A Detailed Guide for Starting a Successful Online Community

It's no secret that consumer purchasing behavior has evolved significantly over time.Online communities are starting to play a part in the current trend of people doing their own research, reading product reviews, and asking for recommendations before making a choice.According to the B2B Buyers Survey Report, as of 2018, 45% of company buyers invested more time and resources in their research than they did the year before. Therefore, the more venues you can use to launch your brand, the stronger

It's no secret that consumer purchasing behavior has evolved significantly over time.

Online communities are starting to play a part in the current trend of people doing their own research, reading product reviews, and asking for recommendations before making a choice.
According to the B2B Buyers Survey Report, as of 2018, 45% of company buyers invested more time and resources in their research than they did the year before. Therefore, the more venues you can use to launch your brand, the stronger your ability to leverage buyer research.

How do you begin? B2B communities like G2Crowd and GetApp can be utilized to inform potential clients and assist them in making smarter purchasing decisions.

These discussion boards give users the chance to gain knowledge from the experiences of previous clients and offer a venue for community feedback that may be used to infuse authenticity and trust into a routine process.

Making a strategy is essential for success whether you're starting a new community or revitalizing an existing one. The greatest place to begin is by figuring out why you are creating the community in the first place. Your motivations may range from seeking to dispute negative evaluations and discover ardent supporters to trying to assist your current business or marketing initiatives.

In either case, before starting an online community you should think about the following two questions:

Why should I interact online with my customers?
What is the most effective platform to use?
Read on for a more thorough explanation of how to create an online community.

Community Forums: Free vs. Owned: Which Is the Best Option?
Despite the apparent similarity between social networks and community platforms, there is a major difference.

Users of social media generally don't interact with each other (only using the platform because their friends are on it). Communities, however, center on a particular topic, therefore it's up to you to use the social network and include certain members there to create one that's dedicated to your sector.

You can start either a free or an owned community with this in mind. Here's the distinction:

Free Online Communities
There are "free" platforms like Facebook and Twitter that provide features of a community, but using them has advantages and disadvantages.

Its availability to consumers at no cost and with an existing audience is a significant benefit. In other words, as long as you do the research to determine who on this platform you want to reach, you can set up an account, develop content, and distribute it to your followers for free.

The drawback, though, is that you don't actually "own" your community and are therefore subject to the choices made by these businesses over how the platform distributes your content to others. The content algorithm changes just as you start to master the platform where your community thrives, forcing you to adjust your content strategy in order to keep your users' attention. It has been documented to occur.

If you choose to do this, here is a quick list of free platforms to take into account:

C2 Crowd
Owned Community Platforms by Slack
The owned platform, such as a community forum, comes next. All the advantages of a social media platform are available in this space, which is owned by the company. However, you have a lot more control and flexibility over how you engage with your users. You can control an owned community, for instance, if you start a blog or website with a forum or comment area for your visitors.

An owned community has advantages and disadvantages, much like free communities. This time, let's start with the drawback: From the audience's point of view, you're starting from fresh. Owned communities provide you greater control over the messaging for your brand, but until your customers learn about your community, you'll need to do a lot more marketing to build it up than you would on a free platform.

Owned community platforms have the significant advantage of granting you more precise control over your branding and messaging without putting you in direct competition with other communities on the same platform. A toy store on Twitter, for instance, might have a ready-made audience with whom to interact, but this company still has to outcompete all the other toy companies on Twitter who are corresponding with the same customers.

Additionally, community platforms provide you the freedom to transcend social network constraints. You may improve the experience for your followers by utilizing features like more in-depth statistics, single sign-on (SSO), gamification, increased access to your members, and custom design. This can be your best choice if you need a safe, private space for your fans to communicate with one another.

1. Decide on a platform for your neighborhood.
There are two different kinds of forums: one focused on a common interest, the other more informational.

A shared-interest forum allows you to connect people who happen to be interested in the same thing so they may learn more about one another and connect on a wider range of topics. The key in this situation is member cooperation.

Informational forums are frequently utilized when you want to make a spot where the community may look for and share content relevant to your service, product, or chosen topic.

When you've decided on the use case and the level of involvement you desire (such as brand loyalty or customer support operations), you should start looking at the specific features that would help you achieve your community's objectives. These include things like:

Enhanced analytics
simplicity and an excellent user interface
Customer service
Flexible platforms

2. Create a launch strategy.
Think about the following while choosing the business issue you wish to solve with your neighborhood.

Do you intend to:

Boost your ratings for client satisfaction?
reduce the price of providing customer service?
a rise in the demand for your goods or services?
Find and enlist advocates and influencers?
enhance cooperation
What use case do you have? Will you use the knowledge you've obtained internally, externally, or both?

Knowing the answers to these questions will make it simpler for you to pinpoint the reasons for starting your online community and assist you in connecting its function to your desired objectives.

3. Identify important community internal stakeholders.
Your next step is to identify the stakeholders in your firm after recognizing the need for creating your community. There are three types of stakeholders to take into account:

Those who will oversee the neighborhood. This group of stakeholders may consist of the community manager, the marketing division, or customer support for communities with an external audience. Stakeholders in internal communities can differ significantly.
Those on whom the community will have an impact. Marketing is typically included if your community is outward-looking because the solutions you seek will affect them the most. Product management may also be included if community feedback on product enhancements is received.
executive level. This stakeholder is in charge of the neighborhood and everyone who depends on it. An executive is typically a CMO or operations manager who is in charge of all digital engagements.
A different strategy for locating stakeholders is to combine the community manager and social media manager roles. The community launch may be assigned to your marketing team, operations, customer support, or even a newly created department. Each department in this situation is likely to concentrate on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are important to them.

