The Building Blocks of an Online Community

Strategize & Execute: Create a simple strategic and execution plan on how to develop your digital community. What’s at the core of your community? Who is your ideal community member? Where do you want your community to go in the next six months? A thriving community is built by strategizing rather than reacting. A mistake most community founders and managers make is to log in every day and react to the events taking place in their industry and community. This leads to community maintenance, not development.

Convert & Grow: Convert people who are interested in your community subject into community members. Transform those members into active posters and community heroes. Boost your community growth by applying a conversion approach. Often times you hear experts talk about the importance of “growth.” It is not growth you need to worry about at the beginning. At least, not literally. Focus on planning a highly converting digital environment. Who is active in your community? Who would you like to see active? How can you convert more lurkers into active posters? How can you bring more like-minded people into your online community?

The Community Framework by Dessi Popova
The Community Framework by Dessi Popova

Add value & Content: What you’ll learn next you probably won’t hear from any other expert, but it will save you a ton of time and money. Don’t try to create content that’s better than your competitor’s. You’re going to waste valuable time and effort if you do. Turn your digital space into a community, not a content site. Treat it as the local TV channel and newspaper. Write about your community rather than at your members. This is the best way to get the FB algorithm to work for you.

If you are creating a social eLearning community on Facebook, differentiate between starting a learning unit and posting in the discussion area. The discussion area is where you write about your community. This is how you create a sense of belonging and attachment to a group of like-minded people.

Nurture & Moderate: I say nurture because this is what our focus should be. More often than not moderation is treated as a task where one removes all the “rotten apples” and keeps a healthy ecosystem. While providing a positive digital environment to our community members is crucial, we should remember there is more to a moderator’s role than to deal with spammers and bad attitudes.

They need to have basic pedagogical skills, promote human relationships, manage the flow and direction of the discussion and ensure the participants are comfortable with the way the community is set up and run. There is more to be said, so there is a whole unit about nurture+moderation coming up.

Host Events & Engage: Digital events bring your audiences together and boost your community growth. They create a true sense of community and belonging. They convert inactive members (lurkers) into participants. Hosting regular events is a great reason for your members to frequently visit the community. McMillan and Chavis (1986) claim this is the ultimate method to increase shared emotional connections.

Community engagement during an event has to do with providing high quality exclusive content, activities and entertainment. It’s about granting access to events packed with authentic video footage, posts, interviews, live blogging/streaming, and daily summaries.

A community event can be educational, centered around a digital occasion or an offline event.

Think outside of what you’ve seen on Facebook and get some brave ideas mapped out. Let’s talk about them and set new trends. A whole lesson is coming on this topic.

Influence & Date = Relationships: To become a community leader, you need to ask yourself, “How do I get my community members to respect my opinions?”

All community leaders have three main superpowers: content, administration and access. The community building concept on Facebook is in its infancy. Understanding the key traits of digital leadership is crucial if you want to establish a strong virtual community.

It’s about strategy. There are three ways you can go about developing it, depending on your personality. Combining the three is the most powerful technique you could apply as a community leader.

Likeability & Friendliness: Show interest in others and their problems, respect people’s opinions, admit your mistakes, praise, don’t complain and don’t judge.

Reciprocity & Cooperation: This is the social law that one action will be met with a similar action. Positive reciprocity is a trust builder and is one reason I encourage brands from the get-go to focus on establishing principles rather than rules. Show people how to act and they will engage in the same way.

Knowledge & Expertise: Go deeper and apply an analytical approach. Publish exclusive content that cannot be found elsewhere. Less is more here. Add a unique insight with every piece of content you share.

Treat each member as someone you date instead of someone you sell to. Build relationships and consider marrying your community rather than dealing with each member as a one-night stand. Remember, you’re not superior to them. A true influencer has a strong commitment to equality, inclusion and diversity.

Integrate & Add Faces: If you are a brand and not just a one-person team you want to make sure you have two sets of cultures; one is your internal community environment and one is your customer-centered digital space. Your goal is to make sure the community is delivering value to your company and your company is providing value to the community. A friendly team building space where your team gets to spend time online or offline is absolutely crucial.

You need to nurture healthy relationships both with and between your employees. Most of them should participate in your community. If your team members don’t join the community, why should your customers?

A question many business owners might ask, “Is it profitable to have my staff in the community?”

A solution is to set key metrics that give direction to employees. The metrics will also help evaluate if their presence is positively impacting the company’s ROI. To do that, you need to decide what type of processes you would want to adopt in your community.

      1. Decide what:

  • products/services to promote
  • price discounts will be offered
  • feedback to collect on products/services

       2. Following these simple steps, you would get the following key community metrics:

  • # of employees active in the community
  • # of processes implemented
  • ROI of the community

Listen & Improve = Ultimate UX: Listening to your community members will help you innovate your products/services and boost your revenue. But when you listen, you need to be smart about it. Don’t just ask what they think or want, observe what they do and analyze their behavior.

See if people prefer longer or shorter videos, whether they like written content and see how they feel about the promotions you run. Ask them what type of events and interviews they would like to see next and what they want to learn in upcoming courses, masterminds, and events.

When using a public social media platform like Facebook you cannot easily implement new features for your members to improve their user experience, although you can certainly make suggestions to Facebook and involve your community members in the process. You can make feature suggestions to the FB team. Ask your members to individually submit requests if they want this feature.

If you run your own platform, there is a whole book I could write about how you need to handle feedback and UX. Stay tuned for my first lesson on this topic.