Community 101: Guide to Building, Nurturing, and Sustaining Community
Including community in your marketing strategy can be a game-changer.
We’re witnessing this first-hand: the B2B industry is turning its eyes on communities and big names like Figma, Atlassian or Notion have successfully implemented community-led growth models.
In this 101 guide, we’ll explore the foundations of building and sustaining communities. Treat it as your go-to-cheatsheet. Let’s go!
Community: Getting started with a bang
A long-sustaining community requires a strong foundation.
Defining Your Purpose and Goals
Before embarking on creating or participating in a community, clearly understanding your purpose and goals is crucial. Your objectives will serve as the foundation upon which the community is built. Here’s why this step is vital:
Ensure that the community’s purpose aligns with your goals. If you want to network and share professional insights, make this a foundation of your community project.
Clearly defined objectives help in maintaining focus and direction. This prevents the community from becoming a hodgepodge of unrelated topics and ensures members know what to expect.
- Measurable Success
Having specific goals allows you to measure the success of your community. For instance, if your objective is to offer support, you can measure success by tracking the number of members helped.
Selecting the Right Platform
The choice of platform plays a significant role in the success and sustainability of your community. Here are considerations when selecting a platform:
- Nature of Community
The platform should align with the nature of your community. For example, a professional network might thrive on LinkedIn, while a hobbyist group could work well on a specialized forum.
Ensure that the platform is accessible to your target audience. Consider factors like geographical reach, language, and device compatibility.
Choose a platform that can accommodate your community’s growth. You want to avoid outgrowing the platform and facing migration issues later.
Evaluate the available features. Different platforms offer various tools like discussion boards, chat functionality, event management, and analytics. Pick the ones that best suit your community’s needs.
But then remember – community is “everywhere your members are”
Community transcends platform. What I mean by this is community doesn’t just live in a private Slack or Discord. Community is everywhere your members are.
(if you want to learn more about building communities in the B2B space, subscribe to Jared Robin’s newsletter here.)
Building a welcoming and inclusive environment
Creating a culture of inclusivity and respect is fundamental to the success of any community.
Here’s why it matters:
Setting clear guidelines and expectations for member behavior ensures that the community remains safe for all participants. This promotes healthy interactions and minimizes the risk of harassment or toxicity.
A welcoming environment encourages members to participate and contribute actively. When members feel valued and respected, they are more likely to share their knowledge and insights.
Communities that foster inclusivity and open communication tend to be more sustainable. Members are more likely to stick around and continue contributing when they feel a sense of belonging.
- Diverse Perspectives
Inclusive communities attract a diverse range of participants, which can lead to a richer exchange of ideas and perspectives. This diversity can benefit your community’s goals and objectives.
Provide Value to Members
To provide value to your community members, consider offering:
- Expert Interviews
Arrange interviews or Q&A sessions with industry experts or thought leaders to share valuable insights and knowledge.
- Exclusive Content
Share content that is not available elsewhere, such as in-depth reports, whitepapers, or exclusive articles. Curation in every sense of the word is at the key of the community.
- Educational Materials
Provide resources like webinars, workshops, or courses that help members enhance their skills or knowledge.
- Networking Opportunities
Facilitate connections within the community by organizing networking events, virtual meetups, or conferences.
- Something extra
Get creative. Hybrid events, unique experiences merging digital & IRL, unexpected collaborations.
Encourage Member Contribution
Empower members to actively participate by:
- Asking Questions
Encourage members to ask questions, seek advice, and share their challenges within the community.
- Sharing Experiences
Encourage members to share their success stories, case studies, or lessons learned.
- Offering Solutions
Promote the sharing of solutions to common problems, which can benefit others facing similar challenges.
Highlight and celebrate member contributions through features like member spotlights, awards, or public acknowledgments.
Foster Networking and Relationships:
Build connections among members by:
- Networking Events
Organize virtual or in-person networking events, mixers, or meet-and-greets to facilitate introductions.
- Mentorship Programs:
Create mentorship opportunities within your community, pairing experienced members with newcomers.
- Peer-to-Peer Introductions:
Encourage members to introduce each other based on shared interests or goals.
Listen Actively to Feedback
Prioritize member feedback by:
- Feedback Channels:
Create channels for members to submit suggestions, report issues, or provide feedback.
- Response and Action:
Acknowledge feedback promptly and, when possible, implement changes or improvements based on member input.
Implement Data Analytics
Use data analytics to:
- Track Engagement:
Monitor community engagement metrics, such as member activity, discussion participation, and content popularity.
- Member Growth:
Analyze member growth trends and demographics to understand your audience better.
- Measure Success:
Assess the impact of your community initiatives and use data to make informed decisions on strategy adjustments.
- Look at the data from different angles
Treat data as the starting point to tell a bigger story. Get granular to see trends and track sentiment.
In 2024 and beyond, community pros who embrace creativity, accessibility, measurement, and partnerships will gain influence. We forge progress through customer empathy and strategic vision.
Read more about 2024 Communtiy trends in Chris Detzel’ s article: Unlocking Community’s Potential: Trends for 2024 and Beyond
Foster trust and reduce uncertainty by:
Clearly communicate community decisions, policy changes, and upcoming events or initiatives.
- Open Discussions:
Encourage open discussions within the community about important topics or changes.
Diversify Content and Activities
Keep the community dynamic by offering:
Host webinars on relevant topics featuring guest speakers or experts.
- AMAs (Ask Me Anything):
Arrange Q&A sessions with community leaders, industry professionals, or notable figures.
Create challenges or contests that encourage member participation and creativity.
- Polls and Surveys:
Gather member opinions and insights on community-related matters.
Recognize and Reward Contributions
Acknowledge and reward active contributors with:
- Badges and Recognition:
Assign badges or titles to members who consistently contribute or reach certain milestones.
- Featured Spotlights:
Highlight outstanding member contributions through featured content or profiles.
- Tangible Rewards:
Offer tangible rewards such as discounts, exclusive access, or physical merchandise for exceptional contributions.
Maintain a Long-Term Perspective
Understand that building a thriving community takes time, and be committed to:
- Consistent Efforts:
Continuously nurture and grow the community over the long term.
Adjust strategies and activities as the community evolves to meet changing needs.
Evaluate and Iterate
Regularly assess community performance by:
- Feedback Analysis:
Review feedback from members and identify areas for improvement.
- Metrics Review:
Analyze engagement and growth metrics to gauge the effectiveness of your strategies.
Make improvements and adjustments to your community strategies based on the insights gained from the evaluation.
Stay Authentic and Human-Centric
Foster a sense of belonging and trust by:
- Authentic Interactions:
Be genuine and approachable in your interactions with community members.
Show empathy and understanding toward members’ challenges and experiences.
If your community experiences rapid growth:
- Resource Allocation:
Ensure you have the necessary resources to maintain quality and integrity, including moderators and technical infrastructure.
- Community Guidelines:
Update guidelines and processes to accommodate a larger and more diverse member base.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
Be aware of and adhere to legal and ethical responsibilities, such as:
- Data Privacy:
Ensure compliance with data protection regulations and handle member data securely.
- Platform Rules:
Abide by the rules and terms of service of the platform hosting your community.
By implementing these practices, you can create a vibrant, engaged, and sustainable community that provides true value to its members. If you have any questions about building communities and including them in your marketing plan, get in touch.