Are you part of a Facebook group? Are you a member of an online educational website? Or are you taking part in an online forum? Then you are a member of an online social community.
Online communities are everywhere. On social media, on company platforms, on course pages, and on websites related to all kind of branches.
While an online social community can be defined in different ways, we quite like this definition by Commoncraft:
An online community is a group of people with common interests who use the Internet (web sites, email, instant messaging, etc) to communicate, work together and pursue their interests over time.
Besides offering an excellent opportunity for members to learn from and connect with others, online communities are a golden opportunity for businesses too. By creating an active community, you can easily find out what your target market needs, build a relationship with them, and grow your reach by expanding your community. If a community adds value for its members, it will attract people easily and most probably result in a growing customer base.
Another advantage of an active online community is the opportunity for interactive customer service. Through online discussions, you will quickly become aware of issues customers are experiencing, and you will have the chance to jump in immediately. By doing so, you show your community members that you care. This can do wonders for brand loyalty.
Of course, an online social community is a broad concept. To give you an idea of the different possibilities a company can utilize, we will list three examples of social communities that can offer a customer great value while benefiting a brand too.
Slack is an online messenger app that has been growing fast over the past years. Many companies use the app for internal communication, but creating a Slack community for (potential) customers can be incredibly valuable too.
In Slack, you can easily set up a community related to a certain topic. It is advisable to choose a topic close to your brand, but still quite broad. This will attract the largest number of people. Think of, for instance, Facebook Marketing, Special Education, or Web Design. An example of a very active Slack group is the one by Wordpress.
A Slack community can be highly engaged since a chat app simply asks for quick replies. High engagement means easy and informal access to your target market.
Possibly the most common type of online social community is the Facebook group. In a way, a Facebook group is similar to the Slack community. It’s an ideal place for people interested in your branch to collect and discuss their interests or needs.
It is most common for Facebook groups to offer a specific benefit to its users. Think of teaching a skill or offering advice to group members. However, a general discussion group is a possibility too.
Usually, the more value members get by joining, the more likely they will be to join. This is why group names like ‘How to find a job in 2 weeks’, ‘How to gain 1000 Instagram followers quickly’ or ‘How to get fit in 3 months’ usually work well.
Is your target market not active on Facebook, then LinkedIn groups can be a good option too.
Another way to grow a community is by creating your own, on your own website. This is obviously more time consuming, but you can offer exactly what you want.
One of the ways to do this is by offering valuable content or course material and allowing for discussion between group members. This is a great way for members to learn and discuss their new knowledge with others. As a company, this type of group creates a close connection with your community members. On social media or a Slack page, you will only see a Slack or social media profile, while on your own website, you can request more details from new members. This allows companies to learn a lot about their members, and optimize the community and products or services accordingly.
An example of this type of community is the Social Media Gids Community. In this community, members have access to huge amounts of valuable content, while being able to discuss this with each other and the Social Media Gids Community admins.
But how do we grow a community? Every community will start small. However, by following the below guidelines you will notice that your community will start expanding quickly.
The very most important point to remember is the fact that no one will join your community without a good reason. The title, description, and all your content should make clear that members benefit from joining you. Letting members know what they can expect can usually help a lot. Promise, for instance, a weekly blog, an informational video every month, an exclusive deal that only group members will be able to get, or anything similar. Once people know that joining your group really helps, more and more people will follow.
Remember that all your members are people. Having someone join your group is very special, and group members need to feel that way. Make sure they feel important, heard, and make clear that you love having each of them as part of the group. The more appreciative you are, the more likely you are to keep your members and have them invite others.
Are you starting from the very beginning? Ask friends, family, and current customers to help you get the ball rolling. By a simple share, each of them can reach hundreds or possibly thousands of people.
Make sure your group can be seen everywhere. You can choose to use paid advertising, but there are unpaid ways to reach a large number of people too. For instance, add your community to your email signature, website, newsletters, or even consider printing it on your business card. The more you advertise, the more people you will reach. Make sure you clearly add a sentence about the benefits or joining your community.
Do you need help growing a social community, or would you like to join ours? We would be happy to get you started and welcome to our community to learn from us and from other members. Feel free to get in touch with us for a quick call to discuss what we can do for you.