Are you implementing a social community aspect to your product or business?
I consider communities an essential pillar of any relevant brand in 2020. They can have amazing benefits like…
- You can create personal relationships with your audience
- Your audience can interact with each other
- It can give your brand a personality
- You’ll have an easy way to communicate with your audience
- It will be easier for members to engage with you and your content
- And more…
However, building a community is not as easy as creating a Facebook group and asking people to join.
There are 3 essential must-have features of any community, missing any one of them can spell disaster, and cause your group to become totally inactive.
Every community must have a designated group leader. This may seem obvious, but what’s often missed are the responsibilities of the leader.
It’s not enough to pop in every once in a while and say, “hi,” or to ask a question once a day. Being a group leader is a full-time commitment, and it’s incredibly difficult to outsource.
So what are the responsibilities of the group leader?
The group leader must actively guide the discussion in the group and provide topics for members to engage with. Members don’t often engage with each other without some kind of “push,” especially in smaller and newer groups.
You can spark the conversation by…
- Sharing a thought-provoking post and asking your members to share their thoughts
- By participating in group conversations and offering differing opinions
- Sharing the success story of a member and doing a Q&A session with other members
Be The “Point Of Contact”
Part of being the group leader is making yourself accessible. While this may seem like giving up some of your privacy, appearing accessible is different than being accessible, of course, it’s better to be both!
Don’t hide yourself behind a glass door. Customers do business with people, not product! So by making yourself accessible to your audience, they will feel more comfortable spending more money.
You can make yourself more accessible by…
- Accepting member friend requests
- Providing a personal email address for questions
- Doing 1 on 1 calls with members (free or paid)
- Weekly/Daily Q&A sessions with members
While, “technically,” this role can be outsourced, it is still important. Without moderation there is anarchy, and anarchy can kill a community, fast!
Community members should be “gated.” Meaning there needs to be an application approval process before someone can join the group and participate.
Content should be moderated to ensure that it stays inline with community standards and is on-topic.
Regularly Scheduled Facetime!
The written word has meaning, but I don’t think it will ever be as powerful as information coming straight from the source!
What I mean is, human connection happens rarely based on the text you read off of a screen. It happens much easier, and faster if your audience is able to see you form and analyze thoughts and opinions.
If you hide behind a screen, it’s hard for your audience to connect your written word to you.
But by occasionally appearing in front of them, either in person or by live video, your words both on screen and off will have more impact.
We do this in the Groundhogg community with our Office Hours program on Tuesdays.
Need suggestions for how to have scheduled face time?
- Run a weekly Q&A session with your followers on your community platform, live video
- Schedule weekly live events like a meetup group if your community is local
- Host a weekly webinar or recorded podcasts where audience members can see your face
The most common missing link in failed communities is the lack of supporting resources.
The thing about most communities is every member joins with a different set of expectations and education based on the subject matter of the community.
If we were to take the example of a community for mechanics, some members may have been in the field for 20+ years while some are just graduating out of trade school.
There can be a huge gap between the most experienced and the least experienced.
This can be intimidating to new members because they may feel like their knowledge is not enough to contribute value to the conversation.
It’s important to have supporting resources available to new community members that will allow them to “get up to speed” with the rest of the group so that they can feel like they have value to contribute.
What do supporting resources look like?
- Collection of FAQ docs that answer simple questions
- A getting started course which walks them through how to participate within the community.
- A quickstart course based on the community subject matter
- Deep level documentation available for reference by community members
For Groundhogg, we use courses, documentation and recorded office hours sessions to educate users to the point where they can answer each other’s questions.
Without these resources, new inexperienced members will have a more difficult time participating than more experienced members.
Where Should I Build My Community?
Now that you know what makes a good community, it’s time to decide where to build it!
Ultimately, my first choice is Facebook Groups, where we currently host the Groundhogg Open User & Support Group.
- Are easy to start
- Are easy to moderate
- Are easy to find
- Are easy for members to engage with
- Have rich feature sets
- Provide group analytics
- Show in the user’s timeline
- Send notifications to members about new content
- They are 100% FREE!
But if Facebook doesn’t float your boat, there are other community options!
Starting A Super Community?
If the core of your business is the community feature, then you may be starting a Super Community!
This is when you have members spreading across multiple platforms that serve different functions in the community.
Slack for communication, Facebook for discussion, a website for private content…
If this is where you’re planning to go, I suggest starting with a single platform and building there, and when you reach a certain number of users adding additional platforms to serve different roles.
It’s much easier to grow an audience in one place than it is in multiple places.
Do you have suggestions for growing a community? Drop them in the comments!