Square Social on How Can I Build And Grow An Online Community

Daniel Banks, Square Social

So you’ve realized you need an online community for your brand or business, but you’re not quite sure how to get started? You may want a community so your users feel part of something, to create content for your site or to improve your ranking in SERPS, much like using a SEO company would.

Unfortunately, starting and growing an online community can be very difficult! But don’t worry, I’ve put together a list of pointers that will help you start and then grow a budding online community.

Start Narrow!

Never try to cater to the needs of all your potential users or customers at once. Always try to build a community out of a small aspect of your business or organization. What you’ll need to achieve is something called ‘critical-mass’ (the point at which your community grows by itself). Once this has been achieved in your target area, this momentum will spill over into other aspects of your site.

For example, people are most likely to ‘bond’ with individuals in which they have plenty in common with. They join a chess club because they like chess, but three of the fifteen members of this club may also enjoy playing poker - and they bond over that shared interest too. Take care of your targeted area, and your community will take care of the rest!

This is true of even the biggest online communities. Back in the early days of Facebook it was limited to Harvard University students, and then eventually to other universities, and then to the wider world.

Likewise early Twitter was entirely tech-orientated, but subsequently expanded to the all-encompassing platform which we know today.

It’s The Platform, Stupid. Right? WRONG.

Another common mistake is to focus on the platform. In reality the ‘look’ of your website can have little bearing on community activity and growth. Forums are some of the most budding communities on the web, but most forums are not visually attractive at all! Design-wise it’s important to cater to your user’s needs.

But It’s Vital For The Community To Have A Great Platform, With Dozens of New Features Right? - Wrong Again.

Let’s take Twitter as an example. In reality Twitter is a pretty basic platform with a whole stack of irritating limitations! Photos are often only displayed as links, and then there’s the 140 character limit. It’s not highly-visual, unlike something like Pinterest and it doesn’t give you as much SEO-juice as say sharing something on Google Plus, or publishing your content on a blog or website and using a dedicated SEO company would.

So why is Twitter so popular? It’s because of the community, not the platform. We’ve all joined Twitter because of the people on there and the ability to connect with your favorite celebrities, sport stars and influencers in your field. Not because of the functionality of the site. The pull of community is greater than the platform itself.

The last website I worked for completely re-designed the site in order to make it a far more functional, social and better-looking place. However, none of the community leaders wanted this change, and the shiny, great-looking website lost it’s feel of community, which in turn resulted in tumbling profits.

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