Are you about to build an online community? Great fun. But be warned. A community can be set up in no time, but it can also collapse in no time. In this blog we will tell you how to build a vibrant online community with a focus on engagement.
What we mean by a ‘community’
A community is a place where people come together, either online or offline. This is of course a very broad concept, so let’s narrow it down for this situation. In this case, a community is a place where people come together (online) for a common goal. In the community, members can talk, discuss and ask questions to help each other out.
For example, you can build an online community for your (offline) business club or business network. A whatsapp group or app from your work is not a community.
You can build an online community or bring your offline community online with your own communication platform from Bundeling.
How to start an online community
When you start an online community, it is important that you think about the purpose of it in advance. We have just established that an important aspect of a community is the common goal of its members. Does your goal for starting an online community correspond with the goals of your (target) members? Good! Otherwise, we can already state that you don’t really need to start.
Make sure the following things are clear when you start your online community;
- Who is the community for (and who is not);
- What will happen/be discussed in the community;
- What you want members to achieve when they become members;
- How you are going to expand the community;
- How are you going to keep the discussions and chats in your community alive;
- What values are important and how will they be safeguarded.
What are the next steps?
The above steps are, of course, very conceptual and do not offer immediate practical guidance. After all, where is your community going to meet online? A group on Whatsapp is not inviting, or clear enough to start discussions. So make sure you have a practical platform for your community. The Bundeling platform is perfect for this, especially if you already have an offline community such as a business club.
When is your online community ‘vibrant’?
In many online communities, only a small percentage of the users are ‘active contributors’. Probably even 90% of your community is ‘passive’. By this we mean that these users mainly read along and react now and again, but will not actively start new topics. So when do you talk about a ‘vibrant community’?
Let’s take a look at Rumbold’s Bundeling app. Rumbold is a knowledge-sharing platform for HR professionals. Within Rumbold about 250 organisations are active. Rumbold started Bundeling 4 years ago. How is it going now?
Every day about 400 HR professionals use the Rumbold app. The platform is versatile and the members stay in touch with each other in different ways. The Rumbold app is opened about 2,000 times a week and the vast majority of members are active on a daily basis.
“People follow the dynamics on the app. I only hear positive things. The objective to make the Rumbold app an accessible extension has been 100% successful!” Thus Gert-Jan from Rumbold. A good example of a vibrant community.
Tips for a fun, lively community
Nurturing a living community is not that easy. Especially in the start-up phase, you will spend quite some time starting up the conversation or keeping it going. These tips will help you through the (often) difficult start-up phase.
Start talking about relevant topics yourself
When you are just starting out with your community, the first users are usually not eager to contribute right away. Most people who visit a new place for the first time like to wait and see. This also applies to online places like your own community app. As human beings, we remain a herd animal.
By addressing relevant topics for your community yourself, you can get the first conversations going. Think for example about issues that members might get stuck on. Ask (open) questions about this and invite people to share their vision on the issue. For example for HR professionals like Rumbold:
What are questions that in your opinion should not be missing in a first job interview?
Organise Q&A’s with a professional
Hiring a professional to answer questions in your community can also help you improve engagement. It is also a great way to attract members to your community. Think about (or ask in your community😉 ) which professionals or speakers would be interesting for members. Schedule them for an online Q&A and don’t forget to contribute to the questions as well.
Respond, respond, respond!
Don’t let conversations end too quickly… Take the job application questions as an example; you will probably get a number of responses with questions that are asked. However, the conversation does not have to end here. Respond to the comments of others and simply ask. “Why is this question so important to you during a job interview?” Or what your topic is linked to.
In this way, you can at least go into depth and members really learn something from each other. It also sets a good example for others. Make it clear that it is okay to talk further under topics. Keep discussions going and avoid one-off comments. Respond, respond and keep responding.
Continue talking online
Let your members continue the discussion online. This way they are no longer tied to a fixed moment or a meeting to speak to each other or to ask questions. Everything happens in real time. Members can connect with each other at the touch of a button. That means members get more out of your community.
Don’t let discussions stop at the end of your community or networking event.
Connect Smarter with Bundeling!
Bundeling makes central communication hubs for Sport & Business, Logistical Organisations, Industry Organisations & Non-profit, SME’s, the Construction Industry, Retail & Hospitality and Network & Business Clubs. We have already helped many organisations to continue the online conversation. Will your community be even better connected?
In our app, your community uses the following features:
- Personalised profiles
- 1 on 1 conversations
- An activity calendar
- E-tickets for events
- A bulletin board
- Group Chats