Membership & Community Building

How to Build an Online Community in 2024

11 min

Online communities have become essential for course creators, e-commerce store owners, and businesses, seeking to establish meaningful connections with their audience and drive success. These virtual spaces serve as hubs for collaboration, support, and engagement, allowing entrepreneurs to interact directly with their customers, share valuable content, cultivate a loyal following, and boost revenue.

In this article, we explore the essential steps for building and nurturing an online community providing an easy 7-step process. From identifying your target audience to implementing effective engagement strategies, here you will find what you need, and a lot more.

The practical insights and actionable tips shared in this resource will help you create a thriving online community that amplifies your impact and accelerates your growth in the rising creator economy. So, let’s get started!

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What is an Online Community?

An online community is a virtual space where like-minded people gather to connect, share information, and engage in discussions around a common interest or goal.

For course creators, online communities serve as invaluable platforms for building relationships with their audience, fostering a sense of belonging, and driving engagement on top of ideas and knowledge sharing.

These communities can take various forms, including community forums (private or public), social media groups (e.g. LinkedIn or Facebook group), membership sites, professional networks, virtual events or webinars, podcasts, and online courses with community components.

Why Build an Online Community?

The benefits of building a community are plenty and their increasing popularity proves a lot in terms of their use, especially by modern entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the most important ones:

On top of these, research data shows that online communities already have a positive impact on businesses. According to the 2023 Community Industry report, about 80% of responders confirm it, and half of them consider communities to be very up to extremely successful at achieving business goals, surpassing 43% of last year’s findings.

Different Types of Online Communities

There are many types of online communities and they are worth looking into if you want to understand their key purposes, goals, and characteristics better.

The most common types of online communities include:

Before deciding what you want your community to be, explore existing successful online communities featuring different types of communities to help you choose which you prefer and which suits your goals best.

One of the most popular types of communities from the list above is brand communities.

What are brand communities?

Brand communities are specialized communities formed around a specific brand, product, or service. These communities bring together customers, fans, and enthusiasts who share a common interest in the brand or its offerings.

The primary purpose of brand communities is to foster engagement, loyalty, and advocacy among members while strengthening the connection between the brand and its customers.

Here are some of its key characteristics:

A brand community could be anything from a website, an email newsletter to a blog with a comment section, a Slack community, or a customer support forum and be hosted on a social network.

Either way, it can work as part of your content marketing strategy to attract and engage potential customers, while helping you build an authoritative source of information in your niche.

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Building an Online Community from Scratch: 7 Steps

Now that we’ve cleared up what online communities are and what they can do for you, it’s time to go through the entire process of building one step by step.

Step 1: Identify Your Purpose, Niche & Target Audience

Before diving into building an online community, it’s crucial to define your purpose, niche, and target audience. Ask yourself why you are creating the community in the first place, and who it’s intended for – who will be its members.

Conduct thorough audience research to grasp your audience’s demographics, interests, and pain points. It might help to analyze your existing data, conduct surveys, and engage with your audience to gather insights. If you have a business or plan to start one, also consider your ideal customers and their needs.

Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, choose a specific niche or topic that resonates with them and aligns with your expertise or passion. Narrowing down your niche will help attract a more engaged community and guide your content and activities within the community.

Step 2: Choose the Right Community Platform

There are numerous online community platforms available in the market, each with its own set of features, strengths, and limitations. To choose which one you need, think about which is the best for your individual case and aligns with your community goals.

For example, are you hoping to build a community using a free community platform or an owned community platform?

The latter often comes with greater and more advanced community-building and management features as well, including in-depth analytics, SSO, custom design, and more ready-made templates to work on, helping you build a greater experience for your community members.

💁🏼 Need help with choosing a platform? Check their pros and cons in our ultimate guide on the Best 17 Community Platforms for 2024.

When searching for a community platform, make sure to look for the following features and capabilities:

While evaluating your options, it’s easy to overlook the importance of customer support. At LearnWorlds, we understand that reliable support is essential for your success.

In addition to our community-rich features that help you build an online learning community, we take pride in our exceptional support team. Our dedicated team is always ready to provide prompt assistance whenever you need it.

Your success is our priority, and we’re committed to ensuring you have the support you need every step of the way. Try LearnWorlds today!

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Step 3: Set Up Your Community

Building an online community requires careful planning and execution. So, before you are ready to launch your online community, create your community guidelines, goals, and objectives, and think about those components that make up your brand.

Create a compelling brand identity and community guidelines

Establishing a strong brand identity and clear community guidelines is essential to set the tone and expectations within your community. Define your community’s mission, values, and rules of conduct to create a safe and welcoming environment for all members.

💁🏼 Need help with branding? Read our Personal Branding Guide: How to Build Your Brand Strategy

Establish clear objectives and goals for your community

Before launching your community, articulate clear objectives and goals that align with your overall business or content strategy. Whether it’s fostering engagement, providing support, or driving sales, having specific goals will guide your community-building efforts and measure success.

Configure the technical aspects of your community platform

Once you’ve chosen a platform, first, you will need to take care of the technical aspects of setting up your community. Depending on the capabilities of your chosen platform, these may include:

If you are building a branded community, you will need to prioritize branding and customization. Also, ensuring that navigating the community is seamless for your members, will help you eliminate any potential obstacles in their journey.

