Can Your Company Benefit from an Online Community?
Are you thinking about building a virtual talent or customer community for your company?
While the idea and sentiment itself are great, it’s important to consider whether creating a community is a good fit for your business and if you have the organizational bandwidth to ensure long-term engagement.
Here are five questions to ask your team when starting an online community, along with some tips to set you up for success!
1. Does your company already have an unofficial community? Would it be beneficial to expand on that community?
Before you start building anything, take note of any “unofficial” communities you may have. For example, you could have an active Facebook or Instagram page, a frequently used email chain, or even a YouTube channel that has gained engaged followership over time.
If you notice you have an unofficial community, consider whether you can allocate resources to expand upon it and add additional opportunities for engagement, rather than starting from scratch.
For example, if you already have a robust Instagram audience, you may want to focus your efforts on making that feel more like a community rather than trying to separately start a new Slack channel. On Instagram, that could look like incorporating more live streams, user-generated content, giveaways, and comment replies.
2. How will your community presence be different from your social media presence?
When building a community, a common goal is to provide a space where your specific audience can come together to share ideas, get resources and make new connections.
People want to feel a sense of belonging and inclusivity. What can you offer? How can you foster peer-to-peer engagement? Think about what exclusive content your community will receive that they can’t get anywhere else.
Consider hosting regular events that include opportunities for networking. Encourage a “cameras-on” culture. Showing faces at meetings creates more personal connections and prompts your audience to be more engaged.
For community events, ask for insights from and access to C-suite leaders, provide discounted resources, share insights on the industry or behind-the-scenes/insider updates, and spotlight other experts.
3. Do you have the organizational bandwidth to commit to a community? Do you need to hire a Community Manager?
An online community is another social platform within itself. (As we’ve mentioned in past blogs, a database alone ≠ community!)
The last thing you want to happen is for your community to launch and then fall on the back burner.
Having a community is beneficial because you’re able to engage directly with candidates, employees, or consumers on a more personal level. But – your team has to be able to do that engaging. You cannot just post and go.
Members of the community expect frequent content, dialogue, and networking. Without activity and engagement that meets your audience’s expectations, you’ll experience a lot of churn.
Think about how your community will fit within your organization’s budget and what talent you need on your team to make an impact. This could include a community manager who will oversee the community day-to-day, from onboarding new members to managing events and content.
Other talent that could support your community include content creators, event coordinators, coaches, or even outside contributors.
4. Do you have a content strategy in place?
The type of content you post in the community – and how well it is received by your audience – will be vital to its success. When creating content for the community, consider: How will this be beneficial? Is the content-specific and unique enough to our community? What does our community want to learn about?
We recommend having a monthly content calendar. While creating regular content can feel overwhelming or stressful, there are strategies to make content creation more manageable!
Plan a theme for each month. Then, have a structure in place to support that theme. For example, hosting a webinar that relates to each month’s theme would naturally generate a content cycle: the webinar announcement and registration, speaker highlights, reminders, pre-and post-webinar blogs, sharing the webinar recording, and follow-up surveys.
Focus on calls to action – whether it’s asking for conversation around a topic, responses to a survey, requesting people to register for an event, encouraging visits to a blog post or article, etc.
5. What is the end goal, and what will success look like?
Before you get started, have a goal in mind. Your mission is what will keep your community engaged and thriving long-term. This is very specific to your organization and will directly impact the plans and processes you set up. For example, if you have a very niche target audience (ie. fintech startup founders), want the community to be hyper-relevant and your goal is to build mutual relationships, you may choose to require an intake form or application to join the community.
Think about what metrics will be important for your organization – as well as how you plan to measure them. Depending on what you want to track, some online platforms may offer you better analytics tools than others.
Once your community is online and individuals are engaging, you will need to continually assess your members’ needs and overall sentiment. You could do this through events, surveys, or even 1:1 conversations – but taking in feedback and responding to it is crucial.
Ultimately, building a successful online community starts with having a plan in place. Are you trying to start a new community, and want tips and feedback from your peers? If you’re interested in learning more, consider joining our Revival Community!