Advertising KPIs
% of the market
Customer feedback
Mobilizing advocates and influencers
Operations for Net Promoter Score
Operative effectiveness
Lowering support expenses
Consumer Assistance
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
Product Administration
Product evaluation
Market analysis
Beta testing
Customer opinions
Usually, the community launch will be handled by just one individual. Your launch might be less stressful and more successful if you make the most of the resources and other expertise you already have in your organization.

4. Establish your neighborhood.
The first step is deciding which platform to employ for your community. Make sure you or your team are familiar with the software you will be utilizing whether you are starting the community independently or as a group. This is a fantastic chance to practice using a demo or receive some practical instruction.

Making decisions about setup can wait until you and your team have a firm grasp of the program you'll be utilizing. These consist of:

Keeping your pre-launch community private. Make sure your privacy settings are enabled since you don't want anyone else to be able to access your community until you are ready.
showing the forum's most recent talks in the "homepage view." If new members or visitors can see what is popular in your community, they might be more likely to participate in the conversation.
establishing your first categories. You should avoid adding too many categories at first because your initial category list is not set in stone. Be straightforward, and let your categories develop. This will help maintain a control on conversation noise.
reviewing the membership registration process. People are more likely to want to sign up for your community if the process is simple. You ought to think about establishing a single sign-on (SSO). Before the pre-launch, it's crucial to properly test your sign-up procedure.
defining the roles your team members and staff play. Decide which roles, such as moderators or super members, will be present in your community. Think about who on your employees will serve as the community manager, administrators, or moderators.
Role permissions being assigned. To the roles you define, you must allocate and test permissions. You may prohibit new accounts from uploading images or links, for instance.
selecting the characteristics that will be turned on. Plug-ins, add-ons, and other features that are built into your online forum fall under this category. While certain capabilities might not be immediately necessary, others might be vital to give your team the data they require.
establishing gamification. Start considering the benefits you wish to provide your subscribers. This might take the form of awards or other forms of acknowledgement for various accomplishments, such beta testing.
You should integrate your forum with your brand by putting your theme into practice. Never accept the impersonal defaults. Use the color palette used by your business, for instance, and include additional personalized elements.
setting up spam filters. Make use of the spam filters in your software. A baseline of your trusted users should be used to test the controls. If you discover that legitimate content is being classified as spam, change the settings as necessary.
setting up email for sending. Choose the email address that will receive forum alerts. Make sure the language in your welcome and registration emails reflects what you desire.
Testing. You must test each component of your forum numerous times until you are satisfied. Your testing ought to get increasingly rigorous as launch day approaches. Think on all possible outcomes and be aware that not everything will go according to plan. Get ready to decide on a launch date.
Start a soft launch 5.
When you are happy with how your community is operating, it is time to prepare for a soft launch. A soft launch's goal is to prepare your community for your official launch.

BigFish Games' soft launch of their latest game, Dungeon Boss, is a fantastic illustration of this strategy. In order to drive customers to their community forum in a secure and private setting, they published their software in the Apple Canada store while prepping for the launch. Many consumer comments were received, and some of them were included in the Dungeon Boss game. It thus became one of their most downloaded games when it was released globally.

Your soft launch ought to take place in three phases:

Getting ready for the soft launch
Your community ought to be prepared to launch at this stage. All test material has been taken down, and any flaws have either been fixed or are slated for fix. It's time to pre-fill your community with excellent information that will encourage debate and make effective use of the content you already have. Start off with at least 10 dialogues based on the material you already have. Collaborate with your peers to start these dialogues off. Setting the correct tone is vital, so do that before beginning the internal soft-launch.

Internal Soft Launch 2.
Before your forum becomes publicly accessible, use trustworthy employees, friends, and colleagues from your organization to identify any issues. Prior to the full launch, they can offer you insightful input while they test out your community and report any faults they notice. Your moderators will have a chance to practice using the tools on your forum during this time. Any training gaps should be filled, and more training should be offered as necessary. Obtain user opinions from within your organization. After that, decide when you'll start your public soft-launch.

3. Soft Launch in Public
The audience for this launch should be small, and you should urge them to provide feedback on your new community forum. Try asking for volunteers from dependable customers, making a banner for it on your website, or mentioning it in your company newsletter as ways to start this organization. Answer the following inquiries during your public soft-launch:

Who ought to be a part of this group?
What issues do you hope to resolve during this beta phase?
What is required to change the community's status to "live"?
What is your firm deadline for achieving community viability?
Your objectives ought to be:

involving the general public
improving your neighborhood
Getting input Making sure your moderators and staff are at ease using the platform

6. Support your neighborhood.
Once you've decided on a date, it's time to inform your intended audience. The easiest way to do this is to capitalize on your current web presence. Promote your launch on your website, in emails, and by having your salespeople and customer service representatives inform current and prospective consumers about it.

Here are a few additional ideas to attract the first 100 people to your community:

Your contacts are invited. No, pestering your loved ones, friends, or acquaintances with information on a project you're working on isn't always enjoyable, but it does the trick.
Talk about with anybody and everyone. Make it a habit to engage in conversation with everyone you encounter, especially if your community is built around a wide good or service that is valuable to a lot of people.
Recruit new members by gamifying the process. Request the assistance of your expanding, early group in expanding the network by introducing their friends, coworkers, and online contacts. Through contests or incentive programs built onto your platform, you can promote this.
Collaboration with influencers Working together with a related and complementary business can help you attract new members who like both your products and services and promote your new community.
Make sure all of your Google and Webmaster tools are set up properly. Create visibility for your community and provide a sitemap. If you follow these instructions to the letter, there is a good chance that your online community launch will be a success.