How to Start a Successful Online Community in 5 Steps

building an online community

Starting an online community is something that has the potential to skyrocket your corporation or business by bringing together your clientele or followers. However, for many, it is also a daunting project.

Not to worry, in these 5 easy steps we will share how you can start an online community and get it off the ground in no time.

1. Appealing to User Self-Interests

Do not make the mistake of focusing on yourself or your business too much. Members who are there for their own reasons are what drives a successful online community. Create a community environment that caters to your users’ self-interests.

A great way to cater to your users’ interests is to crowd source.

  • Use the power of the collective to provide insight, share ideas and solve issues.
  • Proactively invite your customer base to weigh in on important issues that your company has been struggling with and see what solutions they have to offer.

2. Sustaining Momentum

An online community without much activity will die quickly.

how to build an online community

  • Consider how you might recruit more members or guarantee more of their time.
  • Plan the first couple of weeks of community activity to ensure that activity is consistent and steadily increases.

One of the most highly recommended methods is to develop a champion program, or a program that rewards expert contributors for their contributions to the community.

  • Add some leaderboards, gratification features and showcase the most valuable members.
  • You may even consider including reputation data to show other members how trustworthy and credible comments are.

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3. Developing a Group of Core Members

One of the most important tasks you will face is developing a group of core members to start your online community off. You may contact a few long time, loyal clients or send out an email newsletter to your mailing list.

If you ensure that the community embodies something that they are invested in, then by the time you launch you will already have a dedicated group of members who cannot wait to begin using it. It also helps to involve company employees and reward customers for their contributions.

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4. Getting Members to Keep Returning

It is easier than not to get a member to visit one time. However, it is much harder to get them to visit a 2nd time or even more. What could you ask them to do on the first visit that would ensure they return?

  • Ensure that you have provided relevant and compelling content from professional content writers, and made the community easy to find.
  • Ensure that the community contributes to the overall customer experience, as well as keeping content fresh and interesting.
  • In addition, you should offer a warm welcome and exclusive content offers.

5. Timed Release of Website Elements

With a new online community website, you may have to resist the urge to have the website completely built before opening the doors. In fact, the timed release of certain website elements could be very beneficial.

If you have a community website with many unused features, it could make your website look quiet. Holding back certain elements of your website will help to keep activity concentrated in certain areas and create a more active-looking website.

If you’re looking for inspiration, you may like:

Following these 5 steps will help you create a successful and active online community website. However, it is important to bear in mind that ‘Rome was not built in a day.’

By timing the release of certain website elements and ensuring that a systematic formula is followed, you can guarantee a successful online community is created.

Lola Decker

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Lola Decker first discovered her love of written language as a young child. Throughout the years her thirst for knowledge has led her to obtain an Associates degree in Early Childhood Development and Education, and her current pursuits of becoming a content marketing expert.

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Rob Toccs
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Rob Toccs

How to start a successful online community in 5 steps:

1. Go to Harvard.
2. Start a site with your roommate that lets visitors rate people.
3. Drop out of college.
4. Move to the West Coast.
5. Become a multi-billionaire.

virelex
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virelex

Really funny, and shockingly true enough.

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

If only it were that easy!

Kerri Ponder
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Kerri Ponder

Ha! Yes, if only we were all as lucky as Mark Z. Who knows… new millionaires pop up all the time. Perhaps those of us who didn’t attend Harvard should not give up just yet. 🙂

Lola Decker
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Lola Decker

I think the lesson here is thinking outside of the box, and turning our failures into our successes.

Would you believe that I began as a high school drop out? However, in order to show up those who didn’t believe in me, I got a G.E.D. and started college in the same week.

It’s all about how you look at things, and how determined you are. Now, I get to flaunt the fact that I work from home doing what I love. 🙂

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

Thanks for the great post, Lola. Starting an online community would seem like an insurmountable goal without this advice. One of the best things about Crowd Content is how writers genuinely care about helping other writers succeed. This post is an excellent example of that.

auntieemily
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auntieemily

I agree that the community needs to have lots of action in order to keep users around. Great advice. Thanks for sharing.

Georgia Potts
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Georgia Potts

Sustaining that momentum is the vital step. Even an active, happening community can peter out quickly when people lose interest. I’ve seen that happen many times over the years.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

To go from the rush you have when momentum is building to the disappointment you have when it flames out must be a painful experience. It’s a never-ending battle to continue your success (unless you strike it fabulously rich).

Tara Woodbury
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Tara Woodbury

Having been a community moderator for a large online forum, we found that participation really dried up after Facebook and other social media platforms became more popular. Even though we were doing most of the things you suggest. I can’t imagine now starting a forum on the company website now.

I can see an online community being appropriate in certain industries but not in all. For example, for a small home decor business, would this work?

Laura Dohan
Guest
Laura Dohan

Hi Tara,
Home decor community prime example:
http://www.houzz.com/discussions

I love this community because it’s so active. There’s Typically over 100 comments on each post and as I look at it now there’s 322,782 discussions in progress – pretty cool!

Georgia Potts
Guest
Georgia Potts

I love it when a goo, in-depth discussion is going on. It really adds to the content itself and makes it more interesting to read when you know that there will be so many comments on it.

akmoyer91
Guest
akmoyer91

I have recently written quit a few articles on home improvement which led me to discover houzz ! I was surprisingly pleased with the layout and participation from outside sources. Hopefully more companies can encourage their clients to follow up using their specific Houzz page/profile.

virelex
Guest
virelex

I think this was a well written and informational article. Starting an online community seems impossible to do in the modern day, but these five steps really do put it into perspective and show that it could actually be possible.

Kerri Ponder
Guest
Kerri Ponder

The hardest seems to be number three, finding and relying upon some core members to help keep things from becoming stale. I agree that it’s a great read and a lot of good info.

Mr. Guy Who Likes This Website Design
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Mr. Guy Who Likes This Website Design

Hi Lola, do you mind telling me what site host, template, and comment system you use for this site? It’s really nice!

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

Lola, your story is an inspiring one. It really demonstrates what’s possible with the right attitude. You must have felt great when you proved your doubters wrong and got into college, but I imagine that being able to flaunt doing what you love feels even better.

akmoyer91
Guest
akmoyer91

I was hoping to learn a few things beyond the fundamentals. The overview is certainly informative for the beginner though.

Tay H
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Tay H

Keeping momentum is absolutely crucial.

Bethany A.
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Bethany A.

Great post. I think that it so important to be consistent and to provide good, quality content always.

Val Tanaka
Guest
Val Tanaka

It sounds like starting a club in the real world. Community building is a daunting and heroic effort. IMDb shut down it’s message boards, because controlling the community can be too difficult. The trolls come out of the woodwork and can drive people away.

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