How to Build a Thriving Online Community in 4 Achievable Steps

How to Build a Thriving Online Community in 4 Achievable Steps | MCI Zürich | DE

July, 27 2020

With people’s social and professional lives being disrupted by COVID-19, now more than ever audiences are seeking human connections and sense of community. But what does ‘building a community’ mean exactly?

And how do we help our clients achieve it? And how do we enable engagement within that community?

We know that when people come together, magic happens.

Virtual events are great one-off opportunities to establish a connection with your audience, share content, and spark conversations around your brand. In short, they help build a community.

But once the event is over, keeping that community alive is often problematic – and with face-to-face events still off the table in many countries, you can’t solely rely on virtual events to maintain engagement. Everyone is demanding more connection, more relevance, and a greater sense of community every day.

How are we helping our clients build engaging communities?

There is another more durable way to build a community. We know that community engagement can be hard to measure. Hence, at MCI we help our clients create thriving communities, assess their existing ones and unlock their collective knowledge using a 4-step process:

1. Create a branded community

Compared to real-life conversations, conversations mediated by technology tend to be shorter. But meaningful conversations are the cornerstone of any community – if there’s no exchange or dialogue between participants, you can’t expect people to form any bond.

So why not create a ‘safe’ space where people can have longer multiple interactions? Instead of holding 1 or 2 virtual meetings, a branded community space can foster peer-to-peer conversations and knowledge exchange.

Of course, it isn’t enough to create the community: it must be backed by a bespoke engagement strategy based on content, value and mutual growth.

2. Right-size your community

When brands discuss online communities, few times there’s an honest dialogue on the community’s size. Different sized communities vary in engagement levels.

The trend tends to be the more, the better. But just because your target is composed of 300 professionals, that doesn’t mean that all 300 people will gain value from interacting with one another. Perhaps you have stakeholders based in Asia who don’t have the same objectives and challenges of those based in Europe.

Then it makes sense to break down your audience into smaller communities. This way, all interactions will be meaningful for those involved, and it’ll be easier for you to moderate and select relevant content.

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3. Turn participants from passive to active

In such a space, participants would easily expect to be fed with content. This is content that they might find useful and through which they might be asked to make a buying decision.

But we are seeing better engaged communities when participants are not passive consumers of content but co-creators. Enabling many-to-many communication amongst the audience and preselecting few creators and contributors in advance helps convert many new contributors. Thus, turning many inactive participants into more active consumers.

A right-sized online community can become a safe place for your stakeholders to create, contribute and exchange views with peers.

4. Foster loyalty

At MCI, we see that while people don’t continuously engage, they do remain part of the community.

That’s why it is important to create and continuously communicate the ‘return value’ road map in advance and enhance the re-engagement points. After setting up a community of equal co-creators, you must create that sense of belonging that makes people come back for more.

Relevancy, empathy and authenticity also form the foundations brand loyalty. Include these in your online space, make sure interactions are meaningful, and you’ve got yourself a community.

At a time when it has become more complicated to meet in person, the concept of community has got an even deeper meaning. By building a branded online community that is right-sized, fuels interactions and creates a sense of belonging, ‘building community’ becomes more than a buzzword.

Make sure to contact us if you’d like to know more about developing a ‘community strategy’ that’s tailored to your business goals.

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