In recent months, one of the biggest trends in web development and internet marketing has been the idea of creating online communities. That is, websites that bring a specific niche or industry together and curate fresh content, present innovative ideas, spark conversation, and lead to action. Whether you’re looking to launch a community and turn it into a business, or you want to use an online community to boost your visibility and sphere of influence, it’s important that you know how to proceed.
4 Keys to Online Community Success
As is the case with almost every niche, there are some common keys that frequently lead to online community success. If you’re interested in transforming your website from a static content receptacle into a lively community, here are the things you need to keep in mind.
1. Understand the Fundamental Laws
According to FeverBee, one of the leading names behind the online community charge, there are 11 fundamental laws of building online communities. While we won’t review all 11 of these laws, it’s important that you follow as many of these rules as possible.
For example, the number one fundamental law of building a successful online community is that you must have a community manager. This is the person whose primary role is to manage, grow, and support your community. This job cannot be an afterthought. It must be a priority, or you’ll become overwhelmed by the growth you’re targeting.
2. Build Around a Specific Niche
The beauty of the internet is that anyone can find a group of people that’s interested in anything. The web connects people with mutual interests and allows for mutual bonding. If you’re going to launch an online community, there’s a fine line between being too broad and too specific.
For example, building an online community about entrepreneurship in general is challenging. It’s far too expansive and non-specific. On the opposite end of the spectrum, launching an online community about video game startups in New York City is way too specific. How many startups in the city are interested in video games? However, there’s a valuable niche in between. Launching an online community around the topic of New York City startups – as Built in NYC has done – makes sense. It’s not too general or specific.
3. Identify Your Objectives
Before launching, you need very specific objectives. What are the goals of the online community, and how will they be accomplished? While your goal may be to simply create a space for people to interact and share ideas, there’s likely more to your community than this.
Most online communities have a certain number of business objectives. This could be to support digital marketing efforts, expand networking opportunities, enhance advertising, develop additional streams of revenue, or anything in between. Discuss these objectives in advance and make sure you focus on them throughout development.
4. Give Users a Voice
In order for a community to be successful, users need a voice. They need to feel like what they say matters. Otherwise, your community is nothing more than a blog. A vibrant online community requires two-way communication between users.
One of the best examples of an online community that provides users with a chance to share opinions and ideas is TES. The TES online community has more than 4 million members and discussions are happening at all hours of the day. It’s the perfect picture of how peer-to-peer communication capabilities create successful communities.
Putting it All Together
Every online community is different, but there are some common keys worth studying if you want to find success. Before getting too far along in the process, make sure you’ve thought through these five things and are building a strong foundation that will provide leverage and traction in the months and years to come.