This month we're discussing ways to successfully create and engage online communities. No matter where your community is online there are basic elements that you should employ to ensure it sits upon a strong foundation. We explore these elements in an original infographic.
6 Elements of Successful Online Communities
Your community will be only as good as what you put into it. Anyone can set up an online community, but what will make it worth joining is if it accurately reflects the culture of your organization and provides meaningful incentives to members.
Just as you will compile the things you hope to gain from building an community, it's also important to think about what's in it for your members. Can they get what you're giving somewhere else? Ideally, you want to provide something that is special or exclusive to your community, without making it too hard for members to participate.
Thanks to social media's popularity, community members will likely expect a certain level of transparency, which is always a good idea, so as to build a basic foundation of trust. Transparency doesn't just mean being upfront with the goals of the community; it also means being honest when replying to questions and comments. No one likes a liar, and if you think you can get a way with a little white lie, think again.
It goes without saying that you should be measuring your community's engagement. But what exactly should you measure? It depends on why you set up the community to begin with. If it's to glean insights to help build better products, are you asking the right questions? If you want to drive traffic to your website or events, you'll need to monitor click throughs and monitor the types of posts that drive the most traffic. The more specific you can be about your goals, the better. We all want to drive engagement, but how will that engagement manifest itself? The sooner you can set benchmarks, the sooner you can start charting your progress.
Speaking of engagement, what it is? It's been said that Likes are not an indication of engagement. As such, you'll need to specify the actions you want your audience to take. Do you want them to share, comment, start their own discussions, or create their own media? Whatever actions you aim to elicit, you need to make sure it's easy and rewarding to do so.
Depending on your audience's behaviors, creating meaningful conversations can be easy as asking a question or as hard as asking lots of questions without much feedback. Don't pressure your audience to talk if they're not ready. If they aren't ready, figure out how to make them comfortable enough to trust you. What's holding them back?
What kind of company are you? What are you known for? It's important that your community style not only be authentic, but it's also essential that you encourage your community members to be themselves as well. If you're community persona doesn't fit with the rest of your company culture, it won't take long for others to figure it out. If your asking members to be engaging and personable, your company should be comfortable being engaging and personable too -- across multiple channels.
Obviously no one can tell you what your culture is or what types of conversations will work best. Only you know your audience, your products and your ability to be authentic and honest. Provided you know who you are and who your audience is, building and engaging an online community should come naturally.