What Is An Online Community And How Businesses Benefit

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Chris, Chief Editor & WFH Expert

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What is an online community? Great question as you’re probably curious about the buzz surrounding the best online communities.

But have you ever wondered what makes an online community tick?

Or perhaps why businesses use them in the first place? 

Well, wonder no more! In this article, I’ll dive deep into online communities and explore their various aspects. Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn:

  • The definition of an online community
  • The different types of online communities
  • The benefits of online communities for businesses
  • The defining characteristics of online communities

So buckle up as I take a closer look at everything you need to know about virtual communities.

  • Online communities are web-based groups of individuals who communicate and cultivate relationships.
  • Branded online communities offer numerous benefits to businesses, including customer engagement, feedback, and increased brand awareness.
  • Characteristics of great online communities include engaging opportunities, good user experience design, and strong moderation and support services.
  • Choosing the right platform is critical to successfully build a thriving community.
  • Strategies for building an engaged community are creating targeted content, partnering with influencers, and using automation tools.
  • Online communities provide networking, customer service, market research, and data collection opportunities, among other benefits.

The Power of Online Communities

The power of online communities lies in their ability to connect, engage, and empower individuals on a global scale.

Let’s understand what they are and how they work to harness their potential effectively.

What is an Online Community?

Simply put, an online community is a group of people with similar interests who come together online (or sometimes in-person) to share information and engage in activities together. 

These social networks are formed around a specific topic, interest or cause, and are bound together by a shared purpose, shared experience or common goals.

Online community building can exist in various forms, including forums, social media, chat rooms, blogs, and in most cases an online course with a private community for an elevated customer experience.

So what makes a successful online community?

Well, you need to give users ways to engage beyond just commenting or posting messages on social media platforms.

From a business perspective, branded online communities offer some pretty impressive benefits.

Engaged customers who feel like they’re a part of your brand community are more loyal and likely to give you repeat business.

And by directly communicating with your customer base in real-time, you have access to feedback and insights you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

But don’t just rush to set up any old online community. There are a lot of factors to consider, like ease-of-use, scalability, customization, and security.

By selecting the right platform for your community, you can create the perfect space for your customers to connect and interact.

The Different Types of Online Communities

  • Social Communities – These are based on social relationships and provide a platform for people to connect with each other, regardless of geographical location. Examples include Facebook and Instagram.
  • Interest-based Communities – These are founded on a common interest or hobby, where enthusiasts can share knowledge and discuss related topics. Examples include Reddit and IMDb.
  • Action-oriented Communities – These are established with the intent of achieving a specific mission or goal, like an online course about blogging.

Characteristics of Strong Online Communities

There are different types of online communities, such as forums, social media groups, and chat rooms. However, all online communities share certain characteristics that make them fascinating to participate in.

  • Shared Purpose: A sense of belonging, shared goals, interests, and values bring members together.
  • Persistence: Online communities tend to remain active over a long period of time. Members join and leave, but the community endures.
  • Privacy and anonymity: Members feel safe while participating in the online community since they have options to control their identity.
  • Leadership: Every community needs someone or a group of individuals who take charge and drive the community towards their shared goals.
  • Member-Driven. Communities rely on members and their contributions to create and maintain content and engagement.
  • Active participation: Members contribute and participate in discussions or activities in the community, which sustains the growth and vitality of the community.

When these characteristics are present amongst community members, they create a strong sense of belonging, brand loyalty, and engagement, motivating members to keep coming back, participating and contributing to the growth of the community.

If you are a business looking to create an online community, understanding the characteristics that make it great is essential. You’ll be able to leverage these characteristics for the benefit of your business and customers alike.

Online communities function both as a source of education, inspiration, and as an important way of staying up to date with trends and developments within a specific field.

Creating community engagement opportunities is crucial for keeping members active and invested. Think forums, Q&A’s, webinars- these keep conversations flowing and promote collaboration.

User experience design is another important factor. Your community should be intuitive and easy to use. This means intuitive navigation menus, clear labels, and stunning graphics that don’t overwhelm new members of the group.

This is why using Facebook groups is a mess, too much irrelevant and bloated things going on.

A bloated Facebook group

Keeping things professional is key to sustaining user retention. A strong community management and support team can effectively monitor and handle discussion forums.

With well-trained moderators to ensure adherence to set guidelines, and quick customer support to resolve glitches that emerge, your community is bound to be effective.

An online community that ticks all the boxes (engaging opportunities, great experience design, good moderation and support services) will boost your brand’s image and loyalty, no questions asked.

From Theory to Practice: A Real-Life Example of Successful Branded Online Communities

A great example of online community is Blog Growth Engine, which I’m a part of as well!

This learning community uses the Skool platform and is tailored to assist bloggers and in expanding their online presence and generating revenue via their blogs.

A student raving about how she loves the online community

Members have the opportunity to network with like-minded people, access exclusive content, and receive one-on-one coaching and feedback from experienced bloggers.

The community also offers various events, such as webinars and workshops, to help members enhance their blogging abilities.

An online community offering live events, webinars, and upgrades

By creating online communities like Blog Growth Engine, businesses can take advantage of the chance to establish a support community and offer way more valuable opportunities to their audience that its competitors.

