In last week’s edition of our community series, we focused on creating and setting up your group. Today, we’ll take a closer look at how to build an online community.

Over-saturated digital channels, social media fatigue, and social distancing have left people craving a sense of togetherness. This has created the perfect conditions for communities to thrive, but building your group and keeping it engaged requires an investment of time and energy.

At the same time as getting your community off the ground and gathering momentum, it’s important to make sure you’re cultivating the right kind of environment.

Curate, don’t dictate

A sign of a successful community is one that feels as if it’s ‘owned’ by the community itself. One that governs itself and is fiercely protective of both the group and its members.

To achieve this kind of dynamic, members need to feel comfortable putting themselves forward to share their ideas and make suggestions.

This brings us back to our previous article about the importance of selecting the right community leader. Your host will need to steer the group where necessary, but the key is to drive discussion rather than dominate it. Your members shouldn’t feel ‘policed’, and it’s certainly not the right space for one-way broadcasts.

Encourage trust

To this point, guidelines are a good way to set expectations around the kind of behaviour you’re looking for from your community members. Even more important is being seen to be enforcing them. Again, you want to avoid a police state, but your members should feel they can rely on you to impose rules that protect them.

You need trust for a community to thrive. The anonymity the internet brings is well documented, but the move towards secrecy that many messaging apps are making is in danger of encouraging disrespectful and unkind behaviours. With Guild, individuals are present as themselves, with professional profiles, and we believe this is an important step towards building an online community with the right culture that has trust at its core.

Trust, or a lack of it, is one of the factors leading the surge in online communities. As a nation we’ve become wary and cynical of tech giants and the media, with younger generations in particular turning towards online communities over traditional media to seek news and information.

Be consistent

Consistency can be a good way to gather momentum with your community. Having set days for certain types of content, welcoming new members, or for holding Q&A sessions, can help you get a rhythm going.

Sudden spikes of activity could be stressful for members struggling to keep up with an influx of messages around a busy professional life. Similarly, prolonged spells of inactivity could raise doubts over the longevity of your community, causing new members to question if their commitment is worthwhile.

Be persistent

Creating a vibrant community of individuals with a sense of belonging, who regularly reach out to each other to swap ideas, support each other, and share information, is a work in progress. You can’t expect people who may not yet be familiar with each other to open up overnight, especially in a B2B environment where individuals have their professional reputations to consider.

Spending a little time each day – even fifteen minutes – to encourage discussion, and engage with those who are making conversation, will go a long way.

Bringing your vision to life is all in the planning. Having a clear focus of how to create an engaged audience, and investing the time to execute this, will help you build an online community that holds value for all parties involved.

Read the other articles in this series on creating and growing an online community:
How to create an online community
How to manage your community
Growing your online community

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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