Building a strong community is always challenging. Growing up is hard, self-management is difficult, and there are so many questions about doing it right. The good news is that you can learn how to build a better community without the need for rocket science or wizards. In the end, it is all about carefully listening to your audience and the type of content they are expecting.
But where do we start? How do expert community managers keep group members engaged?
And as the world has become more community-focused over the years, the work of passionate community managers is required by companies who need to foster a strong and active community around them. But many professionals lose their initial spirit in the middle and struggle to create real value for their people.
At Unita, we bring these five best practices to run a successful and authentic online community:
1. Start from small and build from trust
Find your niche to build a better community
This is not as easy as it sounds. But if you focus on the people you want to help, designing a space for doing that becomes simpler.
Have you ever taken a moment to consider your own community needs? Sometimes we marry with the idea of helping a niche that we can’t deeply understand, and the content we want to offer is simply not accurate. A better approach could be starting from our experience, and designing a community where we feel comfortable.
How to design a community
Some spaces started just as newsletter services or simple Facebook groups. And over time, evolved and added more resources aligned with the community’s needs.
The key is to define the minimum features your community needs and don’t go crazy with resources, events, and activities that won’t work. After that, you will have time to improve your members’ experience, but the valuable time you spent bonding with your audience is essential to understand what will work for them.
Check out the Orbit model for community building:
2. Stay active as a community member
Listen to your audience
One of the ways to build a better community is by listening to what other people have to say about what you’ve said or done. Indeed, even the worst feedback will help you sharpen your community dynamics and understand what’s not working. Thus, facilitating channels for members to express their thoughts is a great practice.
After all, if you offer true value, your people will naturally want to participate in the evolution of the community.
Community manager tip:
Create a welcoming environment. When you’re trying to build a community around your business, you’re inviting others into your personal space.
Be a member
Being a community manager is simply not enough. Even when the leaders will have active participation behind scenes, it’s important to also show interaction.
You can’t just propose an activity and wait for others to participate without any incentive. On the contrary, community managers need to lead the conversation to promote real interest.
3. Build a network around your colleagues
Is it viable to build a community in isolation?
All of those successful community builders out there have at least one thing in common: they are all part of other communities.
As they know how important it is to have a support group to effectively manage communities, they are always looking to connect with more like-minded professionals.
Indeed, being part of communities for community builders has several benefits. These are great spaces to build your professional network and will help you stay motivated and accountable.
If you don’t know where to start, just take a look at our top communities for community builders:
- CMX: this online group gathers community managers to learn, network, and learn from influential leaders. They join in virtual events, online groups, AMAs, and local chapters in 20+ countries.
- Rosieland: it’s a forum where Rosie Sherry, an experienced community builder and manager, shares her thoughts and learnings for free. If you’re interested in community building, then thi is the right place to learn.
- Late Checkout: they engage in Discord, and discuss everything related to community building. This community focuses on building community first and software later.
- Maker’s Mark: a cohort-based course on audience building. Participants study and implement best practices to grow their audience on Twitter, and exchange feedback.
- Australian Community Manager: they host events, training programs and offer unique networking opportunities. Their mission is to support you in the development of your career by providing exclusive resources for community managers.
- Community Folks: the community runs on Facebook, and works as a support network for professionals from all over the world. Besides, their members built a repository of hand-picked tools and resources to help you create and manage your online communities with ease.
- FeverBee: it’s a free community open to professionals coming from all backgrounds and experience levels. They interact on an online forum with spaces to ask specific questions and learn from peers. Moreover, it’s an excellent group to stay motivated and find inspiration.
- The Community Roundtable: they engage in an online group, and meet in weekly live chats and happy hours. In addition, members receive access to exclusive resources covering everything related to community building and management.
- The Community Club: the club offers a free and inclusive space to chat and discuss with top community managers around the globe. You can attend AMAs and train with courses designed to boost your skills. In addition, it’s a community where you can connect with more community people and exchange feedback and support.
4. Choose your tools wisely
Are you familiar with the different options available when it comes to chat and event management? Understanding how your people will feel more comfortable is essential to build a better community from that.
And if you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry! Here are some of the most used tools and platforms:
Best chat platforms for communities
- Slack: makes team collaboration and community engagement better because you can make channels to discuss, share files, messages, images, and much more. You can even create channels based on topics or groups of people to make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for easily.
Check out how to use Slack for community activities:
- Discord: is a popular alternative to Slack, which is the dominant team chat app at this point. It’s extremely useful for companies that are big on community engagement because it has an endless list of features that make it easy to create a text or voice chatroom for customers, fans, or anyone else who wants to be involved.
- Telegram: provides an opportunity to build a group chat with interested people. Probably a good option for communities that are just starting to flourish. It’s also becoming increasingly popular among businesses because of its speed and security.
- Whatsapp: it’s definitely the most obvious messaging app. But it’s worth mentioning that as WhatsApp is really popular around the world, it can be a great choice if you’re looking to simplify the conversation. Besides, a lot of people didn’t even hear about Slack or Discord yet, and bringing a familiar technology can surely help to facilitate interaction.
Top forum platforms
The time has come: your community is already working, but Slack and Whatsapp are not enough anymore. Your people are hungry for active conversations, and a forum is an accurate solution to that.
But where can you find a suitable platform to successfully lead your tribe into deep engagement? Well, here are some of the favorite options of worldwide community managers:
- Circle: it’s a popular platform nowadays. You can easily set up a community forum and provide resources for members to understand the dynamics from the very first beginning. In addition, they are also implementing new features, so community managers will be able to host events without leaving the platform.
- Tribe: if you’re looking for a platform that allows you to easily create your own forum, we encourage you to check out Tribe. The platform was created by an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs and it has been used by many successful businesses such as Pinshape, Startup Digest, and others. It’s free to use and has several plugins you can add to personalize the user experience.
- Playgroup: is an easy-to-use platform that can help you build a better community for your brand by making it easier for your members to connect with each other. You can easily categorize discussions and follow members’ activities and connect tools like Slack, Zapier, or telegram to automate your processes.
- Forem: a community platform designed to spark thoughtful engagement, personal connections, and trust between members leveraging open source tools.
- Discourse: is a modern platform for online communities and collaboration. It allows you to organize discussions and spending less time moderating. Moreover, they have integrations with Slack, WordPress, Zendesk, and more of your favorite tools.
5. Cultivate community habits
Building a great community starts with cultivating habits that encourage participation. And hosting regular activities is crucial to create a feeling of periodicity that pushes your members to come back for more. After all, when we are part of a tribe and feel like we belong, missing a community event is not an option at all.
But it’s not necessary to overcharge your community agenda with random gatherings. The key is to host regular meetings, events, and other activities that naturally fit your group’s interests.
Community manager tip:
Offer a unique resource. If all of your events and meetings are “just for chatting”, it will be twisted to sustain that event over time. On the other hand, expert talks, AMAs, and spaces to learn attract more attention from our members.
That’s why events are present in almost all of the communities out there. By bringing people together, members will end up building bonds over time, and the community value will increase. After all, the need of being together will be born naturally, and the values shared by your community will feed it and make it stronger.
In conclusion, we believe the most successful communities come from people who are genuinely enjoying the spaces they create. If you can do that, then others will want to join in on the fun as well. And consequently, to explore how to build a better community, you need to be surrounded by people who can inspire you to become a better manager.
At Unita, we want to help you find those spaces where you can share your obstacles, ask for help, learn, and make new friends. Explore our full directory of communities, you will surely find that group where you belong.