In the era of Influencers, Intagrammers, Youtubers and the like, it has become evident that the world is but a fishbowl. Before the rise of internet, Facebook, and the gazillion social media platforms now available, people used to go to their local newspaper for information, listen to the radio for news and traffic updates, check out the encyclopedia (an actual paper book) to understand a topic further, and ask the next-door-neighbor about his/her opinion no the latest informercial product. Well, folks, the game has changed. Online communities are on the rise. The era of informercials is dead. If you have a business or hobby and wish to share it with the world, keep reading. This article outlines “6 tips for creating a successful online community”.
Nowadays, we have information available for us at the tip of our fingers. As marketing tactics have evolved into opt-in forms, funnels, and all sorts of mechanisms to get you to subscribe or follow and eventually “convert”, we have also adapted as consumers and now more than ever we look at our insta-neighbors for validation and assurance on what to buy, how to dress, where to go and what’s the hot trend. A Business.com study shows that 55% of B2B buyers do their research by using social networks 1), and Forbes research revealed that 81% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts 2). Online communities are platforms where buyers can research products, share information, make informed decisions, and come to their own conclusions when it comes to their next purchase.
Connections is the new currency.
However, not all online communities are out there to sell. Some are hubs for like-minded people to meet up and share ideas, crack jokes, get support or exchange insights on whatever they’re most passionate about without the need to plow through a lot of randomly shared posts and cat pics. #meow
Regardless of whether you’re setting up a business or just wish to grow a community around a noble cause, it should most definitely guarantee to be a fun ride. In fact, let’s use this as a metaphor to outline the 6 tips for creating a successful online community.
TIP #1: GOAL – Where are you going?
What’s the roadmap to your community plans? This becomes your GPS. Imagine trying to get from point A to point Z (to a place you’ve never been to before) without any process in place to help you get there. You might as well just sit down and cry. I know, we have road signs (at least in most developed countries they do), but now with GPS, life’s just MUCH easier. Regardless, knowing where you’re headed and having a system in place to give you immediate feedback if/when you take a wrong turn is essential to your success in arriving where you intend on going. And don’t worry. If your goal / GPS destination is too far. don’t be afraid to have a few stops/milestones along the way.Perhaps you won’t instantly go from 1 member to 1,000,000 with nothing in between. Milestones can help to keep focus. Grow steady, even if small at first. You’ll surely get there – whatever metric of success you’ve established for yourself.
Without an understanding of where your online community is headed to, you’re bound to get lost. So, keep your goal in sight, get as much clarity of your community’s purpose as you can to ensure all goes as planned. From start to finish line, you’re in control, you have systems in place and a path to follow.
TIP #2: TOOLS – What tools do you need?
Sunglasses. Bugspray. Raincoat. Flashlight. Matches, lighter and fire starters. A tent, most likely too. Amazing. You’re set for your camping trip. Now, imagine going camping without your essentials. It would be a f*#$g mess. When building your online community, bear in mind you also need dedicated tools depending on where you’re headed. If your website is amongst the 31% of the entire internet that is powered by WordPress 3) you have a plethora of options when it comes to fully stocking up on options for your creating your online community, ie: preparing for the ride. ?
It’s not the same gear to go to the beach as to go to the mountains. Similarly, the plugins you decide to install will serve as tools, enhancing the experience of your community users. Pay attention to the vehicle you’ll choose for the ride. When thinking about online communities, you will need to decide upon what hosting service to go with, depending on how big you think your community will be, how much traffic you’ll get, etc.
Take our very own PeepSo plugins, for example. PeepSo Foundation is your absolute “essentials” for the ride. Then, if you wish to take your community further, you might want to pack up some Extras – like User Limits Plugin, BlogPost Plugin or Email Digest, which are great tools if you want to add more pizzazz to your community.
Much like a camping trip, your overall experience will be defined by the tools you choose to equip yourself with. Choose wisely.
TIP #3: MEMBERS – Who’s joining?
Excellent. So now, you know where you’re going and you know what you’re taking. Now we need to figure out who’s joining you on the ride? You would most definitely choose carefully who you with to invite on a long weekend camping trip, wouldn’t you? You don’t want to end up with the wrong people, but rather those who’m you click with (otherwise you might wake up with a missing kidney in the middle of the woods).?
So, in order to create a successful online community, you MUST define your avatar. Find and focus on those in your niche market. For example, Unfound is a PeepSo powered community made by cyclists for cyclists. They have a clear purpose, they have the right tools to push the community forward, and they keep growing their community simply because they are very focused on the one thing they LOVE – bikes!
Another example is My Disability Matters, a community that sprouted as an alternative to Facebook, where people with disabilities could connect and interact in a safe space. Very specific. Purpose-driven, goal-oriented. Tools in place. They have the Ultimate Bundle, which allows them to push ads and monetize even, but most importantly, serve their tribe.
So, tip #3 in creating a successful online community is: Ask yourself who are you inviting for the ride?
TIP #4: STRATEGY – What’s the route?
Strategize. What’s the shortest way to your end goal…or do you want the scenic route? This would be the equivalent of launching without a strategy and then somehow “making it”, without a real understanding of how the heck you even got there. Map out the journey you wish to take. Knowing where you’re headed when embarking on a trip means knowing the starting and end point. Understanding and drawing out the checkpoints along the way will ensure that you stay on-course all the way to the finish line.
TIP #5: MISSION – Why do you want to do this anyways?
As with any business launch, there will be days when your computer crashes, or an update just doesn’t want to behave properly, or you-name-it-tech-difficulty makes a grand entrance into your life and you feel like it’s just all to much. Those are the moments to ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this in the first place?” If your resolution is strong, and your passion for building a successful online community is clear, this is the ONE tip that will push you through all that may come. As Zig Ziglar beautifully put it:
“Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission”― Zig Ziglar
TIP #6: LEADERS – Who’s driving?
Unless you want to drive yourself mad, you need support to scale. This goes for any business and it applies as well for creating a successful online community. Set up ambassadors 4) to grow your tribe. They will be the spokesmen and carry on your voice. Much like if you were to go on a roadtrip with more than 30 people, you’d want to appoint some heads of management to relay information to and fro, from the travelers to yourself (the big boss) and back. In the same way, your community will greatly benefit from having different individuals in moderator roles bringing in crowds onto your tribe. Consider an incentive of sorts and you’ll soon discover the power of meaningful partnerships.
So there you have it. Simple, right? These are your 6 tips to create successful online communities. All in all, remember to have fun with it. It’s a ride. Take is as a learning experience. Observe, plan, implement, analyze, adapt. And don’t forget to enjoy the scenery.
If you have enjoyed this article, please do share! And please leave your comments below. Are you currently trying to grow your own online community? What are you biggest pain points? What other tips do you think should’ve been included in the list? As well, feel free to reach out to others in our PeepSo Community and ask what their formula for success has been.