Building online communities can be challenging. With an estimated failure rate of 70 percent according to Gartner, there are many examples of ineffective community management. When it comes to building highly technical online communities the challenges can be even greater. There are, however, some unique advantages as well. If done right, you can foster a community of highly intelligent, vocal and engaged members that will advocate for your brand and business.

Consider these five key steps to building a highly technical B2B community:

Acquire an Identity

One of the most important aspects of building a successful community is to think about the identity you want your community to have. This means looking closely at your members, the value that your site will provide and why connecting with other members is important. For a B2B community, is this about providing technical content, sharing code or is the passion for their industry? Spend time thinking about the identity that you want your community to have and ensure it’s something your members can relate to and follow. This will help focus everything that follows including your content development plan and engagement strategy.

Similarly, identify what it is that your members will want. By putting your members first you’ll be able to establish a tone and identity that feels authentic to your members. To do this you must engage your audience in active dialogue and be part of the community. You are listening, you are willing and you are engaged. This is the most effective way to remove the common community stigma that you as the business are just a content administrator.

Stay Dedicated

Every community must serve its members and while that may seem obvious it is often overlooked.  Too often community efforts are skewed towards company needs instead of customer needs. Launching a community focused on reducing customer service calls will not maintain engagement, when compared to a community focused on helping customers solve their problems. Community members need a reason to participate, whether it’s solving a problem, helping others, learning something new, or sharing an opinion with other like-minded people.  Finding out what actively engages your customers may take some time but great communities takes great effort and the results are worth it.

People have a natural inclination to help and recent studies show that more than 80 percent of people participate in online communities for this reason. Provide opportunities for members to transfer knowledge and share ideas in certain ways. Present a complex problem for them to solve.

This will supply you with the most effective means of keeping them engaged and the ability to offer exclusive insights and member-only content. Reward active members, or those who subscribe, with this exclusive content.

Own the Trends

This leads directly into thinking about what trends are important to your members.  In the technology fields there is always an abundance of changing trends and the ongoing danger of spreading content resources too thin across too many areas. Find those areas that relate to you and your community and foster an opportunity for thought leadership in your industry. Try not to repeat what has already been said, but instead take this opportunity to own these trends and offer your unique insights or ideas. This is your opportunity to further your brand as a company and shape the voice of your community, with the goal of establishing yourself as a trailblazer.

Encourage the Community

Often community managers make the mistake of focusing only on posting content, but the most important part of being a community manager is engagement. It’s great to provide your members with information to react to and discuss, but what will encourage them to keep actively participating and build on those initial responses? Incentivize your members, and there are numerous ways to do this.

We have all become familiar with the concept of gamification within the digital ecosystem. The main goal there is to engage your members on a personal level with the promise of social currency. That means you can offer one of two things – status or story. A great example of applying this to a technical B2B community is by highlighting the most active members during a specific time period, or by designating status levels based on areas of technical expertise and helpfulness to the rest of the community. This shows your members that you are appreciative of their participation and have taken note of their efforts, in essence showing them that you care.

Learn, Learn, Learn

The biggest benefit highly technical communities can offer their members is the ability for users to learn from your content and from one another. But trying to stipulate how your community learns can lead you down a slippery slope. As with all of the tips above, listening to your users is a key to success. Ask them frequently how they believe new features are working. You may be surprised to find that six-month video project was not worth the time or investment. Also ask them if they believe there are ways for the community to operate more efficiently by, for example, allowing them to participate in Google Hangouts with experts or allowing them to search a technical database for answers.

Essentially, the key to building a highly technical community, like all other communities, is to listen to your members. They know what they want, who they are and in many cases where they want to be in the near future. Allow them to guide the development of your community and you will succeed.