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7 ways to build a sustainable and vibrant online community

7 ways to build a sustainable and vibrant online community

Building online communities has exploded. Everyone wants to build one for many different reasons, but vying for people’s spare time is getting harder and competition is fierce. So many communities fail, but here are 7 ways you can increase your engagement and chances of success.

1. Be clear about what a community really is. People being able to find and get a warm response from a complete stranger based solely on their membership of your community is a good sign of a healthy community. That’s the goal. Distributing a newsletter to a long list of email addresses is not a community, that’s an audience. If you want to turn your audience into a community, read on!

2. Have purpose. A clear, concise, ambitious and inspirational objective is crucial not only to attracting new members by differentiating your community from all the noise, but also for unifying all the members behind a common goal. Without that, you’ll never achieve the strength of connection and collaboration a community needs to thrive and survive. Remember your purpose cannot be simply “let’s make more money”. It has to unify your community and be something that your members can only achieve if they work together.

3. Identify the barriers. Having a clear purpose also helps you drive more routine activity into your community. If your purpose is ambitious enough, there will certainly be barriers to achieving it. Identifying those barriers allows you to drive activity towards overcoming them and overcoming them allows you to promote the progress and achievements of your community to motivate members and attract new ones.

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4. Working groups. If you’ve got barriers to overcome, establish working groups to overcome them. This gives people a tangible goal and something that will bring them together in groups that create more personal connections. Establishing personal connections through a community is a great way for people to feel value, and therefore promote the community. For example, Tech London Advocates had a goal of making London the digital capital of Europe but the barrier to achieving this was our immigration policy. So they formed an immigration working group, collaborated on a paper, took it to government and now our immigration policy has allowances for technical jobs. A great achievement which could then be used to recruit more members.

5. Members first. If you find members within the community that really truly buy into the objective and have an interest or passion in a working group, make them the working group leader. They’ll benefit from the status this brings and will take a lot of the management away from you having to organise everything yourself.

6. Rewards. When people in your community do well, try hard, help others and do all the things you want them to do, recognise that. Reward them accordingly and use the opportunity to demonstrate to others what being a good ‘community citizen’ looks like. This will also encourage other members to try harder if they’re motivated by a little competition!

7. Promotion. Getting a community started is the hardest part. Nobody wants to be the first person at a party. But once people are joining don’t stop reminding them of the benefits they get from their membership and capturing their success stories. These stories are the best way to attract new members.

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