There are so many possibilities when building a Community, you may not know where to dive in first!
We're here to help you create an engaged Community membership base that supports your goals. Check out our best practices for building, launching and maintaining a Community, below. 👇
Before you do anything else, it's important to define what your goals are for the Community. We recommend listing all internal stakeholders, along with the metrics each will use to judge the success of the Community. These could include increasing brand loyalty, producing user-generated content, gathering feedback, or reducing support costs, just to name a few.
Next, consider what value your Community will provide for members.
Hold on to those goals — you'll use them at each step in creating your Community, and developing your Community's brand.
Build a Cadence Plan and Protocols
Once you have your goals defined, you're ready to plan out:
- What content you'll share and when, including push notifications to Community members. We recommend having a detailed plan for at least the first month. Any more, and you'll have a harder time pivoting as you determine the Community interests. Any less, and you may feel rushed.
- What roles each Community admin will have, and protocols for how they'll interact with the Community. This helps to ensure that your Community's brand voice is distinct across the board.
- The cross-department touch-points and protocols. For example, if a Community member gives product feedback, then Product Management may need to be notified. Or, if a member asks about purchasing, Sales would likely step in.
How often and what you should communicate will vary depending on your member base. Experiment to find out what resonates!
First impressions matter! You can always add more content later (and you should), but having content that new members will be interested in right from the start is critical. Create discussion boards with different categories and prompts to get the conversation started. Have your team come in and comment, post, and add forum questions. No blank screens allowed. At the same time, your team's feedback will help you make any needed tweaks before the soft launch.
⭐️ Keep in mind, the Privacy Settings can be used to prevent outsiders from having access to your Community until you're ready.
Have a Soft Launch
Start small. Invite a small, exclusive group to join your Community first. These can be influencers in fields related to your Community, brand ambassadors, or your best customers. Make them feel valued and special by letting them know that you're keeping it exclusive, and especially let them know what value they'll gain from joining.
Consider them your beta testers! They'll help you gain a good idea of what your members value in your Community, so you can hone in on providing that value as you expand. Once your soft launch has concluded, be sure to thank them for taking part.
Once your Community has several people engaging regularly, and you're confident in the value you're delivering and what sparks engagement with your members, then you're ready to scale your Community.
The best method of promoting will likely depend on your member base, where they get their information and share with each other, but here are a couple ideas to get you off to a great start:
- A referral program. If you have a solid group of members to start, you can assume that their referrals will probably be good candidates for the Community as well. You can encourage referrals with prizes, recognition, swag, or anything else that would appeal to your member base.
- Ask influencers to promote, especially if you included them in the soft launch. These folks will be a great resource for getting your Community in front of the right people. Make sure to let them know the value they'll receive from being involved.
People love games. The Game feature is a great way to kick off your Community, foster engagement, and keep it going. Here are some recommendations:
- You can have a new Game every month, every quarter, or whatever cadence works best for you, but make sure to have a clear end date and hide the Game feature once that Game is over. An end date helps create a sense of urgency, encouraging members to start playing. Also let them know when to check back in to see who won!
- Use "rolling" challenges to encourage members to interact with Community content. One week, the challenge code could be the last word in an article you posted. The next week, you could send the challenge code to each member who posts what they liked best about your webinar. Don't forget to disable the challenge once it's over.
- Have a "Winners" feature, highlighting the winner for each completed game and the prize they received (if any) — the Custom List feature is a great option. This is a great way to recognize and encourage users who engage with your Community. We also highly recommend prizes! This could be early access, discounts, swag, or anything that your member base would appreciate.
Embrace Community Sponsorship
There are a ton of ways that sponsors can support your Community. They can sponsor a webinar, newsletter, benchmark survey/report, banner, giveaway, or the game — you can even ask them if they'd like to provide the game prize!
For more cool ideas for showcasing sponsors, check this out.
Keep it Fresh
Share content like videos, podcasts, articles, product updates, or whatever your member base would be most interested in. As you add fresh content, notify your members via announcements or email. Be sure to keep them posted on what's upcoming, whether that's a podcast series, standalone webinar or networking events. Banners are a great way to promote these. 🤩
Create a Feeling of Exclusivity
Provide exclusive content for Community members. This can include job postings, training, mentoring programs, events, industry reports, discounts, or anything else that would interest your members. This sense of exclusivity adds value for members, and keeps them interested and engaged.
Encourage your Community members to network and engage, and they'll be hooked. There are multiple networking options, with Shake & Connect, chat features, the Wall, and networking game challenges. With a little planning, you can even schedule multi-person video conferences for informal “Birds of a Feather”-type meetups, allowing people to connect and talk about topics of interest. Use survey and polling features to crowdsource the topics. We also recommend you move the Wall or Game feature to first in the feature list, so members see it right away.
Pro tips! 😎
- Get creative and embrace the personality of your Community. We've even seen organizers create Spotify playlists for their Community!
- Not sure if you need a separate Community, or just multiple discussion boards in one Community? Consider the content, and the networking value. If you have cross-sections that you don't want interacting, or who will be receiving different content, we recommend a separate Community. If there's value in them connecting, and the content is mostly the same, then you can use Groups to personalize their experience and hide content as needed.
- Not sure if you need a Community, or an Event? An Event is a better option if there's a clear end date, and especially if you have a branded or named experience. There is a "live" aspect to an Event, whereas a Community is a year-round hub for people to connect, share, and discover.
Questions? Chat Us or Email [email protected]