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How to Foster an Online Community

Jessica Harp
December 23, 2020

Due to the pandemic, many organizations and businesses have had to pivot to an online business model. For some, the infrastructure needed to conduct all their business online is overwhelming and time consuming — but extremely necessary if they want to continue to do business during and long after the pandemic. For others, they’ve taken a different approach: fostering an online community. 

Keep in Touch with Digital Communities

With most people being home, organizations and businesses have had to get creative when it comes to interacting their community and clients. One of the best ways to keep in touch is by creating a digital community — to connect with your customers even when you can’t see them face-to-face. 

What is a digital community? A place online where users (your organization and its members) can interact digitally with comments, posts, videos, announcements and images. By fostering a digital community for your organization, you are able to maintain brand management, as well as create a positive environment for your members through engagement that will build long-lasting relationships.

Digital Community Guidelines

It is ideal to start fostering a digital community the moment an organization is launched. However, it is always a good idea to begin fostering a digital community regardless of the age of your organization or business as the benefits will be felt for years to come. Keep in mind the following guidelines when creating and maintaining a digital community:

  • Content within the community needs to be relevant and user-generated. Your organization can create content as needed, but content created by members of your digital community need to be the main source of material.
  • Assign a moderator — as content will be mostly user-generated, there will need to be a moderator from your organization that needs to keep an eye on what is shared or commented, as well as who is a part of the digital community. As in person, make sure the content is relevant, appropriate and not offensive. Only allow members of your community to become members of your digital community if you make the group private instead of public. Be aware of bots and internet trolls (a person who intentionally instigates arguments and upsets people online).
  • Respond to comments and questions as quickly as possible. As in, within an hour or two as opposed to a few days. Consistently engage with the community and show them that you are listening, that their voices and opinions matter. Create polls and surveys, seek feedback, create announcements and drive traffic back to your website or registration pages for whatever your organization may offer.

Utilizing Social Media

A digital community can be created almost anywhere online. The most popular platforms are:

  • Facebook Groups - Create a branded Facebook Group for your organization that will increase your organic reach, as well as position you as a pillar in your community. Your page is your organization’s profile, your group is where members can join and engage with others within the community as often as they like.
  • LinkedIn Groups - LinkedIn is more business oriented in that it is a social media channel mostly utilized for working professionals. If your organization relies on B2B, then this would be a great channel to utilize to share insights and experiences and build valuable professional connections.
  • Mighty Networks - An alternative to Facebook Groups with the option to charge for admittance/membership, offer courses, and more. Boasts higher reach and a better design.

Many groups are created specifically for users and customers. It’s thought to be customer service 2.0, and it opens up the conversation between your organization and your members. It’s important that you don’t make the conversation all about your business, though. Ask open ended questions that encourage dialogue. 

Creating a digital community managed or sponsored by your business is a great way to keep your business top-of-mind when people are back in the market for what you’re selling. While some companies are understandably going radio silent during this time, you can use this time to get to know your customers better. Ask them how they’re doing, what they’re experiencing, how they’re coping and just offer a safe place online to feel at home.

If you haven’t started an online community of some sort, get one started today!

ACTIVENet, ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager, and ACTIVEWorks Endurance will be there for you when it comes to your organization’s needs. Whether that means engaging your community, streamlining operations or managing participation, our software is here to help your organization perform at its best.

Set yourself up for success.

See how ACTIVE can help your organization grow.
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