Whether you decide to work with already established groups or create your own community, community-building at its core, is about relationship building.

And strong relationships require trust and time to flourish. It also requires marketers to relinquish control to their advocates, who won’t always agree with a brand’s ideas or point of view. 

So how does one start a community? 

Read: Orbit model of community building

Step 1 

Outline and understand your Brand identity. Communities need a center of gravity – which is usually a shared Mission + Values + Connections members build with each other.

Understanding how your brand’s mission, values, and unique positioning helps align with your target community members will help you set the base. Your brand personality and voice will also help you set the community vibe: is it a fun-driven place, is it professional and educational, etc. 

  • Your mission – why did you start the business?
  • Your values – what beliefs & values are important to your company & team?
  • Your unique positioning – what do you do better than the competition? What makes you special?
  • Your brand personality – if your brand was a person, what 3 words would describe that person?
  • Your brand voice – if your brand was a person, how would it communicate?

Step 2 

Outline your Community member persona. Think about what values and goals they are trying to achieve related to your brand or product.

Are they trying to learn a new skill? Are they struggling to achieve an outcome? These are opportunities you can center your community around.

  • Give your persona a name and a tagline (Bob, single father of 2)
  • Outline background such as job title, work experience, education, hobbies, and so on 
  • State their goals and needs – what do they aspire to, want, need, look for
  • State the problems and obstacles they may encounter trying to reach their goals and needs
  • State what platforms they use most 
  • State how they would google for solutions or your type of product

Step 3 

Look at your member persona(s) and your Brand identity. What type of community would provide value to the persona and enable you to engage as a brand? Is it: [Link to the community marketing basics post]

  • Community of product
  • Community of practice
  • Community of play

 

Step 4 

Choose your community online platform(s) – decide where to gather your customer community. It could be a dedicated Discord channel with sub-channels, it can be multiple platforms for different orbits. It is up to you to pick the best medium to enable members to exchange value. 

  • Marketers can create this space and moderate it to start conversations, communicate offers and gather feedback. 
  • It’s important to understand the balance of control that customers expect. If brand activity overshadows community relationships, customers may turn against the brand or abandon the group.
  • Depending on the product demographic, different platforms will be appropriate. For example, a community of teenagers or twenty-somethings would be drawn to a TikTok or Twitter-based community. A group of web programmers may be more willing to participate in a Reddit forum. 
  • You need to pick the right platform or several platforms (online and offline) to engage with your community.
  • Based on the chosen platform(s), you’ll be able to understand what type of content you will need to create.

Step 5 

What is the value of the community?

  • Based on the personas, their needs and challenges, chosen platform(s) and type of the community decide what exactly you want the members to gain from community interactions. 
  • Will this community be a place to get special offers, receive troubleshooting advice, share stories with other loyalists, or all of the above? 
  • This desire for mutual benefit should be one of the primary goals.

Step 6 

Create advocacy and ambassador programs

  • Advocates and ambassadors are anchors of a community, driving conversations, setting up events, and making newcomers feel welcome when they join. 
  • You need to understand how you will identify these ambassadors and engage them. 
  • You should also set clear expectations for ambassadors. For example, if your ambassadors get a free product from you every month, they are asked to make a post on social media featuring a product. 

Step 7 

Outline guidelines for your community engagement. 

  • Do you need to set up any rules or processes or tools?
  • How will you facilitate the engagement? 
  • Providing value to your audience by advertising in an informative way is a great way to educate your audience on what you offer without coming across as sleazy. When you answer FAQ’s for example or talk about changes in your industry – you’re keeping people engaged without forcing them to buy your product or service.
  • Today’s social media marketing teams often apply the 60/30/10 rule, whereby 60% of what they post is engaging content, 30% is shared from other sources and just 10% is promotion- or sales-driven. The same rule may be applied to community marketing.

You might try the following community engagement tactics

  • Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions with the industry leaders
  • Sharing useful resources
  • Water-cooler channel on Slack for people to build relationships
  • Contests
  • Giveaways
  • Sending merchandise with your company/product logo to long-time members
  • Interacting through Q&A activities on social media
  • Sharing great inspiring visuals and infographics
  • Rewarding top contributors with weekly or monthly prizes