Understanding and building an online community

Building an online community

Build an online community


Building a community is not easy. Everyone has their own personality and it’s ruddy annoying. The emotional trauma you potentially open yourself to can be hurtful, demoralising and painstaking (not literally!).

But hang in there, kid. It’s worth it in the end.

After all you have opened yourself up to the ‘Twitter Tax’. Two-way communication is brilliant, but you have to listen and take ALL feedback on board – yes, that means not deleting negative ones, but turn that hindrance into a moment of sheer joy!

Do it. And do it well. And you will reap the benefits. Below are some useful to tips to get you on your way. If you’re anything like me, you love learning – so learn from mistakes, celebrate the successes, and influence those who can influence you and your company.

1.      Look before you leap

Research. Research. Research. And I will even say it again, research! Find the pockets of people who are excited about your products and services. Build a database. Know who these people are and ensure you build the messages for them to share. This immediate feedback is brilliant and ensure those who run your company know what it is. Best of all this stuff is free. No paid surveys, no awkward focus groups, but unprompted feedback to use to build your services.

2.      Get to know your users

Use Twitter. See what people are posting about you and your company. Become relevant and see what your competitors are saying. Use this to follow people and start a conversation and engage. This builds relevance from the ground up. Getting building that community, it’s out there somewhere.

3.      Have a personality

The most important. Be a person. Be personable. And response like a human. Use active, not passive, language. Drop the corporate messaging, and make it that everybody understands. Look at your favourite brands, and build your own voice. You will enjoy it more, as will your community.

4.      Leverage any and all connections at your disposal

Bring a friend. Bring several. Communities rarely start-up as one-man bands. Use those you can engage with and build organically from there. Email lists are often overlooked as a central means to build a community. Go to conferences and build partnerships and join in the conversations. It will come naturally.

5.      Build social into your product

If you want people to share “stuff”, make it really easy for them. Ask them to follow you on Twitter and Like You on Facebook as part of the on-boarding process. Suggest opportunities to social share and you will be amazed how many people will take the step and share.

6.      Think in terms of advocates, not just numbers

Followers? Shollowers! The number game is not important. Think about building a community of quality followers and build a fan base that is engaging with and sharing your content. Use these advocates to spread the word.

7.      Expect it to take time

Real community doesn’t happen overnight. It will be awkward to begin with where conversations will be a little forced, but people do not initiate conversations on their own. It will pass. Trust me. Keep building one-by-one. The returns on your efforts will increase when you build that real community.

8.      Connect and help your community members

Be a matchmaker, too. It’s the fun stuff. It’s good to engage with your users personally, but that’s tricky with limited resource. It’s more important to connect them with each other.

9.      Take chances and experiment

Small communities can be a blessing. It gives the scope to try out new thing without fear of failure. Risk while the risk is low and you could be on to a winner. Especially with online, it’s important to be ahead of the curve and try new things. Go on, I dare you!

10.   Track everything

For any business or any individual, ROI is vital and imperative in the progression of social. Track the numbers and make sure it is of benefit to your strategy and goals. Data does tell stories, so make sure you’re listening. A vibrant community will help attract new users, keep user engaged and provide valuable feedback.


Remember a retweet or a share is a victory. Keep fighting those battles.

What do you think? @StevenWoodgate