7 Highly Effective Ways to Build an Online Community for Your Business

By Christopher Jan Benitez,
business.com writer
Jun 28, 2016
Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

For a business to fully succeed, they need to build a vibrant community that they can tap into for engagement.

From these engagements, businesses can unearth ideas that they can use to help their brand grow, among the many other benefits that online communities provide.

If you want to maximize the performance of your business and encourage success, then you need to follow the tips below.

1. Embrace Different Levels of Commitment From Members

Realize that some members will be more active than others while a portion of them won't be active at all. The important thing to consider when building an online community, however, is embracing what all your members have to offer. Some prefer to share ideas while others take the ideas and run with them. You cannot demand active users to dial down and inactive users to participate if they do not want to. What you can do instead is to fuel the discussion and get everybody involved in their way.

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Language Courses for English Speakers

Take a cue from Duolingo and how they built a community geared toward helping other people learn different languages in this post at CMX. The site encouraged course content from users and moderated submissions to ensure quality.

Contributors were incentivized for their efforts through recognition and recommendations from Duolingo for what they want to achieve (a job, college, and others). At the same time, users who took the course were impressed enough that they recommended the app to other people, thus gaining more users in the process.

2. Offer a Platform for People With Different Views for Discussion

If your business covers a sensitive and divisive subject, you need to shed the topic into peaceful light by bridging the gap between people and misunderstanding, so they open their minds to new experiences.

Deily site screen shot

This is what Deily strives to accomplish as a faith-based community. People have conflicting views about religions, including their own, which could lead to heated arguments and greater misunderstanding. But the site offers a chance for people to open up their faith and beliefs in a very constructive manner so people from other religions can understand the religions from a more grounded perspective.

Deily also offers you a chance to connect with other people who share your faith and answer questions from other people about your faith.

3. Encourage Them to Create Content

User-generated content is an effective way to provide your community a platform where they can share their unique content. You can feature their ideas on your site to increase exposure and give credit to the user who came up with them.

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My Starbucks Idea site screenshot

My Starbucks Idea proves how powerful crowdsourced content is and how it shows how active your community is. The platform gave birth to ingenious ideas such as the splash sticks so the coffee you took out won't spill from the hole in the cover when traveling. The idea for Starbucks to crowdsource for ideas came at a time when the company was closing 600 stores in the U.S.

Thankfully, the risk of giving their customers a voice to share their ideas on how to improve the product paid off.

“My Starbucks Idea sparked social for a company that is synonymous with not only great coffee, but it’s own deeply rooted culture with a style all their own,” according to the Social Media for Business Performance at the University of Waterloo.

4. Let Users Educate Each Other About Your Products

Let your community teach each other about your products and how to properly use them. By breeding a community that is willing to help each other out, you will be able to drive new customers to whatever you are selling.

WordPress is one of the most used platforms for building a site or blog. Since it is an Open Source project, volunteers have helped develop not only the core software but also its themes and plugins. And because there is so much that can be done with WordPress, users will find themselves searching for ways on how to get the most out of the platform.

WordPress forums results page screenshot 

These are just some of the many reasons why WordPress Forums is one of the most vibrant and active communities online. The forum is a great place to get acquainted with WordPress, as well as learn the tips and tricks on how to optimize your site from, thus providing its users with a very productive and collaborative experience. Most importantly, the forum is moderated by experts who are more than willing to answer queries about the platform, themes, and plugins.

5. Cede Power to the People

Do not let your brand interfere with the discussions among your users. Doing so destroys the authenticity of their interactions and could turn off people to your business.

Figment screenshot

Take a cue from Figment, who offers teenagers with a passion for fan-fiction to create their stories, share others, and recommend products, all without having to worry about letting the brand hijack the content of users.

The cool thing about the site is how it promotes its writers by featuring them on the homepage. By giving them the recognition, Figment encourages more writers to keep writing to the best of their abilities so they can get featured as well and draw more readers to their work. Having a featured section on their allows Figment to reassure users that it is all about them and their works.

6. Allow the Community to Influence Your Actions

Take heed of valuable insights from your community members and listen to their needs so you can improve your products and services based on their suggestions.

Despite being an unofficial community of Lego, Lugnet has become a source of information even for Lego themselves. As Lego is marketed towards children, it did not stop A.F.O.L. (Adult Fans of Lego) who share their creations with other fans and collaborate on different projects on the site. In fact, their contributions on Lugnet were so good that it helped Lego expand to different markets with their products.

Because of its rabid fans, Lego was able to establish a working relationship with the users of Lugnet, who continues to provide the company with valuable insights and uses for their products.

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7. Set Boundaries

Your brand represents something in the industry. And you need to maintain your brand images in your community. Therefore, you need to get capable people who will moderate your community and maintain your brand image.

Moderators will be responsible for approving posts and submissions, banning members if needed be, and maintain a healthy relationship with your brand and members. By following the SEE method, they will add value to your business.

  • Support Knowledge Exchange: Allow users to disseminate information that will provide value to new and old members alike that are in line with your missions and goals.

  • Encourage Others To Be Visible Online: Come up with ways on how to engage with different types of users to help build a vibrant community.

  • Enable Access to Tools and Resources: Provide members a place to not only learn from other people and share their experiences with them but also point them to valuable resources to expedite their growth and success.

Moderators who possess these qualities will be able to usher the best practices of building an online community, most of which are already mentioned as examples above.

Christopher Jan Benitez is a professional content marketer and writer. He has helped small businesses achieve their goals by implementing a strong content strategy that emphasizes their unique selling points and promoting created content using effective online channels and methods, in particular social media marketing and search engine optimization techniques.
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