Online communities present multiple opportunities for enhanced business value. They create an experience that helps businesses achieves their goals, whether it’s acquiring new customers or increasing insight into consumer needs and wants. However, to have a successful community launch, companies must outline expectations, research best practices, and remain dedicated to community member needs.

Here are seven tips to help you set the foundation for a successful community:

1. What is the community’s purpose and goals?

How do you plan to use your community? Define the purpose – knowledge management, Q&A, ideation, collaboration, self-service support – and clearly outline the goals of the community. Goals can include knowledge transfer, increased revenue, customer retention and lower support costs.

2. Pinpoint the needs of your audience

You must understand your audience’s needs and wants and research how to position your community as a strong online resource. By analyzing the current situation, you will have the knowledge necessary to start relevant conversations, build relationships, and establish a foundation that will enable community growth.

3. Incorporate engagement

For an online community to succeed, it must be sustainable. That sustainability is created through engagement. Build a community where users are encouraged to engage and collaborate with one another, not just your online brand. Quality conversation adds value to the user experience, retains and attracts community members, and transforms members into brand advocates.

Further, use gamification – badges, reputation points, and expert status – to reward active members. This builds quality engagement and provides incentive for members to actively participate.

4. Create community awareness

Think of your community as a new product – create some buzz and entice your audience to see what the excitement is about. This can easily be done on social media or in an email blast.

Also, no one will join your community if they can’t find it. Prominently display the community link on your website. Also, include the link in the footer of all company email communications. Visibility will drive traffic towards your community and keep it top of mind with new and existing users.

5. Research the competition

Research is a vital component of community launch. Spend time on your competitor’s sites – how do they position themselves? How do they promote their communities? How do they attract members? What are the strengths and weaknesses of their communities? Incorporate this insight into your strategy as your build your community’s brand and create a strong (and unique) user experience.

6. Appoint a community manager

Community managers are the face and voice of a community. They work to achieve community goals by engaging with members, encouraging collaboration, and moderating activity. Because they know your community best, they can offer insight into the needs of your audience and deliver metrics on community health and success.

7. Monitor key metrics

By monitoring key metrics, you can tie community performance back to to business-level goals. This enables organizations to increase executive buy-in and prove a more impressive return on investment. Metrics of importance include:

  • How many new members join the community each week? Each month?
  • How many members leave?
  • Are new members actively participating?
  • What content has the most engagement (i.e. likes, up votes or comments)?
  • What content has the lowest amount of engagement?
  • What content topic is the most popular?
  • What content topic is the least popular?
  • What content is lacking on the site that members are requesting?
  • What content type is the most popular (i.e. video, Q&A, etc.)?

Want to learn more about launching a successful online community? Here is a free eBook that can help you learn how!