Five Reasons to Start an Online Community

To Inspire FollrCreating an online community – especially one on! – can be so rewarding. One of the first steps is to get in the mindset of  your target audience and define what it is you want he or she to gain from your community. Do you have special or unique knowledge a member could benefit from? Could you provide a new connection or idea for their business? In order to have an active and thriving group of members – or customers! – on your site, stay true to one of the reasons below.

  1. To Entertain

How many people spend a portion of their day reading blogs or visiting other social networks? I’ll tell you: everybody and their mother. People have long used the internet to relax, zone-out or just take a short break from work so use this fact to your advantage and create a community around perking up people’s down time! Pick a favorite TV series, movie franchise or book as the launch pad for your community.

  1. To Boost Business

Giving your small business a leg-up online is one of, if not THE, most popular reasons for starting an online community. Whether you choose LinkedIn, Facebook or a custom community platform like Follr, building an online presence for your business is a crucial – if not imperative – key to success.

  1. To Connect

One HUGE reason potential members join online communities is affirmation and praise. Completing the registration process and clicking “Join” means they want to be heard, appreciated and noticed for their accomplishments and accolades. Online communities for scholars, writers or more specific groups of achievers are great reasons to start or join and online community. Remember to engage with members directly and often!

  1. To Inspire

Another hot online community focus is self- help and improvement. In this current news era, happiness and mental health are more prominent that ever. Everyone wants to do what they can to better themselves. Offering a quick, easy and welcoming online group with which to do so is bound to have members flocking.

  1. To Fix a Problem

If I had a dollar for every time I looked online for a solution to a problem or a quick fix, I could probably retire! The Internet is so accessible that most people reach for the keyboard before the user manual. Establish an online community as an expert of something you love or create a question and answer forum for specific issues/needs – cooking tips, smart phone fixes, travel and vacation ideas, etc.

Do you have any online community ideas like the ones above? Tell me about them in the comments section below and you could be featured on Links We Love!

Companies With The Most Successful Online Communities Have These 4 Things in Common

4 Things in Common FollrCreating a thriving online community of customers is no easy feat, yet companies succeed at doing it every day. Sure they probably have teams of social media experts and customer care professionals, but at the heart of it, it really comes down to having these four things on lock. Read on to see if you’re putting any of best practices to use… and if you’re not… well you know what to do.


  1. All innovation and R&D is done IN CONJUNCTION WITH customers. These companies no better than to make changes without soliciting loyal customers’ advice.
  2. Every single employee has been trained to put the customer first. No matter which department you work in or what your job description entails, you know that customer service is paramount and feel compelled to act accordingly. Zappos, anyone?
  3. Employees are encouraged to interact candidly with customers online. None of that stiff business language allowed – these employees are expected to be real, open and honest with customers over social media. Simply put, transparency is key.
  4. There are protocols in place for negative feedback. Each and every employee tasked with handling online activities knows exactly what to do should a customer get frustrated. Situations can be mitigated easier and faster because there are practiced steps in place.

Do you practice any of these online community engagement principles with your business? Let me know in the comments below!

Online Community Health Check: Start Here by Vanessa DiMauro, Leader Networks

Contributor: Vanessa DiMauro (Leader Networks)

Online Community Health FollrOur lives are filled with checkups. We get checkups for ourselves, our kids, our aging parents. Even our businesses have checkups to make sure all those important systems are working properly. We find personal coaches, attend parent-teacher conferences, go to the doctor with Mom or Dad. In business, we have board meetings, conferences with attorneys and accountants, seek advice from coaches and, yes, consultants.

Every dynamic system requires a checkup because, well, change is inevitable. We would rather things improve than let entropy have its disorderly way with us or our activities. This is especially true for delicate, difficult or nuanced activities such as building online communities for business. These online social organisms are, after all, made up of lots and lots of people. Change is built in. To keep one of these entities growing and thriving takes present attention, past insights and good deal of foresight to manage the present, learn from the past and keep an eye on and plan for the future.

The word is out that online communities yield substantial business results for those organizations that do them well.  Numerous recent studies document the strong top line results when social business initiatives succeed.  However, while some are thriving, many social business initiatives are failing. Worse yet, some of their owners and sponsors don’t have a clear idea if they are failing, how they are failing, or why.How could this be? Online communities are tough to launch, and even tougher to sustain.

The finest social business leadership team or community manager can benefit from a little outside guidance, fresh ideas, new perspectives and best practices to keep the social business machinery humming. The good news is that successful communities can perform even better, and laggards can make significant improvements, when the right strategic, tactical, operational, technical and organizational changes are implemented.

That’s the key: identifying and implementing the right changes to keep your community on track. What kind of activities, practices and behaviors should be assessed to ensure it is healthy and operating efficiently to generate the greatest returns?  There are well over 120 checkpoints to assess an online community’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for growth and greater success.

