5 Tips for Building an Online Community for Your Business

One of the Internet’s greatest strengths is its ability to bring together people with similar interests in online communities, whether it’s computer gamers discussing strategy, guitar players trading advice on the latest gear or cancer survivors sharing their experiences and supporting each other.

Online user communities can be a powerful force for businesses too. A wide range of companies, from software giant SAP to motorcycle kingpin Harley-Davidson to tax services provider H&R Block, have built vibrant online communities.

Companies with active communities focused on their products tend to enjoy higher brand credibility, corporate integrity and customer loyalty — a deeper bond than, say, creating a Facebook page and hoping to attract “likes”.

The communities that have blossomed in recent years are occasionally unaffiliated with the brands they concentrate on, but far more often than not, companies are establishing and developing the communities themselves.

The rewards of a thriving user community are so clear that many companies are putting it at the top of their marketing wish list or thinking about it. But if starting and nurturing one were easy, everyone would be successful.

I’ve learned a great deal about the process during the last seven years, as my company has transformed what had been a mailing list about our products into a bustling online community that is closing in on 30,000 members and is the world’s largest Apple device management forum.

Here are my top five tips for building a strong online community:

1. Have a critical mass of passionate customers.

How do you know if you have enough brand appeal? It tends to be a feel thing. We had only a few hundred customers when we set up our community, but we were picking up vibes from the previous mailing list process that customers craved a better way to interact.So creating a community isn’t about the size of your company, its annual revenue or the number of customers; it’s about those customers’ passion for your products.

2. Give up control.

3. Make the community a rich experience.

4. Be prepared to invest in infrastructure.

5. Don’t get hung up on measurement.

Follow these five tips and you could be watching with amazement as an online community grows around your brand.

Target-driven Online Marketer, skilled in creating and implementing effective, innovative marketing strategist.