How To Build An Online Community For Your Business

How to Build an Engaged Online Community for Your Business

How To Build an online community for your business – Picture yourself stranded on a deserted island. No rescue in sight, desperate for interaction, and craving connection to the world beyond your sandy shores. Now, imagine that very island transforming into a bustling hub of activity, teeming with people eager to engage with you and your business. What if I told you that this transformation is possible, and that building an engaged online community for your business can be achieved through a few simple yet effective steps? Keep reading as we uncover the strategies to turn your desolate digital presence into a thriving virtual metropolis inhabited by loyal customers and brand advocates!

Building an online community for your business involves several key steps, including defining the community’s purpose and goals, selecting a hosting platform, identifying stakeholders, creating guidelines and rules, setting up the community, building engagement, and growing the community. Our comprehensive guide provides detailed information and actionable advice on each of these steps to help businesses build a thriving online community.

Defining Your Business and Community Goals

When building an online community for your business, it’s crucial to define clear goals and objectives. These will guide the strategy and tactics you use to build, engage, and grow your community. Setting achievable and measurable goals is essential for ensuring that your efforts are effective and worth the investment of time and resources.

For instance, your community goal may be to increase brand awareness or drive sales. These are broad goals that can be broken down into specific, quantifiable metrics like website traffic, email subscribers, social media followers, engagement rates, customer retention rates, or revenue growth. By defining metrics that align with your broader community goals, you can measure progress over time and adjust your approach as needed to optimize results.

Moreover, having a clear purpose and focus for your online community can help attract members who share similar interests or values. For example, if you run a local coffee shop that specializes in fair trade and organic beans, you might create an online community aimed at environmentally-conscious consumers who care about sustainable sourcing and ethical labor practices. By speaking directly to this target audience and providing them with content relevant to their needs and preferences, you can foster a sense of community spirit and loyalty.

Some argue that setting strict goals is too limiting and that online communities should be open-ended, allowing members to shape the direction and focus over time. While there is some merit to this viewpoint, particularly for more informal or casual communities, setting clear objectives doesn’t necessarily mean stifling creativity or spontaneity. Rather, it provides a framework for experimentation and innovation within established parameters.

Think of a sports team – while players may have individual playing styles or strategies, they operate within a common goal (winning the game). This shared goal doesn’t reduce each player’s unique contribution – rather, it provides a unifying purpose that elevates everyone’s performance. Similarly, setting clear goals for your online community can foster collaboration and creativity while keeping efforts focused on achieving results.

Now that we’ve considered the importance of defining business and community goals, let’s look at the next step in building an engaged online community – identifying your target audience.

Identifying Your Target Audience

Simply put, your target audience is the group of people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service. Understanding who these individuals are, what they care about, and how they engage with online content is essential for creating effective messaging and value propositions for your online community.

One way to identify your target audience is to look at existing customer data, such as demographic information (age, gender, income), geographic location, purchase history, or interests. You can also conduct surveys or polls to gather insights into potential customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points.

For instance, if you’re launching an online community for a new home automation product that streamlines household chores like cleaning and laundry, your target audience might be busy professionals who value time-saving convenience and technological innovation. By catering to this group’s specific interests and priorities (e.g. user-friendly interfaces, voice commands, energy savings), you can create content that resonates with them and fosters engagement.

Some argue that targeting a narrow audience limits growth potential and reduces opportunities for serendipitous connections. However, by focusing on a specific niche market initially, you can establish a strong brand identity and core customer base that can support expansion into other areas over time.

Think of a chef who specializes in French cuisine – while they may have a smaller pool of potential customers than a generalist restaurant chain, their expertise and reputation can attract loyal followers who appreciate their unique perspective and skill. Similarly, identifying a specific target audience for your online community doesn’t mean you’re limiting yourself – in fact, it can help you stand out and build a devoted following.

Now that we’ve explored the importance of identifying your target audience, we can move onto the next step in building an online community – selecting the type of community that best fits your business needs.

Selecting the Type of Community

When it comes to selecting the type of community for your business, there are several factors to consider. Different types of communities suit different businesses and goals. These are some of the main types of online communities to consider:

– Interest-based communities: These communities are built around a common interest or hobby. Examples include photography groups, book clubs, or travel enthusiasts.

– Action-based communities: These communities are created around a cause or goal and seek to make a difference through collective action and advocacy. Examples include charities, political campaigns, or environmental protection groups.

– Place-based communities: These communities are focused on a specific location or area, such as cities or neighborhoods. Examples include local event groups, buy-and-sell pages, or community forums.

