Launch Your Online Business in Just 7 Days
If you’re looking to build trust with your audience and improve your customer journey, then an online community is what you need.
Creating your own is a golden opportunity that can help you grow your online business and achieve your goals.
In this post, you’ll learn how to build your online community and how to make it successful, plus you’ll discover the perfect platform to get you started.
Let’s dive right in!
An online community is a group of internet users who come together in a virtual space to interact and share content.
People gather in online communities for several reasons:
Whatever the reason, online communities present a chance for your business to find and engage your audience.
That relationship is fundamental to your business — no audience means no customers, and no customers mean no sales.
Creating and maintaining your own community comes with several huge upsides:
All of these benefits directly contribute to your audience’s perception of your brand and business.
Overall, a positive experience for them will lead to more sales for you and brand loyalty from them.
Now, let’s learn about what kinds of online communities you can create, and how to get started.
There are many different kinds of online communities out there, but they generally fall into 2 distinct categories.
1. Free communities
2. Branded communities
Depending on the size, structure, platform, and intended function behind your online community, one or the other will work better for your business.
Which type of online community is right for you?
As implied by the name, these communities are free to join and usually require just an email address to enter.
Free communities tend to use free online websites like Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, and other social media platforms.
Here are some other pros and cons of free online communities:
These kinds of communities require far more than just an email address or password to enter, adding an air of exclusivity to them.
They’re also often called a private community, private group, or brand community.
A branded online community requires specific credentials or a paid subscription from users, so they often appear on other online community platforms rather than on social media sites.
These more select online communities have their own set of pros and cons:
Armed with the above information, it should be pretty easy to decide which kind of online community is best for your business goals.
A free community might be easier to create, but you’ll be relying on a social media platform to keep you connected with your audience — one algorithm change is all it takes to lose that following.
We suggest you opt for the branded approach because a successful brand community lends itself better to supporting your online business.
Next up, let’s get started with actually building it.
Building an online community doesn’t have to be a stressful or time-consuming process.
Follow these 5 simple steps and you’ll have a fully-fledged online community, made to flourish!
Before you even look at any software or platforms, you need to decide on what you want your online community to achieve.
Some common goals include:
When setting your goal, ensure it’s a SMART one — a goal you can measure is a goal you can track and improve on.
Clarifying your goal is also what will help you decide on whether you want to create a free or branded community.
Once you understand the goal of your community, it’s time to figure out who your community members will be.
If you already own a flourishing online business and have loads of customers, populating your online community is a little easier.
However, if your business is as new as your community, you’ll need to create your ideal community member profile.
It’s similar to an ideal customer profile, except this time you’re looking for people who are likely to be engaged, active members.
You’ll also need to have an idea of how many members you’ll want in your online community.
More members will mean it’s more difficult for you to respond to everyone’s queries, so you may need to recruit admins from within the community or share the work with members of your sales and marketing team.
With so many options to choose from, finding the right community platform can be tricky.
You can use the following social media platforms to create free online communities:
While these free community platforms are attractive and cost-effective, heed these words of caution...
Because these platforms rely on algorithms and external community rules, you won’t have real control over your online community.
It’s difficult to link out of these hosting platforms, and you could even be locked out of your own profile for violating platform rules.
Here are some of Facebook’s strict rules:
Luckily, other effective community-building platforms like these won’t drain your marketing budget:
It can be difficult to monetize your online community using these tools, and you’ll have to check whether they allow for integrations with the rest of your marketing suite.
Be sure to check out all of the details before committing to a community platform.
When launching your online community, you need to complete the following steps:
1. Review the community sign-in process — Ensure it is a smooth process and see what it looks like from a member’s perspective.
2. Assign roles to your teams — Figure out who is responsible for community management.
3. Set up spam controls — Keep your community focused on core topics and include only relevant influencers' advertising.
4. Create your community guidelines — Develop relevant rules that keep your community free from issues that could damage your business’ reputation.
The next step on your journey involves promoting your online community to your target audience.
An empty online community is a wasted opportunity, but you also don’t want to let just anyone join — this is where your ideal member profile comes in handy.
There are several different ways to leverage your marketing efforts and start gathering community members:
These methods can also help you make your community visible amongst other digital communities and to future partnerships.
If you’re looking to add rocket fuel to your growth, you can assign part of your company’s advertising budget to pay for social media ads.
Remember, a new community is bound to start out small, but big crowds don’t guarantee conversions or engagement.
By utilizing the strategies mentioned, you’ll grow a vibrant online community in no time.
