How to Build an Online Community

For some companies and organizations, existing discussion boards and forums are not enough to accomplish their marketing goals. If that is your situation it may be better just to create a new social discussion space. It is challenging because only a few have succeeded, but here are some tips on the best ways to build an online community, expand membership, and accomplish your external social media marketing objectives:

1) Have an image of the target audience.

Try to appeal to the buyer personas that might be interested in items like the product and the conversation will develop organically. 

2) Offer memberships to close contacts, friends, customers, employees, business partners, and so on.

Finding people to actually join and participate is the hardest part. You want to first offer membership to people with prior engagement with the brand or product because they will potentially become your core members.

3) Encourage members to invite their friends to the community.

There are two strategies to this: open invitations and limited invitations. An open invitation is where  members can invite as many people as they want, which grows a community quickly. As an incentive for members to invite people you can offer some sort of recognition or prize to reward the top recruiters. A limited invitation allows members to invite only one person per month. Making an invitation limited and rare, makes it more valuable. It gives your forum a sense of exclusivity and makes it more exciting to be a part of.

You want to have a lot of members for a successful community, but be aware that it is essential for the members to be active and contribute the the discussions. You can have a lot of members, but if they don’t participate is the discussions, then it is pointless. There are some steps you can take to encourage your members to participate. Asking open ended questions, having polls in which users vote, and recognizing quality posts are all effective methods. By following these few tips, building a new online community should be a success. 

Jordan Rafferty

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