Consider this scenario:
You run an online community that is full of highly-engaging members that don’t only keep the community alive but also advocate for your brand. Moreover, you are consistently getting new members organically, without actually having to put in any member acquisition efforts.
Sounds like a dream come true, right?
Well, it is a reality for some online communities. Their secret? They pay attention to building a viable, healthy community that is an asset to the brand. A healthy online community enables brands to minimize the time and efforts you invest in getting new members, minimizing attrition, community moderation, etc.
Let’s find out how you can build a healthy and thriving community that makes your online presence undeniably impactful.
Why Create a Healthy Online Community?
Before you start working towards building a healthy community, you need to understand the reason you want to do it-
- For a brand, a healthy community enables them to achieve its core goals and missions.
- For members, a healthy community enables them to connect with their preferable brand, share their opinions and feedback, and network with like-minded peers.
A healthy community is highly effective in the growth of a business as it enables the company to acquire loyal brand advocates. Their positive reviews work as word-of-mouth marketing and negative reviews can be taken as feedback. It can help the brand develop a cohesive plan of action and enhance its services. To do this successfully, members must feel welcomed, valued, and safe for the consistent contribution and growth of the community.
Strategies to Build and Maintain a Healthy Online Community
An online community can be an indispensable asset for your company if it nurtures a thriving environment. That being said, a healthy community is not built overnight. It is fostered from the very beginning and grows while focusing on the larger picture i.e., achieving the ultimate business goals.
Let’s take a look at the 4 ways to maintain the health of your community-
1. Build it Around a Shared Purpose or Mission
If you have ever been a part of an online community, you’ll notice that everyone participates for the sake of a shared passion or interest. Be it their passion for networking with industry experts or enthusiasm for technology, people love to bond over commonalities. Similarly, brands looking to nurture a healthy community need to clearly define their purpose and mission and stand by their values throughout their growth.
This is how a motorcycle company like Harley Davidson acquired such superfans from an early stage through its HOG (Harley-Davidson Owners Group) community. It stood firmly behind their shared passion for bike riding and unique lifestyle.
2. Promote a Healthy Environment
Creating a customer-centric community culture can do wonders for your business. Community is a medium that enables brands to connect directly with their customers. Thus, it is vital to encourage organic and genuine conversations. Most communities enforce rigorous moderating which shuts down the conversations and limits engagement. To avoid this, you need to become a good listener. Ask for opinions from your customers and learn from them. This shows that your customers are heard and valued.
On the other hand, no moderation at all can also be harmful to your community. You may want to ensure that your community promotes a positive culture. To do that, you need to create a set of guidelines and ensure that your community members adhere to them. As a community manager, you need to monitor the tone, user behavior, and encourage quality content posting. Therefore, practice balanced community moderation where good content and ideas are encouraged and inappropriate behavior is prevented.
3. Foster Your Brand’s Culture and Values
Most community managers adopt trending approaches to acquire new members in their community. However, if you incorporate other communities’ approaches in your community, you may end up projecting their mission and values. This is how you set expectations that you may not meet. So, the better approach is to establish your values and reflect them in your community. To do that, convey a message that you believe in through the channels that appeal to your customers. And, focus on engagement efforts (events, webinars, podcasts, etc) that feel authentic to your brand.
4. Offer Bi-Directional Value
By bi-directional value, we mean that your community should benefit your brand as well as your customers. You, as a brand, reap benefits like connecting with your existing customers, gaining new customers, gaining honest feedback, etc. Similarly, your customers should benefit from your community as well. Having said that, ensure that the members are getting what your community is meant to provide.
For instance, if your community promises support, then make sure you address their concerns and issues frequently. If your community is meant for knowledge sharing, then keep your library up-to-date with educational resources. The more value your community offers, the better engagement it fosters.
While every online community is unique with its own set of goals and values, certain components can ensure healthy engagement. Leverage the above-mentioned components to maintain a healthy, positive community to unleash its full potential.
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