1. Participate in communities when you’re not ready to build your own
Don’t create a community if you’re not ready to. As you continue to read these community building tips, you’ll get a better feel for what’s required to manage a community effectively.
If you’re not ready to take on the task, that’s okay.
You’re better off joining other communities and interacting with members there.
2. Use communities to understand the voice of your customer
When joining other communities, it’s important to focus on building them up and engaging with members—without expecting to acquire a ton of leads. If your goal is too singular, you’ll likely come off as salesy and could even get kicked out of the group.
3. Focus your community-building strategy on what’s important to your ICP
When developing your overall strategy for a community, start with a deep understanding of your ICP. Now’s a great time to review your ICP criteria and make sure it’s accurate. Speak with executives and sales leaders to make sure your ideal client profile is detailed and up to date. Then, brainstorm what your target client wants most from a community.
4. Clarify why you want to build a community
Clarify why you want to go through all the trouble of building your own community (instead of just spying on existing ones).
Is it because it’s cool and all the other B2B companies are doing it?
Is it because you hope your community will positively impact pipeline?
Or is it because you want to see fewer support tickets and provide a place where customers can help each other?
Talk with stakeholders for your proposed community and list out all of your motivations. Then, narrow down your list into one to three main goals that will help you choose the right community format and offerings.
5. Build with the community, not for the community
You’re not supposed to be the expert who has all the answers.
You’re supposed to facilitate the development of an active, thriving community.
Committing to this principle will ensure you talk with your community at every step, instead of making assumptions about what people want.
6. Know the value you want to deliver to your members
What do you want to provide to your members? What do you want them to experience?
Get crystal clear on this value, instead of just saying “we want to build a community.”
Here are some examples of the type of value you might want to provide:
Networking opportunities to help them grow their careers
Partnership or support opportunities so people can find others with complementary skills and offers
Expert information on difficult challenges to help them meet their goals
Cutting-edge trends and topics so they’re always up with the latest news
Join other communities that serve your target audience and consider how you can provide even more value in one place.
7. Consider how you will deliver value regularly
Now that you’re clear on the type of value you want to provide, you need to figure out how you’re going to deliver that value on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
What are the delivery mechanisms that will best deliver that specific value?
The answer might be short monthly expert tutorials, daily prompts to drive engagement, and weekly trend or news updates.
8. Collect multiple forms of feedback
Get as much feedback as you can. Ideally, everything you build for your community should come directly from member feedback.
Here are some different ways to collect feedback:
Publish posts requesting feedback or ideas for a certain topic
Send out or post surveys in your community
Review posts and comments to see what members have to say
Check other competing communities and read their members’ feedback
9. Make it easy for your community members to vote on new ideas
You should ask community members to vote.
For instance, you might publish polls to discover which community formats, events, and content ideas are the most popular. Then, move forward with those options.
When building a community, Leslie Greenwood highly recommends using emoji reactions to collect votes. She’ll write a post saying something like, “If we get 10 emojis on this, we’ll build it.” Sometimes, ideas don’t get enough traction to qualify and die right there. Other times, they get 100 emojis, making it clear that the idea is a top priority.
10. Use broadcasts and notifications sparingly
Don’t contribute to noise and clutter.
You want your community to be a trusted resource—not a reliable source of interruptions and annoyance. So, resist the temptation to use broadcasts and notifications that go out to your entire community.
Make sure you eliminate members’ abilities to tag everyone too.
11. Track engagement according to community goals
When you know what type of community best fits your business, you can track the right metrics.
For instance, if you’re building a community primarily to ease the burden on your customer support team, some common metrics to track include case deflection, active users, conversation engagement, number or percentage of answered questions, and reduced customer support calls.
For each business goal, you should have a whole host of aligned metrics that will help you understand whether or not your community is satisfying its purpose.
12. Measure the lifecycle of your community-qualified leads
Even if lead generation isn’t the core goal of your community, you’ll likely generate a lot of leads from it.
Run cohort analyses on your community-qualified leads. Measure their activity against leads that come from standard content or paid advertising. You might find that their close rates are higher than other cohorts. This information gives you the ammo you need to advocate for a bigger budget and more hires for your community.
13. Don’t pass off community management to an already-busy marketer
Community management can’t get done in just a handful of hours a week. It’s a full-time job.
