Launching a brand-new community is hard, but growing it and driving profit is even harder.
Most online communities never take off. And if they do, they’re merely ghost towns.
No engagement. No revenue. No nothing.
Others turn to Q&As or forums rather than communities. A few questions here and there, a reply or two—and that’s all.
If you’re a creator you want to build a community of royal audience, that’s engaging and monetizable. But how do you do it?
Today, I’ll dive deep into how to create a successful online community from scratch.
Let’s get right into it.
1: Begin by Understanding the Whys, Whats, and Whos of Your Online Community
To start a successful online community, you need to address these important questions.
- Why do you want to create an online community?
- What will your community be about?
- Who will be your ideal member?
Answering these three questions will help you establish the foundation of your community’s identity and direction.
It will also help you understand your target audience better and tailor your community to their preferences and expectations.
Let’s begin with the Whys.
Why do you want to create an online community?
Understanding why you want to create an online community helps you shape your objectives and the driving force behind your efforts.
For example, when Darius and Carmen wanted to create an online community, they had to go around this question.
The two creators had built a financial education company—Wealth Nation.
And they had a good audience on YouTube.
But they wanted to create a more engaging and interactive platform for their clients.
In short, they wanted a platform where they could:
- Offer guidance and advice to their clients on financial matters
- Foster a sense of connection and belonging among their clients
- Create a platform where their clients can interact and learn from each other
With these objectives in mind, they were able to design a community that is suited their needs and expectations.
Know the purpose of your community and the outcomes you hope to get with it.
What will your community be about?
This helps you define the topics and themes of your community.
That’s because they serve as a beacon, guiding the community’s content, discussions, and interactions.
Consider a community dedicated to photography enthusiasts.
This community will feature content and discussions on various photography techniques, equipment, image editing software, and even opportunities for members to share their work.
By sticking to the photography theme, the content remains relevant and beneficial to members in the photography space.
As a result, members are more likely to actively participate, contribute valuable insights, and derive meaningful benefits from their involvement in the community.
Who’s your ideal member?
Understanding your ideal member allows you to craft a community experience that resonates deeply with them.
By identifying the characteristics, preferences, and needs of your target audience, you can tailor the community to cater directly to their expectations, thereby promoting engagement and satisfaction.
Say for example you’re building an online community for freelance writers.
Your ideal members will include aspiring writers seeking guidance, experienced freelancers looking for networking opportunities, and individuals interested in the business aspects of freelancing.
Knowing these segments you can tailor the community’s content and features to suit their specific needs.
- You could offer workshops for beginners to help them master their craft and land their first gigs.
- You could create a network of mentors and peers for experienced freelancers to share their insights and feedback.
- You could provide resources and tools for business-minded individuals to help them manage their finances and contracts.
When you cater to the needs and preferences of your ideal members, they are more likely to actively participate in discussions, share their experiences, and seek advice.
2: Find the Right Community Platform
A community platform is software designed to facilitate the creation, management, and engagement of online communities. It serves as the infrastructure where members interact, share content, and build relationships.
The choice of your community platform can make or break your community.
That’s because it serves as the foundation upon which your community thrives. An intuitive, user-friendly interface encourages interaction, making engagement seamless.
Before choosing any community software, consider the following.
- Ease of Use: opt for a platform that simplifies setup, navigation, and management.
- Content Diversity: look for software that supports various content types, from videos and PDFs to articles and audio files.
- Events Management: check whether the community platform allows you to host and manage events for your community such as webinars, workshops, meetups, and conferences.
- Community Organization Tools: look for a community app offering tools to organize and structure your community into groups, subgroups, categories, or tags, ensuring efficient organization.
- Engagement Features: prioritize platforms that foster member interaction. Features like comments, likes, reactions, direct messages, polls, surveys, and more.
- Analytics and Reporting: choose a platform providing detailed data on member activity, retention, and community revenue, empowering informed decision-making.
- Customization and Branding: evaluate whether the software allows customization to align with your community’s branding. This includes adjusting colors, fonts, and layouts, and incorporating your logo.
- Mobile Accessibility: Check if the community platform offers mobile apps for Android and iOS. This accessibility enables members to engage with the community from anywhere and at any time.
If you’re looking for the best online community platform we highly recommend Circle.
The software is created to help creators build learning-focused online communities around their expertise and brands. Using Circle you can bring together your courses, community resources, events, and memberships in one place reducing the need for third-party apps.
We’ve created an extensive Circle.so review please check it out.
3: Pre-sell Your Community Membership
Most creators think that:
To create a successful membership community, they must start by offering free community access.
Here’s the logic behind it.
If people join the free community and see the value they’re getting, they’ll be more likely to pay for the premium membership
Turns out, that isn’t always the case.
As Darius and Carmen, owners of Wealth Nation discovered this the hard way when they first launched a free online community.
Even though their free community had attracted 900 in a short period there was little member engagement. And when they offered a paid version of the membership, no one was interested.
Why did this happen?
One of the reasons is what I call the “sunk cost fallacy”. It’s a phenomenon where we tend to commit to things if we’ve invested our time and resources.
Since the community membership was free, it was easier for the new members to not value it and engage. After all, they hadn’t spent any money on it—hence low engagement.
Pre-selling can help you avoid the situation. When you pre-sell your community membership you attract members who are ready to commit their resources and time.
Moreover, it gives you a chance to validate your idea and gather feedback from your founding members before you can avail the membership to the general public.