Step 4: Engage and Grow Your Community

Every beginning is difficult, but you have to start from somewhere, and the same applies when launching a new community. Once you finish with the setup, you are ready to start welcoming and onboarding your members.

It might take a while until you see a large number of members joining in after your first launch, however, there are a few strategies you can implement to foster engagement and interaction among your members.

These are a few methods you can try to get things rolling:

As your community grows, it will be your responsibility to regularly check the shared content and resources, to ensure that it offers the value your members expect to get out of it.

💁Check out our article about Effective Community Management: Best Practices for Success

To ensure quality and consistency, here are a few content ideas you can share:

Educational Content: Provide valuable resources, tutorials, guides, e-books, or online courses to help members achieve their goals and solve their problems.

Exclusive Content: Offer exclusive content or behind-the-scenes access. Showcase new products, to empower, reward, and incentivize community members.

Curated Content: Curate relevant articles, videos, or other content from external sources to keep your community informed and engaged.

Apart from sharing valuable content, it’s essential to show your appreciation to your members and incentivize participation along the way. You can do this by recognizing and rewarding active members with badges, shoutouts, or exclusive perks.

You can also incorporate gamification elements, such as badges, challenges, contests, or leaderboards, to make engagement more fun and rewarding.

Additionally, make sure you gather feedback from members regularly and incorporate their suggestions and ideas to make them feel heard and valued.

Finally, as a way of promoting your community, you can try cross-promotion – talk about it on social media platforms, and mention it inside your email newsletter and website, to attract new members. You can also partner with influencers, brands, or other communities to reach a wider audience and increase visibility for your community.

Step 5: Manage and Moderate Your Community

At this point, it might be a good time to appoint some community roles to your team – if of course, you are not doing this solo.

A moderation strategy is vital here because it can help you maintain a positive and inclusive community environment. This should take into account your community guidelines which can help to set expectations for behavior and content standards.

To ensure there are no violations of community guidelines or inappropriate behavior, you will need a moderator who will monitor community discussions effectively. Trusted members of your community can act as moderators or community leaders if you wish to grant them that title, helping you enforce these rules and maintain order.

Deal with conflicts and manage difficult members

Either your community manager or moderator, can step in to deal with conflicts should they appear inside the community. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for these, and have the necessary tools in place.

Here are a few methods that can make this process easier:

Conflicts are inevitable, and at some point, they will arise. What’s important when that happens is to have an objective stance and hear out both sides of the disagreement, helping people involved in the process reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Don’t rush to delete any comments as this can work against you, resulting in members losing their trust in you.

Scale your community management efforts as your community grows

As your community expands, it might become necessary to increase the resources and strategies dedicated to managing and supporting its members effectively.

This may involve hiring additional staff, implementing new tools or processes, and developing scalable solutions to address the evolving needs and challenges of a growing community. Here are a few ideas:

By scaling your community management efforts, you can ensure continued engagement, satisfaction, and success as your community expands in size and complexity.

Step 6: Measure Success and Make Adjustments

Along the way, you will need to evaluate the success of your community by looking into specific key performance indicators (KPIs). To understand how well it is performing you will need to look into engagement, retention, and conversion metrics:

If you have a paid community, it might be worth looking into your member lifetime value and churn rate as well. This will allow you to calculate and predict your earnings as well as understand how much revenue you are generating from each member.

Through the analytics of your chosen platform, you can get accurate data on these metrics. Decide what’s most important for your business goals, and make the necessary adjustments in your strategy.

Gather feedback from members and improve your community

To fully assess your community’s effectiveness, don’t forget to ask your community members for feedback. This approach can help you tailor your community initiatives for better engagement and satisfaction.

Conduct regular surveys to gauge member satisfaction and suggestions, and analyze engagement metrics for trends while looking for optimization opportunities. If you want to get deeper insights into your members’ needs and preferences, you can also seek qualitative feedback through interviews or focus groups.

Step 7: Monetize Your Community

As your online community flourishes, it’s essential to explore monetization strategies that not only generate revenue but also enhance member engagement and satisfaction.

Here are some effective strategies to consider:

If you choose to strategically monetize your community, you will open up to new opportunities for growth. You will provide additional value to your members, and create a sustainable business model for your community initiatives on top of everything else you are doing already.

Ready to Build Your Online Community?

Building an online community is a powerful strategy as it helps you connect with your audience, foster engagement, and drive business growth. By understanding the importance of community, understanding your audience, and choosing the right platform, you can create a valuable ecosystem that benefits community members.

As online communities continue to evolve and gain more relevance, there are abundant opportunities to leverage these virtual spaces to build loyal audiences, generate revenue, and make a positive impact in your industry.

If you implement the strategies outlined in this guide, stay focused on delivering value and fostering genuine connections, as a course creator you too can effectively leverage the potential of online communities and thrive in the digital landscape.

Ready to get started? Get your free 30-day trial with LearnWorlds today!

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Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Kyriaki is a Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team writing about marketing and e-learning, helping course creators on their journey to create, market, and sell their online courses. Equipped with a degree in Career Guidance, she has a strong background in education management and career success. In her free time, she gets crafty and musical.