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online community best practices

Five Essential Steps to Building A Successful Online Community

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An online community buzzing around your website could be one of the best things that has ever happened to your business. It would not only boost your clientele but it could also propel your business into great heights. However, creating an online community can be tough and it can be even harder to create one that it is successful and profitable.

Here in Australia, there are many online communities in different niches. Some have thrived and become successful, others have not.  We have come up with five steps that you need to take in order for your online community to become a success story.

1. Build a Clear and Focused Online Community Plan

The primary purpose of an online community is to build a relationship with your market. However, don’t forget that you are building it around your business. It must be anchored according to your business objectives.

Likewise, your online community plan must have all of the necessary ingredients such as clear and compelling objectives, well-researched demographics and strategies to grow and engage your market.

2. Invite Groups of Influencers and Motivators

Your online community must involve a group of influencers and motivated people. Ideally these people will have large followings and established names in your field. Even if they are starting with a small group they can set everything in motion. Just one tweet, one pin or one share could mean people start flocking to your community.

3. Create and Implement Rules of Engagement and 24-Hour Rule

Setting rules is key to online community best practice. This is simple in theory but can be hard to get right.

Rules of engagement are safety nets that will help govern the behaviour of your community while online.

Remember that the power in online communities does not actually rest on the curators and moderators but on your customers and visitors. The latter are your advocates and they are the ones who will like, tweet, pin or disseminate your content and your products and services to their social networks. So a set of rules will help you engage members in a very subtle way that will be beneficial to your business.

The 24-hour rule is important as it means that your community will get prompt response to questions, comments and suggestions within 24 hours. By responding quickly you create an engagement momentum. One comment will eventually become two, three and so on.

4. Nurture! Nurture! Nurture!

Nurturing is important for any online community to grow and become successful.

How do you do this?

Find loyal members. Loyal members are those who consistently visit the community, participate actively in the discussion and engage other members to participate and to follow the rules within the community.

Reward these loyal members. It may be in the form of promotion, as you could ‘like’ their profiles, an invitation to become a contributor, access to exclusive content or recognition on your website.

5. Measure How Far You Have Come

Last but definitely not least, measure according to the objectives of your online community plan.

Some of these may be in a form of increase in membership, membership conversions, and reflection of these conversions into your sales. Metrics are necessary because it lets you know whether you are achieving your objectives or not. It all comes down to knowing whether your online community actually translates to helping your business achieve its goals.

Remember, as long as you have these formulas and you give them your time and effort, you will succeed in building a great online community.

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