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How to build an online community that thrives

Did you know, organisations with high employee engagement outperform those with low employee engagement by 202%?

The benefits of this are clear. You’re likely to see an increase in productivity and have a better chance of retaining employees in the long term. This is crucial when you consider that it costs over £30K to replace a staff member.

So, the question is, how can you engage with them? Creating an online community that offers value is a good start.

This blog post is going to look at the best practices for online community engagement, so you can create a platform that truly thrives.

What is an online community?

online communities market

An online community is a place where like-minded people meet virtually, to collaborate, discuss ideas and build relationships.

Advisory firm IDC expects the worldwide online communities’ market to reach £930 million by 2019, representing a compound annual growth rate of 24.3%.

Now here are some tips to help you build a successful platform.

Have a plan

If you’re building an online community from scratch some planning will be required.

Why is this so important? For a start, it can save you a lot of time. Personal development expert Brian Tracy has stated that every minute spent planning saves as much as ten minutes in execution.

That’s not all. Planning gives you the opportunity to note down what you need in place in order to get your online community off the ground.

You need to consider:

A lot to think about. But by planning ahead, you can reduce the chance of unexpected hurdles cropping up at a later stage which could delay your launch.

Create great content

human attention span

Inviting people is the easy part. Getting them to interact and engage with others in your online community is the real challenge.

There are certain engagement ideas you can try. But at the end of the day, with so much competition for attention online, you need to provide a compelling reason why they should participate in your community.

The key is to create great content. The average human attention span has shrunk by nearly a quarter in just 15 years, so you need to make it relevant and interesting.

Here are just some ideas you can try:

  • Forums – These should form the cornerstone of your community. Whether a user wants to raise an issue or wants to gather opinions, a forum is perfect for bringing people together.
  • Surveys – Give your community a voice, by allowing them to vote on issues that affect them.
  • Blogs – Let your users unleash their opinions. People can then comment on and start new conversations based on what they’ve read.
  • Picture albums – Sharing images is another great way to encourage conversation in your community

Above all, whatever type of content you choose to create, you should always ensure that it resonates with your audience.

Collaborate – don’t control

When creating an online community, it can be tempting to try and control every aspect.

You may try and set the blog topics. Or you may remove comments you don’t agree with.

But by doing this, you’re in danger of stifling conversations. Think about it – why would you participate in an online forum when you’re not allowed to express your opinion?

This issue is more common than you think, with one in three UK workers stifled by rigid workplace culture.

Of course, moderation is fine. You don’t want your community to be a platform for spreading hate and starting arguments.

But in order to give your community room to breathe, you should be encouraging collaboration instead.

There are benefits to doing this. It encourages knowledge, good practice and information sharing which are all key to the success of your online community.

Invite external partners

It’s tempting to restrict your online community to your inner circle.

This is a mistake. External partners and clients can offer a unique perspective on a situation and you should be actively encouraging their participation.

You’re probably thinking this is all fine. But what if their company’s culture doesn’t fit with yours? Or if they become overbearing and start to dominate your online community?

The truth is, you’ll have to compromise. For a community to truly thrive, you have to encourage input from a range of sources.

This can definitely work in your favour. Employees who exercise their strengths on a daily basis are 8% more productive and 6x more likely to be engaged.

But there is a line. Although you don’t want to control everything, if one group tends to dominate the conversation then there isn’t a lot of room for other opinions.

Choose the right platform

online collaboration tools

The final piece of the jigsaw is an important one.

Choosing the right platform for your online community could be the difference between your idea taking off or failing.

One option you should consider are online collaboration tools. Research by PGi, found that 88% of industry leaders use them at least once a week.

Just some of the benefits of using them for building a successful online community include:

  • Access anytime, anywhere – Users can access from any device, whenever they’re connected to the internet. This means they can contribute wherever they are in the world.
  • Public community option – Most enterprise solutions will allow your site to be public facing, so there are no restrictions on who can join your community.
  • Flexible pricing – Pricing models such as active user licencing allow you to grow your community and control your spending. In short, you only pay for people actively engaging with your platform.
  • Quick to launch – In a hurry? Most providers provide a free trial, so you can start building your online community straight away.

Need some help selecting the perfect collaboration tool to grow your online community? Download our guide which contains ten key questions you should be asking potential suppliers.

online collaboration guide

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