8 Ways to Build a Thriving Online Community

Communities are essential to shaping our identities. They bring people together through a common activity or belief and provide us a context in which we are able to interpret ourselves and one another.  

Take a sporting event, for example. Two strangers sitting next to each other can be wearing the same blue jerseys and rooting for the same team to win. Hugging, shouting, high fiving each other—by the end of the game they have practically become best friends. Removed from that shared experience, it is very likely they'd pass each other in the subway.

It is no different in the realm of business. For companies to be successful, they must be able to form communities that are committed to their brand, customers who enjoy the product or experience to the point of becoming willing evangelists within their circles. Featured below are 8 tips on how to get started on building a virtual presence for your organization that will gain loyal followers at the next level.

1. Build a strong presence on forums

Message boards allow members to go deeper on certain topics related to your products and your culture while providing answers when they’re available (which cuts down on your need for documentation). Forums can also promote a spirit of collaboration which could spark innovation and creativity leading to new ideas and projects! (Good example)

2. Hire a community manager (who doesn't manage)

The principle and logic behind this tip is linked to a blog post that inspired James Falkner, our own Liferay Community Manager. The post argues that since the manager title tends to promote a "hierarchy and control which is unnatural in communities," organizations should look towards hiring someone who can see to its cultivation and growth without necessarily setting up a structure that impedes participation amongst the members.

3. Host regular fun activities for members

It's a win-win, really. The more events, activities and opportunities you provide for your members to enjoy themselves, the more delighted they will be in their interactions with your company. Hoorah!

4. Use social media to interact with members

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest—these are not only platforms for you to broadcast or promote your brand to your followers, but it is also a channel for you to listen and develop deeper relationships with them.

5. Recognize top contributors

The members who are showing the most interaction and loyalty should be rewarded with prizes,  acknowledgment, and perhaps an even greater role within the community. Elements of gamification could be implemented here if you want to ramp up the levels of competition.

6. Always respond to feedback

It's one thing to say that you're open to feedback, but it's another to create action items in response. Your response to feedback will substantiate and encourage future contributions from other members.

7. Set goals, iterate and continually measure to improve UX

Most things should live or die according to the data. Indeed, there is a truth behind the trend; you need to set SMART and objective goals that will allow you to determine what ideas are actually working, or where you need to stop the bleeding and turn it around.

8. Celebrate milestones together

With all the long sleepless nights and crazy deadlines that come with your work, it’s only fitting to enjoy the fruits of your labor whenever possible. Invite your community to celebrate all the achievements that you have been able to accomplish together!

These tips are by no means comprehensive, but they will hopefully point you in the right direction. Overall, the journey to building a strong online presence involves team members who can serve as a bridge between the company and the customer, setting up environments in which strangers can become friends,  engage with your company and feel comfortable.

What other helpful tips do you have in your experience with online communities? We would love to hear more—please comment below!

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Looking for a platform to build your community? Check out the features of Liferay Portal

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