Your Members
Speaking of celebrating members, those who actively participate and engage with your brand deserve a reward. This value exchange is critical for helping keep community members active and feeling valued by your brand.
There are many options to reward your most loyal community members including:
- Exclusive rewards
- VIP treatment
- Early access to new product launches
When you’re building an online community, providing incentives to recognize your members’ contributions is key.
8. Stay Consistent
Building an online community isn’t a one-day effort. Thriving communities require consistency.
What do we mean by consistency?
All of these efforts, such as cultivating a two-way dialogue and actively gathering insights, are aspects of running a community that your brand needs to keep on track. Establishing your community is only the start. To grow and maintain a successful online community, you’ll need to be consistent with your efforts.
Trust us. If you are persistent, you’ll achieve the impact and results you want to see.
Building An Online Community is Easier With Our Tips
Building an online community doesn’t need to be difficult.
No matter which platform you choose to build your online community, our tips will get you on the right path to building and maintaining a strong online community.
And if you need more support, our expert team can provide ongoing management and expertise to keep your community on track and thriving. When you work with Vesta, we’ll help you build an online community that transforms your relationships and delivers immediate business impact.
Now is the time to get started. Your audience is waiting.
Interested in more?
Check out our eBook on creating a winning brand community strategy in just four steps.