Building Your Online Community

Groups and engagement are key ways to grow and learn from your customer base. The best part of an active and engaged community is that it’s scalable.
Emily Lonetto
Emily Lonetto
September 15, 2017
Building Your Online Community

The importance of engagement

Groups and engagement are key ways to grow and learn from your customer base. The best part of an active and engaged community is that it’s scalable. As your business moves from one stage to another, an active community becomes a reliable testing pool and responsive way to gather feedback; share news; and communicate directly with your consumers. But how can you start your own community?

Focus on positivity, not platform

Having your business thrive online is a great way to connect with your customers on a deeper level. “When you host your own community, you can control the experience and you can leverage the data, SEO and inbound traffic. Most of all, you’re doing more than just signing up new members - you’re actively nourishing a happy, active, and productive community for everyone.”. The truth is, most businesses are not set up to host their own community within their product. Luckily, there are a few ways you can kick start your community with little to no time. Some great examples of places to start are LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Groups or Third Party Apps - like GrowSumo. It’s important however to understand that communities are not built over night. While you can set up a group quickly, it takes time to build a strong base and active participation. With apps like GrowSumo, you can quickly automate your messaging and communicate with your groups effectively. However, having an additional base (for example a Facebook group) can add an additional level of casual conversation that helps to bring like-minded consumers together.

Dedicate time to your dedicated customers

No matter the platform you choose, it’s important to nourish your community. Simple forums or swanky platforms have the same goal in mind - create a collective space for your community to prosper. The bottom line is though, if your community isn’t engaged it doesn’t matter how great your community platform is. Make sure you have someone dedicated to managing your community. The people who join your company community are some of your best customers, referrers, and influencers - treat them like such. Whether you’re a marketing manager, customer success manager, or community manager; it’s important to create a personality for your customers to latch onto. What are you looking to achieve from your influencers/community? Are you looking to simply communicate information? Are you looking for feedback? Are you looking for them to complete an action? Most companies are looking to build relationships and increase sales. To achieve your goals, make sure your communications are engaging and thoughtful. Take some time to understand your community and their motivations. While platforms like ours have spent some time testing and getting things ready for you, the best campaigns are those that have a bit of personal flare. How do you want to represent your company?

Decode your data

Engagement is one thing, but ROI and sales keep the lights on. Most businesses fall into the trap of expecting immediate returns. That’s ok - it’s completely natural to want to get things right immediately. The truth is though, it takes some time to drill down the best methods or tactics for your business. Not sure where to start? Think about what you’re looking for in terms of numbers. What metrics are you trying to achieve? Some examples of influencer goals could be, new signups; sales; shares; or referrals. Take some time to figure out what benefits your company the most, and make sure that your rewards/asks are in line with your community of influencers. It’s easy to understand your own goals, but finding ways to align yours with your influencers is the best way to help drive your business goals.

Focus on user experience

A public platform is filled with distraction, i.e. Facebook Native ads, or LinkedIn’s sponsored posts. When you’re building your community, be sure to think about your user experience. What are you competing with? What can you do to keep them engaged? What are you competing with for their attention? Design can also help drive results.

Some of our best campaigns are those that have personality. A community doesn’t become a community from a cookie-cutter stylized check-list, it becomes a community when it develops its own feel and flavor. When designing your community experience, think about the best aspects of your brand that you resonate with. Are you highlighting the best parts of your company? Are you writing in simple and easy to digest terms? Try your best to focus on simplifying your asks and branding your content intelligently. Overly complex wordings and designs can distract and overwhelm from your experience. Keep it simple and gather feedback when necessary.You’ll never know what you don’t ask.

Focus on members, not marketing

A community is only as strong as its members, even if marketing is important for recruiting and engaging them. Understand how your program is benefiting your members and you’ll understand how to entice them. What is driving people to sign-up for your program? Are they motivated by monetary rewards, by brand alignment, product love? Taking the time to understand these stats will help you harness their attention and reap the rewards. Another thing to take note of are the power users within your community. It won’t take long to realize which influencers or consumers are driving your community forward. Take note of their characteristics, are they replicable? If so, devise personas to target for future recruitment. Understanding what type of member understands your mission best will help you foster a more symbiotic experience. Lastly, as your community grows - look for more than just user growth. Engaging current members and referring new members is key for sustaining and creating value. Make sure to keep old members active, since they are most likely to recruit newer members for your team.

Create Content

Many managers are looking for a plug-in solution. While there are platforms that offer ready to launch content, make sure to take the time to introduce your community the way you want. Our platform is designed with this in mind. Take the time to look through our curated messaging and information, but put your own spin on it. Test out a few campaigns and see how people respond. Once you get into the habit of it, it’s easy to let your campaign automate your community for you. Taking the time early on to make sure your campaign is sticky is the best way to ensure ROI and success with your community. Get organized and get ready to test things and you’ll soon be on your way to a scalable growth channel.

Emily Lonetto

Emily Lonetto

Head of Growth at GrowSumo

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