While businesses have now embraced the need to nurture and grow their online communities, doing so remains a challenge for many. The Internet may have changed the geographical limitations of community; however, for me, the older values of community remain intact and are as potent online as they previously were offline.
As someone who has experience with both the offline and online worlds, here are my five steps towards building great online communities.
# Step 1: Have a greater purpose
Great communities have a purpose that resonates with and matters to members. Online is no different, the purpose of your community needs to matter to those that you want to engage with. An inclusive purpose means a more valuable community for members, and one that will grow quickly.
Remember, it is not about promoting your businesses or products although that will definitely be a result, if you do it properly!
Related: Facebook Case Study: Oldfarm Pork Proves It’s Not About Numbers
# Step 2: Hire a manager with people skills
Managing social media and online communities requires someone with developed interpersonal and communications skills, first! Hence, hiring someone with real world experience of dealing with people (on a one to one basis) will be the better option, over hiring a technology or marketing professional.
Hire for a relationship and people expert first and a marketing and technology expert second.
# Step 3: Build personal and meaningful relationships
Real relationships are two-way and mutually beneficial – therefore it’s critical that you don’t just see members simply as fans or followers.
As your online community grows, take the time to:
- get to know,
- converse with
- and develop meaningful relationships with members
This is the best way to ensure that you and your business will benefit.
Related: The Holy Grail of Online Engagement (In 15 Steps)
# Step 4: Care for, recognize and introduce members
It’s the members that make any community so caring for your community requires you to care for people.
- People like to feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions. It is vitally important that you communicate your appreciation both publicly and privately with them.
- Another aspect of caring for your community is becoming a connector and introducing members to one another.
The stronger the relationships between members, the stronger the community will become.
# Step 5: Finally facilitate, don’t dictate!
Great communities facilitate the wishes and needs of members.
- listening to their feedback,
- taking criticism on-board
- and responding in a positive and constructive manner.
It’s about being prepared to hand over control, increasing member’s involvement and their ownership. These tasks are crucial because the more the members feel they belong, the more likely they will be to recommend and promote to their online friends.
Related: How To Build A Social Media Business Strategy That Delivers Traditional Business Returns
How have you utilized the potential of online communities? What tips would you add to mine above and which great online business communities are you currently a member of?
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