Developing a Sense of Community – What to focus on when you’re just starting out
It doesn’t matter what your goals are when you set out to build a community online. With the right strategy, you can to create a sense of community for your fans, customers, and members.
Online communities with a strong sense of community gives you the needed exposure, brand recognition, and most importantly, creates deep relationships with your target audience.
So don’t treat your community as a “software platform” or merely an internet address. It is what’s underneath that makes it successful and long lasting.
What are the right strategies, or Mindsets?
The following are some of the essentials you want to keep in mind:
Answering What’s In It For Me?
People use online forums and social groups to look for solution to their problems. Make sure your community goals directly answer this desire for your target audience.
Are you planning to do at least one of the following for your audience?
- Answering questions your members have
- Providing instructions on how to accomplish common goals
- Giving feedback and suggestions
- Offering encouragement and inspiration
Creating emotional connection is sometimes even more important than providing information or instructions. Get your mindset in sync with your members’.
When you just start out, as a community manager, you have the luxury to correspond to a small group of people personally. So take advantage of this moment to create bonds with the core group.
Make sure you reply to comments, messages and posts as quickly as you possibly can, and even a simple ‘thank you’ to recognize the efforts they make. Be responsive and friendly. It’ll make it easier for them to keep coming back and participating in discussion other initiated.
Envision the ideal environment for your community, and be the first to foster it.
Getting Personal and Be Transparent
Whenever you respond to comments or posts, let your personality come through.
People in a community hate bureaucracy. They join because they want to interact with real human beings. Don’t hide behind a corporate image and respond like robots.
The more personal you get, the more likely people will want to know you. It is important when you just start out. Make yourself the center of the community before you create a group of core members (see Responding Quickly above for instruction to create your core group).
You don’t have to fake it first before you make it.
Regularly Organizing Events, Online and Offline
When people do things together, the bonds between them form more easily. So instead of simply create a place for discussion, mix the element of events to make everything more interesting.
You can hold contests, word games or local meet-ups. You can also crowdsourcing opinions to create your own community narrative together.
People want to plug into something. The more they feel they are part of something bigger than themselves, the more likely they stick around in the community. This is a powerful motivator to increase participation.
Relationship Building Among Members
When people join, they don’t know each other at all. They only get to know others do by browsing the discussion forum.
Don’t make this feeling of unfamiliarity the obstacle to engagement. Actively invite active members for interview and make them the rising stars for your community.
This takes effort and time, but the reward is enormous. Think about what happens when people in the community are looking forward to being interviewed by you?
If your community make-up are people who want to achieve / accomplish some difficult tasks (making money online, etc.), feature case studies of successful members provides the added encouragement and inspiration members need to stick around.
Actively Solicit Feedback
Periodically, survey your members for feedback and ideas. Ask them how you can make the forum a better or helpful place? You can figure out the direction together and let your members take mental ownership for the community.
People care more about something they own.
It’s easy to start a community online, but to make it successful consider hiring a community manager whose sole responsibility is to respond to members and provide the needed data for management to make better decisions.
At the end of the day, your business is in the community. Build it the way you would your own business.