Online communities have become a game-changer for businesses today. Get ready to unlock the secrets of success with 7 exhilarating tips to create and supercharge your very own community!
Online communities of clients, partners, suppliers, collaborators, sponsors... are multiplying today. The digital transformation is accelerating their online presence, giving rise to what is now known as "online communities," bringing together groups of individuals with common interests. In the business world, the desire to gather and engage online communities is strong. However, the most frequent question is: How do we take action? What are the steps to follow in order to create and effectively manage your own online community?
In this article, we will guide you through 7 steps:
- Step 1: Identify the target audience of your online community
- Step 2: Refine the positioning of your online community
- Step 3: Find the right platform to create your virtual community
- Step 4: Promote your community to attract members
- Step 5: Facilitate the onboarding process with relevant content
- Step 6: Nurture and engage your online community over time
- Step 7: Monitor both quantitative and qualitative outcomes
Online Community or Audience: Make a Distinction
Distinguishing these two often-confused concepts is the crucial step to start with: audience and community.
👉 A B2B audience is a group of people willing to listen to and follow you. They are a passive audience that consumes your content. Communication is one-sided, with the company providing value to the audience. The interest generated in return is usually short-lived, and the relationships are rather impersonal.
👉 A B2B community also represents a group of people (customers, employees, partners, etc.). However, in this case, interaction is multi-directional, and engagement is much stronger. Community members interact with each other and with the company. Human connection, conversation, and engagement lie at the core of the community concept.
In business, both concepts can coexist: you can communicate with a passive audience while simultaneously building a proactive community. You can also transform your audience into a community to foster engagement.
Now that you understand the difference between an audience and a community, if your goal is indeed to focus on creating a community... Let's move on to Step 2!
Online Community and Positioning: Reflect Before Taking the Leap!
Now that you are determined to create a genuine community, it is essential to lay solid foundations before taking action.
First and foremost, your community should be built upon real needs that involve your future members. The virtual and technological aspects of your community should not be the primary driving force behind its creation. While digital platforms serve as a means to bring a community together, they should not overshadow your true purpose.
Therefore, we invite you to ask yourself these questions:
- What is the objective of this virtual community?
- Who does it concern?
- Why should someone join this B2B community?
- What value will this community bring to future members?
- What are the current and future needs of my target audience?
- Is there already a virtual community that addresses these needs?
- If so, how can I differentiate myself and what additional value can my company bring?
By addressing these questions, you will make progress in defining your goals, target audience, and overall positioning of your virtual community. 🎯
Choosing the Right Platform for Your Online Community
Now that you understand the "why" behind creating a digital community, it's time to explore the "how" of achieving it! Once you have defined your positioning, you can start looking for the tool that will serve as the backbone of your community, facilitating communication and content sharing.
In this part of the article, we will explore the differences between three different platforms that can be used to engage an online community:
- Nurturing your community on social media platforms
- Nurturing your community on a collaborative communication platform
- Nurturing your community on a dedicated community platform
By examining these options, you'll be able to choose the platform that best aligns with your community's needs and objectives. So, let's dive in and discover the ideal support system for your online community!
Social Media: The Flip Side of a Bygone World
The Noise of Social Media
I'll be straightforward: social media is not the ideal place to nurture an online community. In the best-case scenario, your company and its shared content will be seen among the flood of content from dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other companies. This is what we call the noise of social media. It's like trying to have a conversation with someone across a four-lane road during rush hour in Paris (Parisians will add honking horns to the ambience).
The Issue of Groups for Community Segmentation
Who hasn't tried joining a Facebook or LinkedIn group, or even created one, to professionally share and exchange ideas on a topic that brings us together? Almost everyone.
Now, how many have actually engaged and actively shared within a Facebook or LinkedIn group? ... Not as many!
Social media and their groups more often serve as platforms for self-promotion rather than fostering constructive exchanges and meaningful sharing aimed at uplifting an online community.
Collaborative Communication Platforms: Mixed Relevance
We're talking about platforms like Slack, Discord, and others that allow direct one-on-one or group discussions, often centred around specific topics. These platforms enable communication through chat, audio, or video.
We are currently writing a whitepaper to help you understand the benefits and functioning of business communities. If you're interested, feel free to join our online community to be notified when it is released.
To bring together your future virtual community, various platforms are available. When choosing, consider estimating the number of potential members, the different activities and content you plan to offer, and the desired level and frequency of interactions. These criteria will guide you towards the most suitable solution for creating and nurturing your community.
With our marketing tool, members of a B2B community can interact publicly on a daily basis through a news feed, create private and targeted discussion groups on specific topics, participate in virtual events, consume various types of content, and more. The MeltingSpot platform, offered as a white-label solution, simplifies the creation and management of B2B communities.
Online Community and Promotion: How to Attract Your Members?
Creating a virtual community is not enough to attract members. The key is communication! It is essential to implement promotional actions to make your community known.
To raise awareness about your community, establish an initial connection with prospective members, and convince them to join, you have several possibilities. At MeltingSpot, we recommend adopting an omnichannel approach in your communication strategy.
This means alternating between online promotion activities (social media posts, newsletters, blog articles, etc.) and offline efforts (in-person events, advertising campaigns, etc.).
Additionally, don't hesitate to leverage more "human" channels, such as influencers, journalists, employees, and partners. These different channels complement each other to enhance the visibility and reputation of your community.
The key takeaway is that the content aimed at attracting your future members should be clear, precise, and impactful.
In a few words, your target audience should understand:
Streamlining Community Onboarding with Relevant Content
After stepping into your community, the "wow" effect should not fade away. Members need to feel warmly welcomed. To greet them, don't hesitate to create a series of exclusive content and events they can participate in, such as:
- A virtual welcome gathering to get acquainted
- A live Q&A session to address various questions
- Downloadable guides to assist them with different challenges
- Networking sessions to facilitate B2B connections
- Surveys to involve them in choosing community topics
To provide a memorable onboarding experience, also consider thoughtful gestures... Virtual or real! A personalized note sent by mail or a small welcome gift will contribute to building a strong bond with your community. 🔗
Nurturing Your Online Community for the Long Term: It's Essential!
To sustain an active and thriving online community, it takes more than just a warm welcome for members. Throughout the year, it is crucial to implement ongoing activities that foster attachment and engagement within the B2B community.
To succeed in long-term community management, consider organizing regular digital events. Events provide an ideal platform for members to gather, discover, engage in cross-discussions, and forge connections. They also serve as an opportunity to share relevant content that helps foster loyalty within your community.
Online Community: Track its Quantitative and Qualitative Impact
When you initially created your online community, you set various objectives. After several weeks and months, you will start seeing the first outcomes. Have you achieved your goals? It's time to find out!
In the realm of B2B communities, there are different aspects to analyze:
Quantitative Impact: Increase in revenue, sales of products or services generated, growth in the number of community members, the volume of interactions, and more.
Qualitative Impact: Positive or negative feedback following community events, engagement of community members, effective responses to various issues, overall community atmosphere, and more.
To track these outcomes, consider surveying your online community using satisfaction questionnaires. This way, you can identify areas of satisfaction and points of friction for both your company and your members. This approach will help you continuously improve and enhance the community experience.
Tip from Experts
Tracking metrics in a community is important because it provides valuable insights into the community's performance and helps measure its success.
Here are the metrics that Madeleine Milne from Customer-ization and Faustine Rohr-Lacoste from Hexa(efounders) recommend you track in your Community.
With this 7-step guide to create and animate your virtual community, you are now ready to take action.
To support you in this endeavour, don't hesitate to leverage an all-in-one platform like MeltingSpot.