Whether you’re opposed or for censorship, Big Tech has brought it into the spotlight for all to weigh in on. All opinions aside, as First Amendment lawyer and professor at Suffolk University Law School Gregory Sullivan plainly states it, “Today, there’s nothing that prevents any social media site from banning any individual user whose post they dislike.” But, we’re not here to discuss the rights and wrongs of Big Tech’s decisions or rights. We are here, however, to show you how to build your own online community if you should be so inclined.
Why build your own online community? There are potentially millions of reasons why you would want to. An online community can be used for almost anything, from research and development to sales enablement, and infinitely more. Did you know that there’s actually a fair amount of ROI to be had for online communities? In fact, the average ROI generated is around 4,530%!
What is an online community?
An online community is a group of people interacting with each other through an online platform. They can range from smaller niche groups like a book club to a multi-billion-member community like Twitter.
Types of Online Communities
There are essentially two types of online communities: public social networks and branded communities. The type of online community that you choose to build will depend on what makes sense for your intended audience.
A Branded Online Community
A branded community would have more of a purpose and a more selective group of members. For example, DEWALT, the power tool company, created a branded online community to act as a focus group for their research department. The DEWALT intel panel gives members access manuals, parts and documentation. As well as related accessories and products to tools they’ve already registered. Most importantly for DEWALT, their intel panel gives them access to a large base of reviews and product testers – essentially saving the company millions on research and development costs.
Public Social Networks
On the other hand, a public social network is an online community that only requires someone to have an account to be a part of it. While niche communities exist within a public social network (think Facebook Groups), they are largely open to any and all.
Why Start a Branded Online Community?
Just like DEWALT, your organization could benefit greatly by having an online community. Believe it or not, there is psychology behind brand loyalty. As humans, we have an unconscious attachment with brands that we have had interactions with.
In fact, according to the 19th Annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, 78% of Apple iPhone users in the study say they couldn’t imagine having a different phone. Consumers long to make connections and have a sense of belonging. Brands should consider this psychological attachment among the advantages of a branded online community. Other advantages worth noting:
As you saw from DEWALT, organizations can effectively minimize R&D and support costs by creating an online community.
While the risk of negative feedback is there, honest and open communication with your target market is invaluable. Using that feedback can get your product or solution to gold standard much faster than without. Ultimately saving your brand loads in R&D costs.
Did you know that 73% of customers claim that they stay loyal to brands because of good customer service? Any brand that deals with customers has to take customer service seriously. One way to make customer support and service easier is through an online community. With a community channel, your support staff and existing customers can quickly address questions and share their experiences and reviews. Having a community of support helps your brand reduce operational costs for your support staff.
In addition to the added support channel, an increase in engagement can be expected with a branded online community. Your audience is able to easily engage with your brand and other members of the community.
How to Build Your Own Online Community
You can build your own online community in 7 simple steps. And chances are, your brand may already have some of these steps completed!
Here is how you can build your own online community:
- Assign key stakeholders.
- Define the purpose and goal of your online community.
- Create a member profile or persona.
- Outline community rules and guidelines.
- Choose a platform for your community.
Step 1: Assigning key stakeholders.
Your online community needs to be as organized as your business or brand. There should be a hierarchy of persons that are responsible for different aspects of the community. For example, you should assign admins that can moderate discussions and member sign-ups. You will also want to assign a community manager that will identify improvements that need to be made and ensure the brand is being properly represented.
Step 2: Define the purpose and goal of your online community.
Without a purpose and goal for your community, why create one? Once you define these, you will be able to move on to the next step: creating a member profile or persona.
A purpose can be as simple as a space for meme creators to create and inspire new memes. Where the goal is to become a top source for the newest and greatest memes.
Step 3: Create a member profile or persona.
When deciding to build your own online community, you have to take your members into consideration. If you sell a product, your member profile will look a lot like your customer profile or ideal buyer persona. You have to ask yourself a few questions:
- Who is this community for?
- What will your community give them that they didn’t have before?
- How do they feel before joining?
- How will your community make them feel after joining?
The answers to the above questions help you create copy that you can use when marketing your community.
Step 4: Outline community rules and guidelines.
From kindergarten to well into adult-hood, you are surrounded with rules and guidelines. Community rules and guidelines are anything but new. Many popular ones include the prohibiting of profanity, threats of violence, and aggressive selling tactics.
While you don’t have to include them, it is in your best interest to include rules and guidelines for members of your online community. You need to be able to remove a member if the need arises, and having a set of rules and guidelines that members accept upon entry gives you the power you need to manage members.
Step 5: Choose a platform for your community.
Depending on the number of community members, you’ll want to choose a platform that will work for your members. As an example, a school PTO is better suited for an exclusive community platform. Where member-only information is not accessible to unrelated parties. However, if you’re a commercial brand looking to reach as big of an audience as possible, a free community platform, like Instagram, would better suit your purpose and goals.
Open Community Platforms
Think Facebook, Reddit, and WhatsApp. These are platforms where members can create a free account, then create and host a sub-community or group on the larger platform. You’ve probably seen one or are even part of one. As an example, many cities and towns have group Facebook pages where residents can share restaurant reviews, ordinance grievances, and more.
Exclusive Community Platforms
These types of platforms are often built on a website or application where users are granted access based on a membership profile. For example, DEWALT is a more exclusive community website meant for DEWALT brand tool owners and enthusiasts.
If you are creating your own exclusive community platform, you will need to include an easy-to-use method of communication for your members. Most existing open community platforms come standard with chat and post capabilities. So, you will need to include communication channels and features for your new online community as well.
Chat for Your Online Community
You’re working hard to build your community, don’t lose them to another chat app like Slack.
Chat is one communication channel you won’t want to exclude. Allowing your members to hold private or group conversations within your community can exponentially increase your community’s engagement rate. Not only that, your audience will expect chat features that enable-real-time interaction experiences.
Chat Features Your Community Wants
- Group Chat and Direct Messaging help online communities thrive by fostering group and intimate participation from within the community.
- Mention is another useful and user-friendly feature for your community. The ability to tag and mention other users is a widely-used feature that any online or app user is already expecting to have.
- Where would current generations be without Emojis and GIFs? A picture/GIF is worth a thousand words and draws community members together.
Related: Chat Features Your Community Expects
While there are countless other features that may interest you, the three above help online communities thrive. Because the more that your members enjoy being in your community, the longer they stay and the more referral members you will receive.
Launch Your Community Faster with In-App Chat
Whether you’re looking to create a public space where followers are free to discuss anything that’s on their minds, or an exclusive community designed around your business or beliefs – we can help!
Creating a community has never been easier with today’s technology, and In-App Chat can help you build brand loyalty with your followers by allowing them to communicate with each other freely, with all the capabilities they’ve grown to expect from their communications. Contact us today to integrate chat into your community!