Steps To Build Engaging Online Tech Communities
In the age of remote working where many tech professionals work solo from their homes, coffee shops, and co-working spaces, online communities provide avenues for interaction, open-source sharing, and networking for mutual growth. No matter the level of expertise anyone has attained in tech, belonging to an active community brings added advantages.
Beyond helping professionals to come together, online communities also avail organizations the opportunity to get closer to their users, and understand firsthand what they need and are looking for. This can help companies to focus on delivering the products and services that best represent what users require to achieve their personal and business growth.
If your business is considering building sustainable and engaging communities around your brand, here are five steps to help you get started on the journey.
1. Define the purpose
Set a clear purpose for your proposed community and define your primary, secondary and tertiary target audiences. Your goal might be to encourage the open sharing of content among members or set up a product support group where customers and users can post about their experiences with your products to get guidance from community admins or other members. You may also want to focus your community on networking and this means it will be more about facilitating the conversations that will generate interaction, engagement, and warm networking.
Once your goals are set, think about what matters most for the success of your community in terms of key performance indicators. Are you concerned about number growth, quality of conversations, collaboration or networking, or a combination of all these factors? Whatever you set as KPIs is what you will need to determine success.
2. Choose the right platform
Choose a platform that has all the tools and features you need for quality community engagements. There should be rooms or forums, a place to share resources, CRM and third-party app integration. You also need features for receiving product feedback and providing customer support. Other features you might also need on the platform include push notifications and email. Lastly, the platform should have UI/UX to make interaction seamless and interesting for participants.
3. Create real value and engagement
Creating a sustainable online community requires looking beyond what you stand to benefit as a business or organization. Don’t create communities for your own purpose alone. There have to be mutual benefits for things to work out. Create a quarterly or monthly content plan and make sure to include useful resources like blog articles, webinars, podcasts, training, etc.
You can also incentivize user-generated content to foster engagement. Reward members when their posts, comments, or questions generate the most positive reactions within a space of time.
Join the discussion groups, participate and provide answers to questions asked to keep things active. Members are happy to contribute when admins are active. When you get involved, you can ask direct questions that will help you get the information you need to improve your services.
4. Prepare for moderation
To keep things tidy in communities, there have to be community standards and codes of conduct. Assign roles to members such as moderators, and you can upgrade the status of members after accessing their contributions in the community for some time.
While anyone in the community can post topics, ask questions and make comments, only admins and moderators should be allowed to answer questions and moderate comments. You can also have a quick approval process before new posts appear on the platform.
There should also be gated access to your community platform. Everyone should be required to sign up and get their membership approved or disapproved based on a primary vetting. You need to ensure that they qualify to belong to the community so they can make meaningful interactions and contributions. That’s why defining your target audience from the beginning is important.
5. Promote your community
One of the things that make online communities successful is their growth and impact. Numbers matter so get the message out. Some of the platforms you can use to promote your community include:
- Social media: Use social media to promote your community, especially LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Start by sending a message or email to your LinkedIn contact, highlighting what your community is all about and how they can benefit, and invite them to join. You can also search for professionals with profiles that match your community requirements, connect with them, and invite them as well. Also, post regularly on other platforms so that people can discover your community naturally.
- Newsletter: Send out newsletters to your clients and product users describing what your new community is set out to do and how it can be beneficial to them when they join and participate.
You can also submit the name and link of your community to blogs and websites that talk about top communities in your tech space. Also, partner with other companies, evangelists, and top influencers to help promote your community.
Tech communities when nurtured can be a sustainable hub for idea generation, innovation, and inspiration. Organizations can take advantage of communities to connect with users, answer questions they have, and also generate ideas for better products and services.