Building communities online is a great way to interact with like minded people, market your ideas, and follow up with your tribe. But as more and more online communities are being built, how can you make one that people will pay attention to, and how do you find those people in the first place?

 

A Note For Business

Taking the things you were posting on your Facebook Business Page and creating a group to post the same stuff in, is not building a community. A Business Page is for talking to your customers. A community is for members of a “tribe” (a group of like-minded people around a specific topic) to talk to each other. Your goal in a group is to facilitate and moderate the conversation, not to control it.

This is not a quick-fix for getting around the drop in Facebook Organic Reach for brands. Groups are monitored with the same post quality algorithm as the main feed. Those posts still need to be highly engaged and interesting to the members.

 

How To Build An Online Community

The first step is to refine your idea and your theme.

The more niche or localized your idea for you community is, the easier it will be to get people into the fold.

 

Good Community Themes

  • Hillsboro Artists
  • Lego Robotics for Adults
  • Ocean Kayak Fishing
  • Tournament Scrabble Players
  • Oregon Knitting Circles

 

Community Themes That Are Too Broad

  • Fishing
  • Female Entrepreneurs
  • iPhones
  • Funny Jokes
  • Gamers
  • Business Owners

 

An Idea Greater Than Ourselves

Your idea should be something people can get behind.

“People want to be a part of something greater than themselves.” ~Matt Rouse of Hook SEO

One you have determined the theme of your group, there needs to be an idea that explains the WHY. Why are people joining your group?

You’re East Portland Artists group is a great theme, but WHY should people join?

  • Are you working to bring more public art to the East Portland neighborhoods?
  • Are you building collaborations between artists to help them reach a greater audience?
  • Maybe your goal is to improve the overall quality of life in the East Portland community?

Find your WHY and articulate that to your community.  That is your BRAND. It’s your community’s IDENTITY.

 

Finding People In Real Life

If at all possible, you should be starting your group in person.

Once you build some relationships and get active, excited people who are engaging you and one another in person, then it will time to move your group online.

A great place to start is by getting a few people together you already know so that there is already a “group” and not just yourself. This is not imperative, but if you don’t have anyone else, bring a friend or two anyway, just so that you aren’t going to your first meet-ups by yourself.

Once you have a location, pick a date that is convenient for people interested in your community and then I would suggest setting it up on a site like Meetup or EventBrite and I also recommend making a Facebook event.  This will requite having a Facebook Page for your community which is separate from a Facebook Group.

The group is for members only, the page is public-facing so that people can see announcements, and events.

You can just have informal meetups where people chat and have a coffee or a cocktail, or you can have more formal meetings with an agenda, speakers, etc.  It’s up to you and you need to find what is appropriate for your group members.

 

Start Moving People Online

You have people coming to your meetups now.

You’ve talked to them, you’ve had some conversations, now it’s time to start moving people to your online group. This could be on Facebook Groups or another platform, but the important part is to get your most active and engaging members into the group and start the conversation online.

Prep your group by adding the cover photo, logo, and make sure you have rules.  Post the group rules and make them a pinned post that will stay at the top. If people break the rules, I would direct message them or talk to them in person before banning them outright – unless your group is very large and managing it is time consuming.

Post interesting discussion topics, news, images, videos, and then discuss them.

You may need to encourage some of your members offline to start the conversation, as people can be a little shy at times.  What you don’t want is just a one-way conversation where you post, and no one comments. You want discussion.

You can start to add other members as moderators, and just make sure you have some guidelines for them. You don’t want them banning your members or posting random unrelated things into your group.

 

You’ve Made It This Far

Once you’ve made it this far, you should have the beginnings of a thriving community.

Good luck and may your communities be prosperous and discussions plentiful!