If you’re planning on adding community management to a busy marketer’s plate…that’s a clear sign that your company isn’t ready to take this on.
14. When hiring a new community manager, make it a dedicated role
By the same token, when you’re hiring a new community manager, you shouldn’t lump it together with other marketing tasks like social media management.
If you can’t afford a full-time position, then make it a part-time position. But still have that person dedicated to community management and not in charge of anything else. Otherwise, your community will get neglected.
15. Charge a small monthly fee
Consider charging a low monthly fee to access the community. When people have to pull out their credit cards, the perceived value goes way up.
Even if you charge just $2 to $5 per month, it’ll motivate people to take your community seriously (and help you pay for the community manager you just hired).
16. Tap into the human element
Your community isn’t just a bunch of people talking in a space you own. It’s so much more than that. It’s where people share their big struggles and vulnerably ask for help.
If you can’t tap into the human side of your community members, you’re doomed.
Do this by engaging with vulnerable posts so people feel they’re in a safe space. You should also encourage experts to share difficult challenges they’ve overcome. Whenever possible, add an element of storytelling to your content—not just information.
17. Continuously plan and strategize for maximum engagement
Engagement ebbs and flows. Your community manager needs to always come up with new ways to increase engagement. They need to plan and pivot on an ongoing basis, whether that means creating new polls or surveys, researching competitor communities, or getting hard-to-reach experts on board for content creation.
18. Drive community-building through live events
One of the best ways to build a sense of community is through live events. Whether through Q&A or video comments, live events naturally drive community engagement. People will ask questions throughout the video and others will comment with tips and resources.
Make sure to add live events to your community strategy.
Or, if you realize that your company isn’t ready to build a community, consider hosting monthly or quarterly live events instead.
19. Give members multiple opportunities to network
One of the things that makes your community valuable is the ability to network with others. Really double down on this value by offering multiple networking opportunities.
For instance, if you’re hosting a live summit, you might set up dedicated networking hours to encourage people to use your forum at a specific time. Or you might facilitate independent virtual networking with a platform like Airmeet or Hivebrite.
20. Tie your referral program to your community
A referral program is one of the best ways to drive real business results from your community because it’s mutually beneficial and not overly salesy.
Create a referral program that delivers rewards and incentives when people refer your company to others. Then use your community to promote your referral program (rather than promote your products or services).
Measure your community’s impact on the number of people referring you and the volume of referrals.
21. Boost member sign-ups with influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is a great way to drive memberships. Because your community is either low-cost or free, there’s no reason not to sign up. This means that you can get great conversion rates from influencer posts about your community.
Plus, influencers can reach people in a way your brand can’t. By connecting with your target audience on a person-to-person level, influencers can get past people’s BS meters and help pitch the true value of your community.
22. Reward top contributors
Find ways to reward top contributors and the people responsible for keeping your community active and thriving. You might set up a leaderboard and track points and badges and then give gifts behind the scenes to leaders.
Or, you might simply reach out to people who post often and offer free swag or ask if there’s any way you can support them.
23. Regularly summarize community learnings for your entire team
Your community can deliver a wealth of knowledge to your entire organization—or remain an untapped treasure trove. It’s up to you.
Make sure your community manager is delivering insights to the following teams: product, sales, customer support, customer success, and marketing.
The community manager should share top-performing posts, industry trends, customer complaints, competitor intel, and other learnings in a well-formatted, skimmable report each month.
24. Repurpose user-generated content wisely
A community can be a great source of user-generated content, but only if you go about this the right way.
The easiest way to utilize community content is simply to treat it as inspiration. If you see a lot of people struggling with a certain part of their job, you might create a step-by-step guide for tackling that task.
You can also share community members' content directly with your audience via social media, email, and your blog. Just make sure to get permission first. Only ask to share posts that are helpful and proactive. You shouldn’t ask to share a difficult question or vulnerable request—otherwise, you risk upsetting that member and making them feel unsafe in your community.
25. Narrow down your community to what you can execute on well
For our final tip, don’t take on more than you can chew. When building your community, create one channel at a time (such as a forum or live content series). Make sure you’re able to drive engagement with that channel and optimize it based on feedback from members before adding something new.
You want each element of your community to be valuable and intentional, not a Frankenstein, cobbled-together platform or a graveyard of content with no engagement.
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