Like individuals, no business is an island.

Your business depends on your customers to survive and grow. You need to do everything possible to retain them and build loyalty.

That’s harder than ever today. Even though the internet has lowered barriers and made it possible to do business anywhere and with anyone, it’s also highly impersonal.

Customers switch from business to business easily and have little to keep them invested in one place.

So, how do go from being an abstraction consisting of a logo, a product and some colors to having meaning to a customer?

The answer is to build a relationship with them. This makes your business real and makes customers invested in who you are and what you do. To develop a relationship with customers located in different places, you need to build a community.

What does an online brand community offer?

The internet can be very cluttered. Your customers need to have a single dedicated space where they can get all the answers they need. By building an online brand community, you create that space.

Harley Davidson’s ‘Harley Owners Group’ is a great example of a business-driven community. Buyers are encouraged to join local chapters. They can also attend meetings and events. These activities don’t just help with bike maintenance, they also create support. There are intellectual discussions and meaningful community activities.

Harley Davidson encourages community building with events, chapters, and stories

Building an online community can create a social identity for customers related to your brand. Customers are no longer passive recipients. A brand community can help you co-create value and collaborate to foster innovation.

LEGO is a great example of a company that has collaborated with its fanbase to innovate their products. LEGO used their adult fans’ ideas for their Mindstorms robotics kit and greatly enhanced its capabilities.

Building an online brand community can support your business in similar ways. It’s also easier to do because of social media and the number of online tools available today. The best way for a small business to build an online brand community is to set up a membership website.

Let’s break down how you can build a membership site for your brand community without any programming knowledge.

1. Start with your Setup

Before you begin your online brand community, you need to have your website in place. The easiest way to build a website is to use WordPress. It allows anyone to start their own blog, a professional website or a membership site without having to code.

To begin, your setup needs to include the following:

  • Domain name: This is your site’s address, the place members will register
  • Hosting account: You need a hosting account where your website’s files are stored. There are many options for WordPress hosting that let you create your site with just one click.
  • Membership site plugin: You can use a plugin to easily create a membership site on WordPress

We’ll take a closer look at the type of membership plugin you need to have for your membership site. It plays an important role in the successful management of your site and building your brand community.

2. Add a membership plugin

The easiest way to start a membership site with WordPress is by installing a membership plugin. A good membership site plugin should support the following features:

  • Registrations and logins: A membership site plugin should allow visitors to register and login to your site easily
  • Payment gateway: A payment gateway allows you to automatically collect payments from subscribers for access to your content
  • Profile editing: Users should be able to edit their information and make changes to their payment settings
  • Community forums: Forums are essential for your customers to have discussions and to ask questions. By keeping consumers engaged in forums, you can understand their pain points and build loyalty
  • Content access: This is a major feature that allows you to restrict content to different levels of subscribers. It creates more value for customers and also protects your content
  • Subscription management: Users need to be able to make changes to their subscription easily such as making downgrades, upgrades, and cancellations
  • Email communication: Every online business needs to set up email marketing. A membership site plugin needs to have email marketing integrations so you can send out email blasts to users

These are some of the most important features you need for a robust membership website.

Once you’ve added and activated your membership site plugin, you’re ready for the final step to create your brand community.

3. Create content

You create engagement in your online brand community with great content. Start by creating different types of content to populate your membership site.

It’s a good idea to create free content that is available to everyone. This will help bring in traffic and get people to register to your site, creating conversions for your gated content.

Cakeflix offers access to different content based on subscription levels

You also need to create content that is only available to registered users on your site. This can include video courses, checklists, articles, ebooks, and more.

Finally, set up a forum and discussion space. This can work as a Q&A area for users. This is important because it connects the members of your community. It’s a source of user-generated content and it leads to meaningful discussions. This is where you can co-create with your audience and collaborate for innovative product ideas.

Serve your business and your customers with an online brand community

Building an online brand community creates value in many ways. It creates an ordered and helpful space for your customers that cuts out clutter online. It differentiates you from your competitors. It allows you to build a relationship with your customers and makes them more invested in your brand. With exclusive content and a well-built membership site, you’ll build brand loyalty and drive up conversions.