Learn step-by-step how to build, manage and grow an online brand community!
Online communities have become vital parts of modern businesses, adding value to them and their customers. There are various forms, but one that stands out is the online brand community. It can be the ultimate key to the success of your business. However, it’s not enough just to know what such communities are, you also need to know how to build and develop them.
In this blog, we will talk about the different steps needed to build and develop an online brand community. It’s part of a series of blogs that takes a deeper look at online communities, what they do for your business and customers and how you can create one yourself.
If you want to learn more about the difference between social media communities and brand communities and why it matters, we recommend you to check out our blog.
After having established what a brand community is and why it’s important for businesses to have one, we will now go through all of the steps necessary to successfully build your own community online.
First things first
It’s important to keep in mind that online communities can be very beneficial for your business. By cultivating a thriving and engaging community, you can increase your ROI, improve customer as well as employee satisfaction and provide real business value. In order for such a community to work, careful planning is key.
The following steps are designed to provide you with a foundation for planning and successfully building your own online brand community.
Step 1: Define your community’s purpose and goals
The first step to creating an engaging community is to understand the motivation and goals for building it. If the community’s goals are driven by those of your organization and its users, it has the best chance of providing value and thus guaranteeing success.
As a business, you want to get as much value from the community as possible. So, instead of creating one that is mostly for the marketing team, think more broadly and try to learn about the needs of different departments in your company and find common goals that fit the overall goals. By choosing the right software for your community, you can easily support the goals of multiple departments.
In order for a sense of community to develop, there are four key components highlighted by psychologists that should be implemented.
|1. Membership: Sense of belonging and identity|
|2. Influence: Members should feel empowered to have some influence, otherwise there is no need for participation.|
|3. Fulfillment of needs: Generate value and reward members for participation|
|4. Shared emotional connection: Main factor, can be created through meaningful interactions.|
In order to build that brand loyalty, you need to fulfill people’s needs. Moreover, to provide value, you have to create behaviours that produce a value for your community.
Here are a few key values:
|Value||Value creating behaviour|
|Customer support and retention||Customers share questions and stories with other members or the organization giving feedback|
|Product innovation||You get valuable feedback from a testing community to improve your products|
|Brand loyalty||Customers are rewarded for participation with giveaways, discounts or competitions.|
You should also consider your users and their needs in specific. To find out what your customers want from your community, you can make use of existing communities on social media, for example. By finding out how they communicate and what content they like, you can cater to their needs and set your community up for success. We have found that people typically join communities to connect with a brand or to find answers. What’s important to understand here is that for you to get value from your community, it first has to provide your users’ value.
By including a group of early adopters in your process, you can grow your community according to the needs of the people you build it for, while also creating buy-in from that user-group who can serve as promoters.
Step 2: Identify community stakeholders
Just like for every business, organisation is key. The same goes for communities. That’s why you should identify different stakeholders, what they need from the community and what they can contribute.
The following paragraph will take a look at stakeholders from within your company.
|Marketing||Newsletter, Engagement||Required sign-up, competitions|
|Product||Feedback, user pain points, product suggestions||Share updates, ask for feedback|
|Sales||Sales promotions||Announcements, upselling|
|Support||Reducing support costs||Community forum where customers can ask and answer questions, provide FAQs, other pre-made resources|
Step 3: Decide how you want to organize and manage your community
Now that you know the goals, the needs and the stakeholders of your community, it’s time to think about how to organize your community. There are two main areas to consider: the structure and the management.
The structure greatly depends on the size and needs of your user base. It might be beneficial to keep all in one community or to create sub-communities based on roles, subjects or locations with either a central permission based library or segmented libraries for each sub-community. The same thing goes for discussion threads, blogs and more. In general, it’s recommended to start small and grow with time. So, make sure when choosing a community platform to make it scalable.
An active community management is key for success. Assign a manager who operates much like the CEO of a business and makes sure the community stays tended to and creates engagement.
Start with a small team. In the beginning, one community manager can be enough, but be ready to assign more resources or hire extra personnel. Make sure you have clear roles and responsibilities assigned to your team members and have a final decision-maker. Additionally, decide early on where the budget is coming from.
When your community starts taking off, you can also turn to active members and ask them to take over some roles, which creates a stronger bond and buy-in. In addition, this makes them your advocates, which is the most beneficial thing to have. The earlier you get them, the better. They can function as strong pillars of your community, especially in the early stages, and they can be free marketing for you.
In the first step, we defined the basic goals and purposes of your community. Once you have a purpose, things will run much smoother. Next, you have to know the stakeholders, their needs and what they might contribute to your community. They can bring real value and help you a lot in the process. When you have these two fundamental steps behind you, all that is left is to decide beforehand how you will want to structure and organize your community.
These three steps will help you tremendously in the next part of the process, as knowing how you want to structure your community will give you a much clearer picture of the features you will need for your ideal online brand community.
Now we have established the foundation that is essential for every community you will ever want to build, so don’t forget to bookmark this article for later. You can use these steps as a checklist before you start actually building your online community, as you’ll learn in Part 2.
The ultimate in-depth guide to creating an online community