The final step in building an online community is one you’ll repeat consistently — test and adjust.
Like any other content marketing approach, you’ll need to experiment with what you share with your online community and find out what pushes you closer to your goal.
Here are some examples of the content shared in online communities:
Not all content works for all communities, so try out a couple of different content types and adjust them to suit your goals and community members.
Here are 5 key performance indicators (KPIs) that’ll help you track the effects of your online community and content:
1. New member sign-ups — The total amount of new members who join your community every day/week/month which represents how quickly your community is growing
2. Total active members — How many members participate in discussions, react to posts, or post their own content?
3. Engagement — Measure the number of comments and reactions per discussion or post to gauge the impact of your content and encourage a 2-way interaction between your business and your audience
4. Referral traffic — The correlation between high-performing content and increased views on specific pages
5. Leads generated — How many new leads do you gather because of community activity?
Building a functional online community and building one to achieve and exceed your goals comes down to 3 factors:
1. Community management
2. Quality content
3. Member engagement
Keep reading to find out 3 strategies to maximize the success of your online community.
Part of building a vibrant community for your audience is creating and enforcing rules to keep your community members happy.
Before launching online communities, it’s a good idea to have your community guidelines already set up.
As your community evolves and grows, these rules might change, but it’s always harder to set conventions if none existed in the first place.
One of the best ways to get other members to follow these conventions is by using a community manager.
There are many different people who can take on this role:
Depending on the size of your online community, Subreddit, or Facebook group, you may want to assign more than one community manager.
Having at least one community manager from within your organization is vital to any successful community.
They are the ones you can rely on to enforce your community guidelines, like these:
Not only are they better able to communicate your brand message, but they can also assist with monitoring and reporting on your KPIs.
Different types of online communities respond to different kinds of content and getting this wrong will only drive away your members.
Here are some content ideas to help you decide what suits your community best:
Aim to create and share content that will engage your audience in some way — get them to read, comment on, vote on, or share your posts.
Online communities work best when they encourage participation and collaboration, while still working towards your business’ goals.
Much like an email list, an online community is only as good as the quality of its members.
While cleaning your email list is a tough task, cleaning up your online community can be even tougher.
There are 3 simple strategies you can implement to keep your community group members active:
1. Include community participation in your community guidelines
2. Assign community managers the task of re-engaging quiet community members
3. Remove members who’ve been inactive for a long stretch of time
While removing people from your group may seem counterproductive, it will actually boost your engagement rate by removing unnecessary dead weight.
For a final dose of inspiration, let’s check out 3 examples of what a successful online community looks like.
These span different community-building platforms, audiences, and content types, so there’s something for everyone.
The LEGO Ideas community uses a dedicated community website to host all members.
Fully branded and owned community platforms like this mean LEGO is able to directly communicate with all 2,2 million+ members of their community.
Their content consists of:
They have several community managers from within the community and then a dedicated team maintaining the site.
The Duolingo online community spans several different platforms including social media sites like Twitter, and dedicated discussion groups built into the app.
With 95+ courses and over 500 million users, their branded community is thriving.
Here’s why Duolingo is so successful:
Take a leaf out of Duolingo’s app and apply this kind of multilayered support to your members too.
Peloton has chosen to host their nearly 500K members on a private Facebook community.
The premise of the business is community orientated, so there’s no need to create another platform for their members to hang out.
These are a couple of smart tactics to steal from Peloton:
Also, with just under 3 billion active users, Facebook gives Peloton access to a massive built-in audience that they couldn’t ignore.
Finally, if anyone is looking for more technical support, the Peloton forum caters to any troubleshooting.
Once you’ve built your new online community, it’s time to upgrade your offers — that’s where systeme.io comes in!
Our powerful software can help you scale your business, alongside your online community.
Here’s what you can achieve with systeme.io by your side:
Online communities can take up a significant portion of your budget, but the rest of your digital marketing software doesn’t have to.
With systeme.io, you can choose between our paid plans or start for free:
systeme.io’s pricing plans
All of our plans come with the following standard features:
On top of this, you’ll be able to easily create sales funnels, build entire websites, and compile online courses in just a few clicks.
Systeme.io is a real game-changer for any online business — just ask our customers!
Armed with this complete community-building guide, you can support your customers and reach your fans however you choose.
Select the perfect platform, create interactive content, and make the most of community moderators.
With a power-house like systeme.io supporting you, growing your business and your new online community is easy.
Sign up and take us for a test drive today!
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