5 Key Elements of a Successful Online Community

Developing an online community is a long-term investment not a quick project.

Online communities present multiple opportunities for enhanced business value. They create an experience that helps businesses achieve their goals, whether they’re acquiring new customers or increasing insight into consumer needs and wants.

However, some organizations plunge headfirst into launching their community without considering the foundational elements necessary for success. Developing an online community is not a quick project; it is an investment that requires time, strategy and dedication.

Here are five key elements of a successful online community:

1.  Strategy. For a community to be successful, organizations must create a strategy that aligns with the company’s vision, values, and goals. Further, a community must have support from the executive team. They must understand the vital role community plays in meeting organizational goals.

Further, clearly defined expectations must be included in the community strategy. By monitoring key metrics, community performance can be tied back to business-level goals. This enables organizations to increase executive buy-in and prove a more impressive return on investment.

2.  Content. It is important that the content benefits your audience. This will ensure a quality experience and keep users coming back. Gauge user satisfaction by sending out email surveys to community members, monitor keywords and top questions asked, and refresh content as needed.

3.  Engagement. Your community is a living, breathing thing that feeds off of engagement. Therefore, it is important to create an environment that encourages people to share knowledge, answer questions, connect with others, and listen. Nurture engagement – and encourage continuous participation – with gamification. Award users with badges, reputation points, and topic expertise status based on their engagement efforts.

4.  Visibility. Think of your community as a new product – create some buzz and entice your audience to see what the excitement is about. No one will join your community if they can’t find it. Visibility can be easily created in a variety of ways. Prominently display the community link on your website, blog, and social media channels. Include the link in the footer of all company email communications. Use email alerts to notify members of new discussion opportunities. Or, send email newsletters highlighting community activity.

5.  Moderation. Effective moderation will ensure your community consists of relevant contributions, robust engagement, and appropriate user behavior. Good moderation comes from striking a balance between maintaining order and allowing your audience to engage with one another and drive the discussion.

To ensure community success, it is important to clearly document tone, purpose, and behavior expectations. Share documents that explain online etiquette, establish moderation guidelines, and outline the terms of use.

Also, consider appointing a community manager. Community managers drive conversations and deepen the relationship community members have with a brand. They also govern the community and ensure that activities align with the purpose of the community, addressing inappropriate posts and discussions if necessary.