If you’ve ever launched a product online to the sound of crickets then starting a community might be something to look at.
Building a community of like-minded people passionate about a niche is one of the most strategic plans an online business can have. However, most businesses don’t look at it this way. They would rather focus their time and money going after new customers.
If you run your own membership site, a community forum can be the most powerful part of that site. Obviously, you need great content but a community will keep people coming back. Members will check in to ask questions, help other members and return to check responses. They really are the lifeblood of a successful business.
Like most aspects of building your business, building a community is not a walk in the park. It can take months to grow active discussions. Some site owners even create multiple user accounts to kickstart discussions, however, this is a little more tricky with social network communities.
Building a community is a long term growth strategy.
One major strength of running a community is being able to shout about new products or news knowing that people will read it.
Depending on how well you nurture your community, they may be responsive to your announcements. Even better, they may be hungry buyers ready to purchase from you!
Your community is your audience. It’s a place where you can chat about ideas related to your niche and offer support, but never forget they are real people on the other side. They have personalities like you not just an image on the screen.
Treat your community with respect. Manage it with care and adhere to strict rules so your community trusts you and engages more.
Treat your community like it’s your family and they will become your family.
Some benefits of running your own community:
- Brand awareness
- Community Support
- User support
- User generated content
- Responsive audience
- Creating raving fans
- Social proof
- Testers and feedback providers
Here are some ideas for starting your own community:
- 5 am Club – Make people check in early morning and plan one goal they want to complete that day. They check back later with progress reports.
- Accountability Club – Let members find other members who want an accountability buddy to help them progress their goals or projects.
- The HIIT Club – Share a new fitness workout every day.
- Nutrition Group – Share you own nutritional tips and recipes.
- Any Software Support – If a new software product launches you could start a group to help people use the software.
- Niche Hobby in any local area – Business, craft, help and support.
- Niche Classifieds – Create a group on any local area offering niche items for sale.
- Mastermind – 10 business friends who want to brainstorm ideas.
- Book Writing – Help people publish their first book.
Think of what you know, what you love and go create a group!
Here are 3 strategies for managing your community:
- Run an open community
- Run a pre-approved community (optional – force email)
- Run a private community
Deciding on the type of community you want to run will depend on what you’re trying to offer.
You may even have multiple communities for different products like a private group for customers or private group for your team.
A community can even be used as a bonus for a product you’re selling.
Heck, I’ve even see community groups use a membership site where people are paying for access and the owners have links to external videos within the group.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into these strategies.
The Open Community
This is the “anyone” can join type of community. These offer open chats, usually some strict rules about spamming, but the general gist is an open discussion which gets as many people as possible to join.
You often find the primary owners of these groups tend to push their own products (subtly) and some offer days when you can self-promote. Open communities can be the start of your audience growth strategy. You may offer an open community at first to entice more members to join, but having a unique twist to your open community will help spread the word.
These communities are a little more monitored. The owners offer a form where you would complete some short information about you, what you’re trying to achieve and who you are etc… Buffer have this process for their own group.
One clever tactic is forcing email opt-in. People who want access to the community are willing to swap name and email to gain access.
This is a sneaky little method for building your email list. You could also gather a little extra info about the people wanting to join your group.
Used more as a private forum or bonus to a product. These are usually used like small masterminds or product-specific groups. The perfect way to have open discussions about your own products and gather testimonials.
There is something important that you should be aware of if you create a large community using the networks below, you don’t own any of the content. If the service shuts down you lose everything. Always bear that in mind.
Before we take a look at some of the platforms you can use to grow your own community, here are a couple of features to consider and questions to ask.
- Where are my existing customers already?- If your customer is on LinkedIn then it’s pointless starting a community in Google+…obvious you might think, but it happens!
- Can I create categories in my community? – If you want subcategories then see if that feature is available.
- Do they work on mobile devices? – This should be a priority unless you know your customers are of the age where they still use desktop computers more than mobile devices.
Site: Google+ Community
The communities in Google + have taken president in the platform interface. They allow you to create subcategories within the community and offer private or open access.
They are simple to setup and show similar numbers across other networks for member count. They also allow you to create subcategories within a community.
Create Your Own Google+ Community
Go to > https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities > Communities > Yours.
Click Create a Community.
Give it a name.
And that’s it! You can add subcategories and now start posting and finding members.
We love Slack here at OP. It’s one of the main tools for communication for the team allowing us to share and search files and directly message other team members.
Buffer has also created a new community over in Slack.
Wistia switched from a forum to the Slack group. https://wistia.com/community
ConvertKit switched to Slack to encourage more open discussions: https://convertkit.com/community
Create Your Own Slack Group
To get started go to Slack and click Create a new team. Take a moment to admire their new landing since we recorded our Teardown.
Give your team a name, set up a password and you’re done. It’s very simple to have a slack group up and running in minutes.
Site: Facebook Groups
Probably the most popular of all groups because of the ease to create. If you already have an audience on Facebook, you can easily pull those followers into your group.
Here’s our Beta group we’ve just launched.
Create Your Own Facebook Group
When logged into your news feed, click Groups in the left-hand menu.
Not something I’ve personally explored much, but I have seen firsthand through power users that it’s a powerful platform for small businesses. If your audience is on LinkedIn you should certainly create a group there.
Create Your Own LinkedIn Group
To create your own LinkedIn Group go to Interests > Groups > Create group.
Definitely the most overlooked place for creating a community, but Reddit is a beast. I love it! The communities are real and very much alive.
They don’t take kindly to self-promotion, but the discussions are ripe and there’s a diverse audience there. Creating your own subreddit allows you to control the rules and could be a great starting point if you already have an account there.
Look how Bear App use a subreddit for support and notice the feature requests being posted.
Create A SubReddit
Simply join Reddit and when logged in click Create your own subreddit for your community. I made this one for OptimizePress.
The Official OptimizePress Community
For the last year, we’ve been knee deep in building new features and apps as part of the OptimizePress brand.
A discussion that often comes up is one about opening a public “official” OptimizePress group. Often in the past, these groups become support groups and disgruntled people decide they can go in and moan about not being answered even when we specify it’s NOT a support group.
So that brings us onto the announcement of our new Facebook Group. Notice how we didn’t use the word “support” there.
The official OptimizePress Facebook Group is for our customers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/optimizepress
You can go there and chat, share ideas, show your sites but not spamming! Feel free to post support questions, but don’t expect support answers directly from OptimizePress.
We welcome the community to support each other sharing tips, workaround, and plugins they have used themselves.