If I have said it once, I've said it a thousand times - those with the biggest communities win. But how do you build a "big" community and how do you leverage their time and talents for the betterment of your organization? Here are five strategies to build a community and five steps to fully maximize your web presence.
Online communities are dynamic environments but it also needs consistent management. Members must be invigorated and reinvigorated by new concepts and ideas so that they will be encouraged to contribute more freely and frequently. Any failed attempts at building an online community must be discarded or altered because they stop a lively community from developing.
- Make it Modular & Extensible A problem inherent in developing and managing communities is that it is often difficult to know which direction community users will take the conversation and the destination itself. Even if you feel confident in the research you have conducted, with total awareness of what users want in terms of information and support today, will ultimately change over time. By making your online community modular (with replaceable sections) and extensible (with new features) your online community will keep pace with upstarts and continue to provide a best-of-breed experience for users and satisfy your business objectives.
- Growth through Invitations Internet users come up short in terms of one important commodity - time. The most active online communities have mastered one important element - achieving growth by mastering the art of the invitation. Few things grow organically in the digital world - they require a near constant influx of new users to sustain themselves. Have a multi-tiered growth strategy using invitations across several channels (email, social, advertising) will ensure there is always someone present to connect with.
- Use Content to Spur Participation Users come to an online community, and furthermore stay and participate in online communities for one reason - the content. Of course, content means different things to different people. For one, content might be the questions that are asked by those that are new to the community. For others, content might be the short form, long threaded comments that are initiated by the most compelling new stories of the day. The point is that without content, few if any will be willing to participate. As the community manager, it is your responsibility to aggregate content that will be appealing, moderate content that is most beneficial, and showcase conversations that provide the most value.
- Identify and Reward Influencers So now you have a site which can grow with the needs and demands of your industry and the people that the community consists of, you've got a reliable stream of new and existing users thank to a multi-channel marketing approach, and a whole lot of content which can be used in a variety of ways. Your responsibility as online community manager is not nearly over however. Identifying and rewarding those most influential within your community will server your business objectives well. Recognizing the most active users in any online community is pretty simple - gamifying the process can keep new users aspiring to greatness too.
Remember as you starting building an online community that doing so requires an ongoing commitment. Building an online community is not a one-time, set it and forget it project but an ongoing, long term willingness on your part to foster discussion, provide value and make a difference in the lives of like minded individuals.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.