There are so many possibilities when building a Community, you may not know where to dive in first!

Decorative image of a Community on a laptop and a smartphone.

We're here to help you create an engaged community member base that supports your goals. Check out our best practices for building, launching, and maintaining a community below. 👇

Remember to check out the guides for all the awesome features mentioned in this article! 📚

Define goals

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, to name only a few.

Next, consider what value your community will provide its members and build your content to maximize that value.

Hold on to those goals — you'll use them at each step in creating and developing your community's brand.

Build a cadence plan and protocols

Once you've defined your goals, you're ready to plan:

  • Content - Determine what 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's interests. Any less, and you may feel rushed.

  • Roles - How will each community admin interact with the community, and what protocols should they follow? Answering this question with clear guidelines for staff helps guarantee that your community's brand voice is distinct across the board.

  • Touch-points and protocols - Figure out cross-department touch-points and protocols to maximize ROI and ensure members don't fall through the cracks. 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!

Seed content

Screenshot of the home screen of a Mobile App.

First impressions matter! Having content that new members will be interested in right from the start is critical. You can always add more content later (and you should). 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, 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. 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.

Promote

Screenshot of a Custom List item titles Refer a Friend.

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 how they share it with each other. Here are a couple ideas to get you off to a great start:

  • 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.

  • Influencer promotion - Ask influencers to promote, especially if you included them in the soft launch. These folks will be a great resource to get your community in front of the right people. Make sure to let them know the value they'll receive from being involved, and think about offering additional incentives.

Gamify

People love some healthy competition, so the Game feature is a great way to kick off your community, foster engagement, and build and retain momentum. Here are some recommendations:

  • Have a new Game every month, every quarter, or whatever cadence works best for you. 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 a word from an article you posted. The following 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

Screenshot showing the Game feature's instructions in the Mobile App.

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

Screenshot showing an Upcoming Events feature in the Mobile App.

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 to members and keeps them interested and engaged.

Foster networking

Encourage your community members to network and engage, and they'll be hooked. There are multiple networking options such Shake & Connect, chat features, the Wall, and networking game challenges. With a little planning, you can even schedule Video Room or Webex hangouts for informal meetups so "birds of a feather" can connect and talk about common topics of interest. Use survey and polling features to crowdsource the topics beforehand. 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 content and topics for widely different member groups, we recommend a separate Community to keep things tidy and relevant. If there's value in connecting content across different member types, or if content is mostly the same, then you can use Groups to personalize experiences and hide content as needed.

  • Not sure if you need a Community, or an Event App? An Event App is a better option if there's a clear end date with activities happening over a short timeframe. Events usually happen "live", whereas a Community is a year-round hub for people to connect, share, and discover.

Questions? Chat Us or Email support@socio.events

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