– Practice or profession-based communities: These communities bring together people in the same industry or field. Examples include writers’ groups, photographers’ networks, or software developer forums.

– Learning communities: These communities are designed around learning and knowledge-sharing. This could range from formal courses to informal discussion groups covering specific topics like language learning, coding skills, or DIY projects.

– Brand Communities: These communities unite people based on their shared affinity for a brand/labels. Popular examples include Adidas Creator Club or The North Face Lifestyle Community where customers with common interests leveraged by brand values can connect with likeminded individuals over their love for the company’s products.

When selecting the type of community for your business, it’s important to choose one that aligns with your core values and caters to the interests of your target audience. Since each community has unique features and engagement dynamics, it’s also essential to select one that you can manage effectively and foster fully.

Take J.Crew’s Very Personal Stylist program as an example of how the right kind of community will maximize customer interaction. J.Crew brought like-minded stylists together in this high-quality digital community, where customers get to book appointments and have a one-on-one experience with their perfect match. Stylists receive commission-based off of their sales salary, so there’s natural incentive to keep the conversation going. By providing extra care for their customers through online communities, they’ve built an even stronger rapport with existing shoppers and gained brand new ones in the process.

However, it’s crucial to note that not every type of community suits everyone business and that there are drawbacks as well as advantages. For instance, interest-based communities can sometimes lead to internal drama or infighting when opinions clash. Practice-based or professional communities may need more extensive moderation to prevent spamming and self-promotion than other types of communities. Finally, place-based groups also require an active involvement from shop owners in order to remain relevant—otherwise, these spaces might go unexpectedly silent.

Establishing the Online Community Foundation

After recognizing your goal, identifying your target audience, and selecting the right kind of community type for your business, it’s time to turn your attention toward establishing a foundation for an online community that is safe and inclusive:

– Defining community guidelines: The first step toward building an engaged online community is to define clear guidelines that set expectations for behavior, communication tone and content. Community guidelines must focus on inclusion & diversity and require users to respect others’ beliefs while prohibiting all types of discriminatory behavior.

– Naming, branding, defining the purpose: Designing a name which reflects what your online community is about is crucial; after all, you’ll be using this name—and emphasizing its meaning—for everything from marketing efforts to site accessibility. Moreover, your chosen branding elements should reflect your brand’s identity consistently across social platforms. Ensure that the goals and objectives you have written are aligned with your chosen community type.

– Creating private invitations lists: Before opening up your community to the public, invite a limited number of people who fit your ideal customer profile, offer them access to an exclusive online environment where they can network and discuss among themselves about topics that match their interest.

– Building a community management team: One or solo admins aren’t likely to be enough when it comes to running and controlling an engaging online community. You need at least a couple of moderators who can monitor group activity consistently, mediate disputes as they come up, create new content (like posts or poll questions), and respond quickly to user inquiries.

Let’s take Airbnb host communities as an example. This travel-oriented company is infamous for its local-stay accommodations, but it’s gained much of its ground through the help of inclusive digital communities. By providing hosts with tools to select guests based on interest before booking and inviting members into private groups for networking, Airbnb was able to build long-standing relationships between hosts and travelers—establishing trust in the process.

Think of online communities like planting a garden from scratch: even if you prepare your soil (community guidelines) and plant good seeds (group invites), without proper maintenance (admin moderating), you’ll end up with weeds that suffocate your plants. With a dedicated gardening team across your platforms, membership growth will blossom organically, and people will feel secure interacting in a space that’s well-maintained.

  • To establish a successful online community, it is essential to define clear guidelines that focus on inclusion and diversity, create a name and brand that reflects the community’s purpose consistently, invite an ideal customer profile to join the group before opening it up to the public, and build a dedicated community management team. Proper maintenance of the online community (moderating) is crucial for its success, promoting organic membership growth and creating a safe space for people to interact with each other. Companies like Airbnb have successfully built long-standing relationships between hosts and travelers by providing tools to select guests based on interest and inviting members into private groups for networking. When establishing an online community, think of it as planting a garden from scratch – preparation, good seeds, and dedicated maintenance will lead to organic growth and success.

Choosing the Right Platform for Your Community

The first step to building an online community is selecting the right platform. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are popular choices, but they may not always be the best fit for your business community. Ask yourself if you’re looking for a public or private space to create a sense of exclusivity. Does the platform provide enough room to post long-form content? You should also consider the features and functionalities that are most important to your community.

For instance, if you run a software company, a professional forum like Stack Overflow may be more beneficial than Facebook. Stack Overflow enables users to ask and answer technical questions related to software development, while Facebook is better suited for social interactions. The key is to pick a platform based on what your community expects.

