If you are an online business owner who is tuned for trends in your world then you know this Brand communities are all the rage – so much so that Pat recently released a bonus SPI podcast Follow everything about them. And you’re not alone in recognizing this trend: Industry data also suggests that digital communities are becoming an important pillar of business.
I’ve worked in community management for the past decade and seen the rise and fall of several well-intentioned communities. There are tens of thousands of communities at our fingertips at any given time – but why do some thrive while the rest spurts out?
Running a healthy community takes strategy and consistency, but unfortunately most communities start with no real plan.
So how can you create your own thriving community? Read on to find five ways you can ruin your community – and five alternative strategies for making your community great:
# 1: Don’t communicate clear guidelines
“Of course, you can turn your community into an all-rounder! Rules are boring and moderating is not what you want your time to be! You know your community members and they won’t cause any problems. And when they do, you can just tell them to stop and they’ll totally listen. Nobody is going to accuse you of playing favorites or choosing what to moderate.“
You have a vision for your community. So spend some time creating Community guidelines this clearly defines what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Is your community a place for someone to write about selling weight loss shakes and joining their downline? Does it make sense to allow a political debate? Your community guidelines reflect the purpose of your community.
Don’t forget to set a moderation policy as well. State the consequences for breaking a policy once, twice, etc. Clear guidelines and moderation guidelines help the community feel safe and have a sense of order. Following your moderation guidelines reinforces these feelings and reduces the effort in already uncomfortable situations.
# 2: Don’t spend time creating content and engaging in your community
“Just add as many people as you can to your community and let them do the rest! You don’t have time to curate conversations. Shouldn’t it work like Facebook, where everyone wants to share their opinions and updates?“
What makes your community stand out with so many online apps and spaces for people to spend their time in? If your community members can’t answer this question, they will likely spend their time elsewhere.
Community members will reach out to you to see how you can get involved. So model the behavior that you want to see. Think of your community space as a party and your community members as guests: greet them as hosts when they walk in and get them into a fun chat with fellow party guests.
# 3: Don’t ask for feedback
“It’s your community after all! You can make changes as you see fit and your members won’t care. And when they ask for changes, you don’t have to listen. If you don’t like it, you can go!“
The people involved in your community understand it best. So if you want to solve a problem or try something, they are the best people to turn to. This gives them a sense of ownership and strengthens their sense of purpose in your community. Are you thinking of adding membership levels? See what they think. You could have great ideas that you never even thought of. Would you like to create a new online course? Ask the community what topics they would be most interested in.
A real community is collaborative, which leads us to our next tip to ruin yours:
# 4: treat it like a fan club
“These people joined because they like me and think I’m really good at what I do. You are here to listen to me! I don’t have time to interact. I am too busy and important! I only post when I have a new product or upload a flattering picture on IG.“
Working together and making valuable connections are two of the most important benefits of a healthy community. However, in order to achieve this, you need to devote enough time to interacting with and listening to your members. As your business grows and your community grows, you can hand over that role to a community manager who understands your brand voice.
A community based solely on top-down communication – a platform where you can speak and like and hear the community – is best left to a fansite. If you’re not ready to be present and accessible in your community’s day-to-day life, or invest in community people, you don’t want to have a community as part of your business.
# 5: ignore your engagement metrics
“Nothing I do works! Why is nobody taking part? “
Metrics are so much more than just keeping likes or replies. You can use monthly and weekly metrics to determine what programming works and how to schedule your content. If you’re breaking your buns and sharing content, know the best time to post.
At SPI we use Circle as a community platform [affiliate link]. Thanks to the built-in analytics, I can confidently tell you that Tuesday evenings are the best for conversation and that our daily active users have been growing month after month since November.
Bonus tip: your community platform can play an important role
Community is – no surprise – a major priority at SPI. Together with the start of the SPI Pro Community in 2020, we only started last week SPI Academy, an online community hosted on Circle for our course students to empower and support our larger student community. By using a dedicated community platform like Circle, we have control of every detail as well as customizations that allow for a better member experience than would be possible with a larger social platform. The SPI Academy already outperforms our previous Facebook student groups thanks to a combination of Circle’s enhanced member experience and our community engagement strategies.
There are so many ways to build a strong community and stand out in the midst of the noise when you know what to do and what not to do. If you’ve got or are planning to start a community in 2021, you can set your community apart by spending time defining your onboarding and engagement strategies. And we’re here to help –Follow the Community Experience team on Twitter to keep up to date and help your community thrive.
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