Just think about it as a customer, who would you rather invest in:

  • A madly successful online course with a private, custom and booming internet community
  • Or a generic online course with a dead Facebook group?

The Benefits of Branded Online Communities

In this section, we’ll delve into the advantages of branded online communities and explore the benefits you definitely need to be aware of. 

Understanding these advantages can help you harness the full potential of online communities for your business.

  • Networking: Online communities are a great place to network with like-minded individuals, which can lead to numerous opportunities, such as partnerships, collaborations, and new business prospects.
  • Customer Service: Online communities give businesses an opportunity to connect with current and potential customers, answer questions, and resolve issues quickly.
  • Brand Awareness: Online communities allow businesses to promote their brand and products to a targeted audience, resulting in increased brand awareness.
  • Feedback: Online communities provide a space for customers to share feedback, opinions, and suggestions, allowing businesses to improve their products or services and share user-generated content.
  • Market Research: Online communities give businesses a chance to conduct market research through surveys, polls, and focus groups, providing valuable insights into customer needs and wants.
  • Cost-Effective: Online communities are low-cost compared to traditional advertising, making it easier for small businesses to put their brand on the map without breaking the bank.
  • Engagement: Online communities foster engagement, encouraging customers to communicate with each other and the business, resulting in increased loyalty and trust.
  • Data Collection: Online communities allow businesses to collect valuable data about their customers, such as demographics, buying habits, and interests, which can be used to tailor products and services to their target audience.

Online communities for businesses are a win-win situation. They allow businesses to establish a strong presence online while creating a space where customers can engage, connect with others, provide feedback, and receive support.

Online communities can be incredibly advantageous for businesses. These are the business specific benefits you’ll experience. 

Increased Customer Loyalty

One of the most significant advantages of having an online community is increased customer loyalty.

By being part of a community, customers feel a sense of belonging and become more emotionally invested in the brand.

They are more likely to keep coming back and more importantly recommending the brand to others!

Valuable Customer Insights

Online communities can be a treasure trove of customer insights.

By monitoring and analyzing user behavior, brands can gain in-depth knowledge of their customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points.

This information IS invaluable when developing new products, services, or marketing strategies.

Cost-Effective Marketing

Having a strong online community is also an effective marketing tool for brands.

Members of the community are more likely to share and recommend products or services to their peers, which can lead to increased brand awareness and sales.

Additionally, the cost of maintaining an online community is relatively low compared to traditional advertising and marketing efforts.

All you need is a solid online community platform.

Beyond Facebook and LinkedIn: How Online Community Platforms Stand Out

Unlike social platforms, which can be overwhelming and filled with irrelevant information and endless distractions, online community platforms provide targeted content that is of interest to its members.

They also tend to have a narrower focus, which means that the interactions within the community are more focused and way more productive. 

Online community platforms typically have a higher level of engagement and interaction than social platforms.

A thriving online community that is engaged

This is because users feel more invested in the community and its goals (they most likely had to pay to get it), and are therefore more likely to participate in discussions and activities.

Online community platforms have distinct advantages over social platforms when it comes to building and fostering engaged communities centered around shared interests and goals.

Choosing the Right Platform for Your Community

When deciding on a platform for your community, factors such as features and cost should be carefully weighed.

Consider the features it provides for user management and social media integration.

Look for platforms with robust user management capabilities, such as user roles and permissions, so you can easily manage who has access to what within your community.

Budget should balso e considered as different platforms offer various features depending on the amount you are willing to spend. 

Free plans may be limited in terms of storage space or user numbers, and paid plans usually come equipped with more advanced features such as analytics tools and higher ceiling of users.

But selecting the best online community platform is only part of the equation. To ensure a successful online presence, it’s important to consider various strategies for cultivating an engaged community.

Strategies for Building an Engaged Online Community

Creating content that speaks to your target audience is essential for establishing an online community, and this even more key to paid online courses tailored for a specific purpose.

Producing content such as videos and webinars that appeals to your target audience is essential for building an online community.

Additionally, it’s important to create a consistent tone across all channels so users know what kind of experience they can expect when interacting with you or consuming your content.

Partnering with influencers in the same industry can be a game-changer for quickly boosting your online community.

Influencers have already built up relationships within their circles, so they’re perfect for extending your reach to new audiences and giving credibility to your brand.

Just ensure that all aspects of the collaboration are discussed and agreed upon prior to commencing.

Utilizing automation tools to streamline processes can save time while ensuring consistency across all activities being carried out by team members involved in managing the online community day-to-day operations.

Examples include automating customer service responses via chatbots, creating a good support section that answers the most common questions, and hosting live Q&As.

Wrap Up

An online community is an invaluable asset for any business.

Building relationships with customers, fostering loyalty and gaining insights into customer behaviour are all possible through creating an online community.

By understanding the characteristics of great online communities, choosing the right platform and implementing effective strategies you can create an engaged community that will benefit your brand in many ways.

Investing time in building an active online community will bring numerous rewards – so why not get started today?

Take control of your financial future and join an online community to learn the secrets of successful affiliate marketing, SaaS, work from home, and home office opportunities. Discover how you can make money online today with a little help from experienced professionals!

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