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How to build an online community for your brand

How to build an online community for your brand

Building an online community for your brand can be a gamechanger when it comes to connecting with your customers, understanding their needs, and making great products. In this video, we’re going to talk about what an online community is and why you should build one, and how to start, grow, and maintain a thriving community. Let’s get into it.

Welcome to “First sale to full scale”, a 10-video series that covers the journey from making your first digital product to running a full-scale online business.

In the previous video, we talked about how to build a sales funnel for your online business. An online community is one of the tools that works in just about any stage of your sales funnel to help you get more customers and make more sales, especially if you build it the right way. But before we get into that, let’s talk briefly about what an online community is and why you should build one.

Online communities have existed for just about as long as the internet has been around. That’s because people love to connect around things they’re passionate about. In fact, 76% of internet users participated in an online community in 2019, according to the Global Web Index.

Today, you can find online communities in the form of Facebook groups, Reddit forums, and community platforms. Community even happens in the comments sections of posts and articles.

Building a community can enhance your online business in a number of ways, no matter how big or small your audience. A 2020 report by The Community Roundtable revealed that creators who build online communities for their brand benefit from more brand awareness, greater customer loyalty, and increased sales. Creators also get a front-row seat to conversations happening about their niche and products, which makes it easier to create digital products their customers will love.

So now you’re sold on the idea of building an online community, but how do you start, grow, and maintain it? Let’s dive into those questions.

How do you start an online community?

If you already have an audience, whether that’s in the form of existing customers, email subscribers, or social media followers, start there. People who are already familiar with you and have benefited in some way from your products or content are the best folks to start out with.

Not only are they the most likely to join, but they’re also more likely to spread the word about your community bringing new folks to your brand.

Whether you have an audience or not, you need to answer these really important questions: 1. Who is my community for?

2. What does my community do for them?

When marketing your community, you want to be clear about what kind of person should join and what they stand to gain by joining. Instead of vague promises like “You’ll become a better writer” or “You’ll get a bunch of YouTube subscribers”, try to offer something more specific and tangible like “Write the first draft of your first book” or “Get your first 100 YouTube subscribers”.

And, of course, in order to build a community, you need to find somewhere to host it. Many creators turn to free options like Facebook groups or online forums. Some pay for community platforms like Patreon or Mighty Networks. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s the right fit for your business and your audience.

If you sell digital products through Podia, using our Community feature to host your online community is a no-brainer. It just makes sense for your community to be built in the same place where you sell your products.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about our Community feature.

Now onto the next question.

How do you grow an online community?

Congratulations on starting your online community! Now it’s time to nurture it so it can grow. Use the following three tips:

  1. Make the rules.

    While this doesn’t sound like the most fun task, it’s vital in order to create an environment potential members will feel safe to join. Rules help people understand the appropriate ways to interact and engage. When a potential member sees that you’ve put thought into the rules, it communicates to them that you care about their experience, and it sets their mind at ease.

  2. Dial in your onboarding.

    When someone joins your membership, they’re often at their most enthusiastic. This is a great time to let them know the rules and routines, invite them to engage, and encourage them to share the community with others. There’s no right set of things to do with new members, but the most important thing is to have a purposeful plan for how you’ll introduce new members to your community experience.

  3. Encourage interaction.

    Even when members are enthusiastic, they sometimes need a little nudge to engage with one another. Help get conversations going by having an ice breaker session, suggesting topics, or scheduling routine interactions like a weekly check-in or Q&A session.

  4. Share behind-the-scenes content.

    Your online community is a great place to share early versions of products or projects. Community members feel special when they get a peek behind the curtain and are given an opportunity to share their ideas. It gives them a sense of ownership which makes it more likely that they’ll be excited to share your product, content, or project when it’s ready to go live.

When it comes to growing your online community, it’s not much different from growing a flower garden. Give it good soil, a safe place to grow free of pests, and make sure it gets plenty of water and sunlight, or interaction and content.

Now onto our last question.

How do you maintain an online community?

Running an online community can be exciting but also daunting. How do you keep people coming back? How do you keep people from getting bored and leaving? Check out these three tips for keeping your growing community humming along:

  1. Get a moderator.

    An online community thrives when there’s regular interaction from the people running it. But you can’t be online 24/7 keeping things interesting. That’s where a moderator or moderators come in. Moderators ensure that people are interacting within the community guidelines in your absence, but more importantly, they can encourage engagement and answer questions. Choosing moderators you trust and empowering them to act on your behalf takes some up-front work, but it’s well worth the benefit of a thriving community.

  2. Be responsive.

    When community members ask questions, share concerns, or start conversations, try to engage as often as possible. This shows that you’re listening to them and encourages members to be more active. You can make it a bit easier on yourself by providing some basic instructions for people who want to engage in a specific way, like providing a topic board just for questions, or just for product feedback.

  3. Keep office hours.

    If you can be available in the community with some regular consistency, let your members know when you’ll be around. And when you won’t be around. This helps set expectations for when you’re likely to engage and keeps you from feeling like you have to pop in to your community all the time.

As you start your online community, I hope the answers we’ve provided will help you build an online community that will thrive and become a huge asset for your online business.

In the next video, we’ll get into affiliate marketing and talk about how to turn your biggest fans into your best ambassadors. In the meantime, if you have any questions about building or running an online community, leave us a comment below! We’d love to hear from you.

If you found this video helpful and you want more content like this, click the subscribe button and hit the notification bell so you’ll be sure not to miss any future videos. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time.

LINKS/RESOURCES: Podia's Community feature:

Global Web Index | The Rise of Online Communities —

The Community Roundtable 2020 Report —

About the author

Ben is a video content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive.