How do we create a successful online community?
Many association leaders ask themselves this question when staff proposes the idea of creating an online community for members. And it’s an important question because creating and growing an online community is a tremendous investment of time and resources.
Today’s online communities are called by many names—peer learning community, member portal, technical assistance community, working group community—but the mission is always the same: to help members.
Recently, the iCohere Academy released the free eBook A Guide to Creating Successful Online Communities, to help association leaders develop communities that provide value add services for members. It’s yours free to download from iCohere. Below, we look at four areas highlighted in the book to use as a guide when developing an online community, and why they are so important.
- Start with a warm welcome. The community welcome sets the expectations of your community members. Pay close attention to detail when developing the member welcome. Read: The Most Important Step for Building an Online Community.
- Integrate strong communication tactics. An online community will not be successful if it is always empty. The word community highlights the importance of providing frequent updates and creating networking opportunities for members.
- Distribute the community management roles. Involving members of the community in the management of the community is a solid way to grow the community. Create opportunities for members to get involved through various roles that support the community. Examples include subject-matter experts, discussion facilitators, and social media managers.
- Build in a knowledge center. An online community offers members many benefits. Over the years, these communities have evolved from in-person communities to a virtual setting. In this new setting, they still provide members with a channel for generating and sharing knowledge, but also serve as a resource center for the industry or field. A successful online community is much more than a place to connect and network. An online community can serve as a powerful resource center for members, helping to connect them with peers and link them to resources to improve performance and tackle critical challenges. It should be a primary goal of community administrators to build a strong community of knowledge for members.
Maintaining an online community is a lot like planting a delicate tree. At first, the tree requires intensive care, patient cultivation, and constant attention. Likewise, with careful ‘gardening’ for the first two years, an online community will eventually reach sustainability, with dynamic and engaged participation from its members.
More Resources for Developing Your Online Community
Online communities aren’t new and many organizations have shared about their challenges and successes, which can serve as valuable resources when designing a community. Learn strategies for building a peer community, technical assistance community, or member and board portals, in this free on-demand webinar below.