These include factors such as:

  • Strategic viability – Are operational practices in alignment with business strategy and goals?
  • Business plan integrity – Does the business model match up with community strategy and operations?
  • Operational performance — Is the member on-boarding process efficient? Is the community growing at the right rate? Are outreach efforts fruitful? Are success metrics on track? Are they the right metrics?
  • Technical framework – Does the community face technical limitations that inhibit use? Does the chosen technology platform support the business model? Are the community technologies moving towards greater integration with core business processes? If not, what are the implications of this divergence?
  • Organizational practices – Does the organization have the right skills available to support online community and social business? Do the social business initiatives have sufficient visibility and executive support within the organization? If not, what should you do?

That’s always the real question: what should you do? So … to help every online community become a winner, we at Leader Networks offer our Online Community Health Check. Here is a brief overview of the service and  more detail about the process.  This in-depth research-based assessment tool evaluates your online community’s capabilities and opportunities. Based on our years (decades, really!) of experience, we understand how best to create online environments that combine your network and business needs with the needs of those all-important people – your community stakeholders. Social business success is built on a deep understanding of what it takes to connect and engage the right people around topics that matter to them.  Our health check process identifies critical online community success factors we’ve developed and proven through scores of engagements across various industries over 15+ years. We also enhance our practical expertise with an ongoing research agenda which uncovers and applies new understanding for best practices to your online community. If you would like to find out how your community is doing – is it already a winner or would some tweaking and coaching help it succeed? —  we would be delighted to discuss how we can help your social business initiative succeed and thrive. Start here.

 [This work was originally published on Vanessa’s blog, Leader Networks and is reposted here with her permission.]

Don’t Make these Community Management Mistakes: Part 2

Online Community Mistakes FollrAs promised, more community management mistakes you don’t want to make, and how to effectively navigate out of them. Stay tuned for the third and final installment this Friday and check out Part 1 here.

  1. You’re Boring.

Sorry to be blunt but… no one wants to be a part of a community when all they hear is crickets. Spice things up by regularly posting diverse content and offering at east one unique engagement opportunity per week.  Check out some great ideas for that here. Also try to stay away from stuffy, corporate language and “buzzwords.”

  1. You’re Going it Alone.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can build a community single-handedly. Make sure you’re still regularly following and engaging in conversations on other communities and maintaining existing relationships. Pre-established connections are your best friend when it comes to community building. Reach out to already established bloggers and community managers and ask for constructive advice.

  1. You Sell too Much

There’s a difference – albeit it a fine line – between promotion and spamming. Make sure you’re on the right side of that line. If you’re overly promotional on other communities, blogs, or via your social media channels, you’ll turn people off before they even get a chance to take a look at your community. Make sure you don’t kill a potential member opportunity by coming off too strong.

7 Great Tips for Promoting Your Online Community

Promoting Online Community Follr Blog 7Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge and decided to start an online community. Hopefully your next step is to focus on growth and retention. To do that, you need to get your community out there by promoting. Read on for seven easy ways to do just that!

1. Create a Short Video Create a short video in which you introduce yourself and the community and elaborate on why you started this journey. It doesn’t need to be particularly long or fancy – 2-3 minutes will do. Simply visualizing you, the face of the community, will entice potential new members to join and give a much-appreciated sense of transparency. Embed it in the welcome text of your community and your email invitations (See #2).

2. Invite Your Target Audience If you’ve decided to create a community, hopefully you already have an idea of who your members will be and have a target audience in mind. Once you have email lists, send a thoughtful, well-constructed invitation with a link to join and brief overview of your community’s focus and features. Up and coming community platform, Follr’s power email capability makes this so easy.

3. Make your Business Card & Email Signature do Double Duty This may seem like a no-brainer, but not nearly enough community managers do this: add your community link to your business card and email signature. This is a great way to make all types of people aware of your community and a great conversation starter when you exchange business cards at networking events. If you ask me, business cards and resumes are slowly but surely becoming obsolete thanks to platforms like Follr and LinkedIn so take advantage of email and add your link there too.

4. Get Involved in Similar Communities Visit blogs, groups and forums where your target audience is likely to be hanging around. Introduce yourself and join the conversation. Once you’re established in the community, casually invite members to take a look at a piece of content or a post on your community to entice them in.

5. Take Advantage of Existing Followers Take advantage of any traction you have on other social media platforms and blast out your link there. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and don’t forget your Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well. P.S. Use that hashtag!

6. Use a Hashtag This seems simple but come up with one short hashtag for your community and use it religiously. Photos, updates, content, you name it – it should all be searchable by your community hashtag. Check out more great things to do with hashtags here.

7. Send Newsletters Weekly or bimonthly send out a short newsletter via email to your members. Let them know what’s going on in the community, highlight new members and give the community a heads up on upcoming events or promotions.