Frequently Asked Questions: Building & Managing an Online Community

1. Now that I have an online community, what do I do with my social media accounts?

Remember that your community is a direct line to your members. By using your social pages to promote your community and convert followers on social media into community members, you’re able to ensure your membership will see future content posted within the community. This means you’ll have to pay once, maybe twice for a Facebook ad campaign or boost, instead of for every post. The social page becomes an acquisition tool for your community, rather than the main point of communication.

Once they’re in the door, you can turn your community into the hub for all of your content. When the community is your content hub, you can amplify the power of social media, while enjoying the benefits of maintaining the central content hub:

  • Content is created by your members, but you are in control of the discussion
  • Content is indexed and searchable in the future
  • Organization has rights to use content
  • Posts provide a path, and serve as a better awareness and acquisition tool
  • Organization is able to recognize contributors and provide more of a 360° user experience
If done right, this becomes a cycle. Members come into the community and create and consume content. You share that content on social media channels, enticing other members to join. These members consume and create… and so on and so forth.

2. How do I encourage seasoned members to participate in a new online community?

Introducing a new resource or platform doesn’t always go smoothly, whether it’s a new website design, a new online community, or a new coffee maker in the breakroom. What happens when you launch your new online community, but your members are reluctant to participate? Here are a few ways to get the conversation started: 
  • Ask a Question. People love to share their thoughts and opinions, so why not just ask?
  • Share a New Video. We’re not talking about an award-winning motion picture here. Just capture a quick video when you do things related to your organization’s mission and goals. Perhaps you recently went to a rally at your state capitol building, or maybe you traveled to a new destination and want to offer a tour of the airport for your travel group. Videos are a powerful piece of content for sharing and engaging with your members.
  • Welcome New Members. Take a few minutes every week to say hi to members who may have joined your community recently. Tell them you’d love to get their answers to your latest discussion question or suggest a group to join in your online community based on their profile information. Simply make sure you acknowledge them as a new member.
  • Blog about upcoming events. There may be members on your community that have seen your list of upcoming events but may be hesitant to attend. Blog about a great upcoming event and tell members why they should come, what they might learn, and who else will be there.
  • Hold a contest! Free ticket to your next event? A coffee mug? Bragging rights? Whatever! Hosting a contest- big or small- naturally brings out the competitive side of your community members and might be just the nudge they need to start engaging.
  • Let no question go unanswered. When a community member has taken the bold step of asking a question in your community – whether it’s their first or their 50th – make sure they aren’t greeted with silence. Chime in, provide an answer if you can. Even if the reply is “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out and get back to you,” make sure you acknowledge their participation.

3.  Can I leverage community content elsewhere?

As you work to build out the content in your community, you’ll soon realize that tons of valuable information and resources will come out of conversations with members, discussion boards, blog posts, etc. So how do you leverage that content elsewhere? Here are some ideas:

  • Share to Social. You don’t have to have a separate website outside of your community for content related to your mission and programs. If you’ve just posted a beautiful new infographic on your community – no matter the subject matter – share that infographic from your community to boost site visits.
  • Build from Member-Generated Content. You never know when a member question is going to spark lots of community response and feedback; sometimes certain topics have a way of speaking to members in a big way. If a member question has taken on a life of its own, grab on to the popularity of that topic and create new content specific to that topic. Tip: Act fast. Hot topics don’t stay hot for too long.
  • Repurpose Popular Content and Topics. Remember that blog you posted a year ago that had record readership? Why not freshen up that blog post and bring it up-to-date? Add one more tip. Record a podcast based on that topic. Ask a question relevant to the content of that blog post. Tip: You don’t have to reinvent the content wheel. Make use of your post popular archived content when you can.

4. Should my online community follow a "style guide"?

Yes. The answer is YES. A style guide for your community may look different than the set of branding guidelines you follow.  Your branding guidelines dictate accepted fonts, proper image use and very particular shades of allowable colors. What I am talking about is the text itself: The words. The set of standards for writing those words. If these standards aren’t in place, consistency and brand messaging could suffer. Your style guide serves a great purpose and should have specific goals as you set forth to create it.

  • Keep brand messaging, tone and voice consistent.
  • Focus on your audience.
  • Maintain brand quality and identity.
  • Create more effective content.
  • Save your team time and effort editing content.
  • Answer common industry style questions.
This blog post was written by Megan Lopez, Marketing Manager at Personify.

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