There are so many possibilities when building a community, and we're here to help you create an engaged community member base that supports your goals. This article provides best practices for building, launching, and maintaining a community.
Before all else, it's important to define your goals for the community. You'll use these goals to inform each step of creating and developing your community's brand.
We recommend listing all internal stakeholders, along with the metrics each will use to measure community success. Goals include increasing brand loyalty, producing user-generated content, gathering feedback, or reducing support costs, to name a few.
Next, consider what value your community will provide its members and build your content to maximize that value.
Build protocols and plan community details
Once you've defined your goals, you're ready to plan:
Content - Decide when and what you'll share, 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 administrator interact with the community, and what protocols should they follow? Answering this question with clear guidelines for staff helps guarantee a distinct and unified community voice.
Touch-points and protocols - Figure out cross-department touch-points and protocols to maximize ROI and ensure that each member is heard. 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. Seeding content that garners interest from new members at the start is critical. You can always add more content later, and we highly recommend that you do!
Create discussion boards with different categories and prompts to nurture conversations. Have your team 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, you can use Privacy Settings to prevent access to your community until you're ready.
Have a soft launch
Invite a small group to join your community. Consider inviting influencers in fields related to your community, brand ambassadors, or your best customers. Show them that they're valued and special by telling them that you're keeping it exclusive, and especially let them know what they'll gain from joining.
Consider this small group as 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 concludes, be sure to thank them for taking part.
You're ready to scale your community once you're confident in the community's value, you've learned what sparks member engagement, and several members engage regularly with the content and each other.
The best promotion method likely will depend on your member base, where they get their information, and how they share it with each other. Here are some ideas to get you off to a great start:
Referral program - If you have a solid group of members, it's safe to assume that their referrals are probably candidates for the community, too. Encourage referrals with prizes, recognition, swag, or anything else that appeals to your member base.
Influencer promotion - Ask influencers to promote, especially if you included them in the soft launch. These folks are a great resource to get your community in front of the right people. Let them know the value they'll receive from being involved and consider offering additional incentives.
Include games in your community
The Game feature is a great way to kick off your community, foster engagement, build and maintain momentum, and encourage fun. 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. Let them know when to check back in to see who won!
Use ongoing 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, send the challenge code to each member who posts what they liked best about your webinar. Don't forget to deactivate 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 users in your community and encourage engagement. We also highly recommend prizes such as 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!
Our Showcase Sponsors article offers more great ideas and inspiration for highlighting sponsors in your community.
Keep it fresh
Share content like videos, podcasts, articles, product updates, and other points of interest for your member base. As you add fresh content, use the Announcements feature or email to notify your members. Keep them informed about what's upcoming, whether that's a podcast series, standalone webinar, or networking events. Banners are a great way to promote these, too. 🤩
Provide exclusive opportunities and content
Provide exclusive content for community members, including job postings, training, mentoring programs, events, industry reports, discounts, or anything else that interests your members. These unique offerings add value to members and keep them engaged.
Encourage your community members to network and engage, and they'll keep coming back. There are multiple networking options such Shake & Connect, chat features, the Wall, and networking game challenges. With a little planning, you can even schedule informal meetups with Video Rooms or Webex hangouts, where members connect and talk about common topics of interest. Use surveys and the polling feature 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 your community's personality. 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 within 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 firstname.lastname@example.org