A successful community looks very different than it did years ago. Whether you’re an aspiring influencer, an artist, an entrepreneur or you run a non-profit, today’s success is often made online – and almost always goes hand in hand with a thriving digital community.
Just like building a community in the real world, a digital community is just a group of people with a shared identity. But this group is different. In a digital community, members can easily join or leave the group, meaning they only stay with the ones they like. It’s not as simple as being born into a neighborhood, and forever being part of that group.
Digital communities are created by people with a shared goal or interest, who take that commonality and make it the center of a whole online ecosystem. They interact, build friendships, debate, celebrate, support and even shop, all while keeping the common core in mind. These digital communities are vital to modern businesses and organizations and should be skillfully cultivated.
A thriving digital community can drive sales, strengthen name recognition and get people involved with a cause – but those people are more than just customers or fans. When healthy, members act almost like ambassadors, carrying a message out into the world, and helping brands achieve goals and grow bigger.
It involves capturing attention and earning respect and trust. Communities can do this by making self-expression feel safe and making it worth while for community members to get involved. That involvement should be something that signals passion – making a purchase, signing up for a volunteer opportunity, or even just sharing a post with the group. Hopefully, it will create enough goodwill and loyalty to keep the community members engaged over and over.
Ultimately, all modern brands and missions need a digital community, but if creating one sounds scary, don’t worry. It’s not nearly as daunting as it seems. It should be noted that the most effective examples are not always the ones with the most followers – they’re the ones whose members feel most comfortable engaging.
First things first, and you need to get real about what you want from this digital community. Consider why you are starting it, the needs of the brand, and who you are serving. That last one is a biggie – you have to have an ideal member in mind and prepare your messaging for them. What do they like? What are they against? Only by knowing your users can you find something in common with them, which is your core community bond.
Here’s a secret: Just because you built the community, that doesn’t mean it’s yours. A true digital community belongs to the people, and people value a community most when they connect, engage, and feel encouraged to share. Whether in an open forum, live event, or even a digital community around learning through online courses. Always listen to the community members and consider their suggestions; this will give them a sense of ownership. And when you do start sharing content, be human, and be vulnerable in what you express (this isn’t the place for corporate business-speak).
This may come as a surprise, but there is evidence that a digital community is at its most active when celebrating success, even if it’s a small win. According to a study by The Visual Capitalist shared by Rolling Stone’s Culture Council, even the world’s biggest influencers see peaks in interaction when they announce milestones like new albums, endorsements, or personal achievements – you can do this, too. Is a longtime team member getting married? Have you reached a sales goal or some other marker of progress? Share it with your community, because they just won, too. That’s the point of community to begin with. In the immortal words of Billy Dee Williams, “Success is nothing without someone you love to share it with.”
Starting with a community engagement strategy is the secret to building a successful platform in the long term. Cause Machine helps customers build the plan of engaging a community well and then begin mapping out the technology to help support that strategy. We’re certain that you’ll find some great resources and powerful tools in Cause Machine to better engage your community. Learn how it can work for you here.