It’s essential to choose a platform that aligns with your community goals and identity. For example, if you operate in an industry where privacy is critical, choosing a membership site could be more appropriate than a public forum.

One argument against choosing less mainstream platforms like Reddit is that it may limit visibility since visitors would have to join before being able to participate in any discussions.

Fostering Engagement and Sharing Relevant Content

Great communities consist of members who interact frequently with each other. Building engagement requires posting relevant topics that motivate users to share their thoughts or comment further.

Think of engagement as keeping a fire alive; it needs kindling (content), and oxygen (user interaction) requires both elements so the flames can continue burning.

Engagement enhances organic reach by creating more opportunities for interactions between members. This increases the chances of people seeing your brand mentioned organically under other comments within the community.

Now that we have established how important creating relevant content and fostering engagement through thoughtful comment posting is let’s take a deep dive into how to continue expanding and managing your online community.

  • According to a Costumer Engagement Report by Forbes, companies that prioritize building and managing online communities enjoy a 55% higher customer retention rate compared to those that don’t.
  • A 2021 survey conducted by CMX reported that 90% of businesses with engaged online communities experienced increased brand awareness, while around 88% saw growth in customer loyalty.
  • Data from the Community Roundtable suggests that up to 70% of companies have seen significant improvement in member satisfaction after implementing well-structured online communities, demonstrating their effectiveness in catering to the evolving needs of customers.

Expanding and Managing Your Online Community

Once you have established an online community for your business, it is essential to foster growth and manage the community effectively. As the community expands, developing strategies to keep members engaged and connected becomes increasingly important. Here are a few tips to help you successfully expand and manage your online community.

One of the best ways to expand your online community is by encouraging current members to invite friends and colleagues who may be interested in your business or industry. Providing incentives for referrals can be an effective way to encourage members to spread the word about your community. For example, offering rewards such as exclusive content, discounts, or even free products or services can motivate members to invite others to join the community.

Another way to expand your community is by partnering with other businesses or organizations that share your values or mission. Collaborating on projects, cross-promoting each other’s products and services, or co-hosting events can help increase visibility and attract new members to your community. Additionally, reaching out to thought leaders in your industry or niche and inviting them to participate in discussions or share their expertise can also help attract new members and add value to your community.

While it is important to focus on expanding your online community, managing the growth and maintaining engagement among existing members should also be a top priority. Some businesses make the mistake of focusing too much on acquiring new members without fully engaging those who are already part of the community. This can lead to high churn rates and an overall lack of engagement within the community.

Building and managing an online community is similar to gardening. Just as gardens require regular maintenance, pruning, and watering, online communities require ongoing attention and care. This means regularly checking in with members, responding promptly to questions or concerns, monitoring discussions for inappropriate behavior or spam, and consistently providing valuable content and resources.

One way to maintain engagement among community members is by regularly hosting events, such as webinars, live streams, or Q&A sessions. These events can provide an opportunity for members to connect with each other and with your business, ask questions, share feedback, and learn new skills or information.

Finally, it’s important to monitor and measure the success of your community. This includes tracking key metrics such as membership growth, engagement rates, and referral rates. By analyzing this data over time, you can identify areas for improvement and adjust your strategies accordingly. Additionally, soliciting feedback from community members through surveys or polls can help you gain insights into their needs and preferences and make adjustments accordingly.

Building an engaged online community takes time and effort but can be a powerful tool for growing your business. By defining clear goals, selecting the right platform, fostering engagement, expanding strategically, and managing the growth effectively, you can build a thriving online community that benefits your business and its members.


What are some common mistakes businesses make when building an online community?

When building an online community for your business, there are common mistakes that can hinder your progress. One of the biggest mistakes is not engaging with your audience enough. According to a study conducted by Sprout Social, 88% of people are more likely to buy from a brand that engages with them on social media.

Another mistake is not having a clear strategy for your community. Without a plan in place, it’s easy to get off track or miss out on opportunities. A survey by Content Marketing Institute found that 60% of businesses with a documented strategy considered themselves successful in their content marketing efforts.

Finally, businesses may make the mistake of being too promotional in their approach. People join online communities because they want to connect and engage with like-minded individuals, not be constantly bombarded with sales pitches. In fact, according to HubSpot, only 19% of people want to see promotional content from brands in their social media feeds.

In order to build an engaged online community for your business, it’s important to actively engage with your audience, have a clear strategy, and avoid being overly promotional. By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on building genuine relationships with your audience, you’ll be well on your way to creating a thriving community that supports your business goals.