After all, you don’t want to create a membership and spend hours or even days creating content beforehand that no one wants to pay for.
Here’s how to pre-sell your community membership.
Begin By Creating a Unique Value Proposition
In this scenario, you pinpoint what makes your membership community unique. It could be exclusive access to industry experts, specialized resources, a supportive network, or tailored content.
Consider this as your first elevator pitch that you can use to attract your first founding members.
Show how joining the community will bring positive change or advancement in the members’ lives or careers.
Once you’ve crafted your community UVP, set the price and have specific goals that you want to achieve to justify your community membership.
For example, say you want to charge $150 for your membership community. You might set a goal of acquiring 10 pre-sales before launching your membership plans. If you don’t achieve it in a specific period you’re going to refund the funds.
Create Pilot Content
The next step is to create pilot content for your membership community. Consider the first version of the content that you want to offer to your members.
It can be a course, a coaching program, a resource library, or any other type of content that delivers value to your members.
The goal of creating pilot content is to validate your idea and see if people are willing to pay for your membership.
By launching it to a small group of your founding members, you get valuable feedback on your content quality, delivery, and relevance.
You can use this feedback to improve it and add more features or resources to your membership.
Moreover, it helps you collect testimonials from your founding members that you can leverage as social proof to attract signups when your community is open to the public.
4: Personalize Members Onboarding Process
Personalized onboarding helps you establish an immediate connection with your members. It also ensures that they understand what the community offers and how they can benefit from it.
For instance, you can create an email welcome sequence that includes video walk-throughs of your community.
This allows you to offer value to your members right away and also convey to them that they are in the right place.
5: Diversify Your Content Formats
Diversifying your content formats within a membership community platform is instrumental in cultivating engagement, catering to varied preferences, and fostering a robust community.
By offering a range of content formats, you cater to different learning styles, preferences, and consumption habits among your audience.
Firstly, embracing various content formats allows you to cater to different learning modalities.
For instance, visual learners might engage better with infographics, videos, or interactive graphics.
Meanwhile, auditory learners might prefer podcasts or audio-based content. By incorporating these diverse formats, you ensure that every member has access to content that resonates with their preferred learning style, thereby maximizing engagement and comprehension.
Moreover, diverse content formats enhance the overall user experience within the community platform.
Variety keeps the content fresh and engaging, reducing monotony and increasing the likelihood of members returning regularly.
For example, mixing traditional written articles with webinars, live Q&A sessions, workshops, or interactive quizzes adds depth and dynamism to the community, capturing the attention of different segments of your audience.
Additionally, varied content formats allow for a more comprehensive exploration of topics.
While some subjects might be best conveyed through long-form articles or tutorials, others could be better elucidated through visually appealing infographics or step-by-step video guides.
This approach ensures a nuanced and multifaceted understanding of the subject matter, catering to diverse levels of expertise among your community members.
Different content formats also create opportunities for interaction and engagement within the community.
Live events, such as webinars or Q&A sessions, enable real-time communication and feedback, creating a sense of connection and belonging among members.
Interactive formats, such as quizzes or challenges, encourage participation and collaboration, fostering a sense of achievement and camaraderie among members.
6: Create a Killer Lead Magnet to Attract Leads
Attracting new members to your community can be hard. Gone are the days when you would go on Facebook, create a new community, and spam everyone in your network to join your Group.
To entice members to join your community, you need to give them a compelling reason to do so.
One way of doing so is to create a killer incentive they can’t resist.
An incentive could be in the form of the:
- A mini course.
- A live or pre-recorded webinar
- Lead quizzes
- A sneak peek to your membership platform
- Personalized assessments
- Discounts and coupons
- Proprietary and original data or research that your prospect can’t find elsewhere.
- Contests and giveaways
For example, Tanya uses a quiz to attract new members to her community and course.
Once you take the quiz she’ll ask for your contact information and boom you’re one of her potential leads now.
7: Incentivize Members’ Participation
A successful online community is more than how much revenue it generates. It’s also how active your members are. I bet you don’t want your community to be the next ghost town, do you?
However to build an engaging online community you need to think beyond typical engagement tactics. Think about the last poll you created that ended up having 2 to 3 votes. No hard feelings.
One clever way to boost members’ participation is by offering a reward after they do so. The fact is, our brains are hardwired to receive incentives and rewards. It brings in a sense of pleasure and fulfillment which leads us to repeat the behavior that leads to a reward.
One way to incentivize participation is by recognizing and celebrating members’ valuable contributions. By spotlighting the efforts of top contributors or showcasing achievements within the community, a sense of belonging is nurtured, sparking motivation for others to actively engage. This form of recognition creates a positive feedback loop, encouraging ongoing participation.
Other methods to boost members’ participation are via:
- Gamified rewards
- Creating quests and challenges
You’ve just learned how to build an online community. But don’t stop there. You need to measure and test to see what works best for you.
If you’re looking to create an online community, Circle comes with everything to create a thriving community and offer value using online courses. You get access to unique features such as:
- Member profiles and directories to connect and network with other users
- Forums, chats, and polls to facilitate communication and engagement
- Courses and events to share your knowledge and expertise with your audience
- Analytics and insights to measure and improve your community’s performance
- Integration with various tools and platforms such as Google Tag Manager, YouTube, Stripe, Vimeo, and Zapier
- Mobile app to access and manage your community on the go
Try Circle for free in 30 days.