What are the best platforms to build an online community for a business?

When building an online community for your business, it is crucial to select the right platforms to engage and connect with your audience. Here are some of the best platforms to consider:

1. Facebook Groups: With over 2.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook Groups can be a powerful tool for building engagement and connections with your target audience. According to a survey by Hubspot, over 80% of businesses reported that Facebook Groups help them connect with their customers.

2. LinkedIn Groups: LinkedIn has over 675 million members worldwide, making it a valuable platform for B2B businesses to build professional relationships. By joining or creating relevant LinkedIn Groups, businesses can easily network, share content, and establish thought leadership.

3. Instagram: As one of the fastest-growing social media platforms with over 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram offers businesses the opportunity to connect with younger demographics through visual content and influencer marketing.

4. Discord: Initially designed for gamers, Discord’s features like voice channels and threaded conversations make it an excellent platform for building communities around specific hobbies or interests – making it especially attractive to niche businesses.

Ultimately, the best platform(s) for your business will depend on your target audience and goals. By selecting the right platforms for engagement, you’ll have a much better chance of building a loyal community around your brand.




How do you measure the success of an online community for a business?

Measuring the success of an online community for a business can be challenging, but it is essential to understand how your efforts are impacting your bottom line. Here are a few key metrics to track:

1. Engagement: How many likes, comments, shares, and other interactions is your content receiving? Measuring engagement is critical because it shows that your audience is interested in what you have to say and are actively participating in the conversation.

2. Reach: Measure how far your content is reaching beyond your current followers or subscribers. You can easily measure this on platforms such as Facebook by looking at your post’s organic reach. If you’re using email campaigns, check the open rates and click-through rates.

3. Conversions: One of the most crucial metrics is conversions. How many people are taking action after being a part of your community? This could be sales, new email subscribers, or contact form submissions.

4. Net Promoter Score (NPS): The NPS measures customer satisfaction and loyalty to your brand, often considered as one of the most accurate predictors of growth and business success. Measuring NPS allows you to gauge how likely someone would recommend you to others.

Overall, the success of an online community depends on several factors; measuring these metrics should give you clear indicators that’ll help identify which areas need improvement while amplifying those that drive growth.


– Facebook Business (2019). Understanding Organic Reach on Facebook.

– Hubspot (2021). Email Marketing Benchmarks.

– Survey Monkey (2021). How do I calculate my Net Promoter Score (NPS)?

How do you incentivize users to join and engage with an online community?

One of the most effective ways to incentivize users to join and engage with an online community is by offering them exclusive content, privileges or rewards. This can take the form of early access to products or services, limited-time discounts, special promotions, and even personalized experiences.

According to a study conducted by Incentive Research Foundation, incentives can increase motivation by up to 44%. Furthermore, research by Adobe shows that consumers are willing to spend 17% more money with companies that offer exceptional customer service, including engaging online communities that make them feel part of something bigger.

Another way to incentivize users is through gamification, which involves adding game-like elements such as point systems, leaderboards, badges, and challenges to your online community. A study published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing revealed that gamification can increase user engagement and retention rates by up to 65%.

In conclusion, incentivizing users to join and engage with your online community requires creativity and strategic thinking. By providing exclusive content, rewards, gamification elements, and exceptional customer service, you can build a vibrant and engaged community around your business that delivers long-term value for both your customers and your bottom line.

What kind of content works best for building an online community?

The best kind of content for building an online community is one that is engaging, informative, and relevant to the needs and interests of your target audience. There are several types of content that work well in this regard.

Firstly, visual content such as images, videos, infographics, and memes tend to generate the most engagement on social media platforms. According to Hubspot, tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets than those without. Similarly, Facebook posts with images get 2.3 times more engagement than those without.

Secondly, interactive content such as quizzes, polls, contests, and surveys can help to encourage participation and foster a sense of community. For example, a survey that asks users for their opinions or preferences can help to create a dialogue between the brand and its fans.

Thirdly, educational content such as tutorials, how-to guides, and top tips can establish a brand as an authoritative and trustworthy source of information. By providing value to your audience through helpful advice and insights, you can build a loyal following that sees your brand as an ally rather than just another marketer.

Finally, user-generated content such as reviews, testimonials, and customer stories can add social proof to your brand’s messaging. According to research by BrightLocal, 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses before making a purchase decision.

Overall, the key is to experiment with different types of content and track your engagement metrics closely to see what works best for your specific audience. By constantly refining your approach based on feedback from your community, you can build a strong online presence that supports your business goals in the long term.