The science of building community networks
As a Community Manager, you know that building a community network is no easy task. Especially today, in a world where so many people have migrated to digital platforms for communication, and have an abundance of options and distractions. But despite this, there are ways to create a community network, by tapping into what it is people most want today: genuine, and meaningful connections with like-minded people. Below, we unpack useful insights into the science of building community networks in a post-Covid world.
A possible scenario
Suppose you’d like to build a community network of young female entrepreneurs seeking mentorship, event opportunities, and making general professional connections. Very likely, these individuals have already begun to explore several communities and social media platforms like Facebook groups. The challenge for you as the Community Manager is not only to get members to join but to ensure that those who are joining contribute value to individual community members, as well as to the community as a whole. This is what sets you apart: this isn’t merely a general community, but a network that members can draw on. But how do you go about creating a community like this?
1. Define your best-fit members
Firstly, it’s important to consider who the members are, what they want from a community, what their end goals are, and how they would extract lasting value from the community. To do this, it’s important to set up a member persona. This will help steer the rest of your decision-making so that whatever you implement at the end of the day will completely align with your members and what they need, want, and expect. Additionally, it will ensure over time that they feel like they belong in the community.
Tips to build a best-in-class community: To ensure that only best-fit members join the community a screening process might be the best solution. Additionally, once members are in the community, it might be effective to allow them to invite colleagues and other people who could benefit and contribute to the community.
2. Create a suitable space
Next, you should create a suitable space for your members. In a post-Covid world, in-person interactions are largely limited, so it’s essential to choose a community platform that not only facilitates meaningful connections and conversations but makes the entire experience as personal and relatable as possible. From here, members may feel comfortable extending their connections to possible in-person interactions, but the foundation was created in a safe, intuitive, and accessible space. Choosing the correct community platform is a large responsibility, so it’s best for Community Managers to explore the very best options available to them.
Tips to build a best-in-class community: Look out for platforms that have high customizable profiles. In this way, members can filter through different profiles and connect with people based on shared experience, language, location, or other interests. A platform like Slack – as great as it may be for chat-based communication – doesn’t allow members the flexibility of searching through profiles or getting to know people before making contact. This is important to consider if you’re looking to create a valuable network, as opposed to the general community.
3. Ensure value and meaning
Once you’ve chosen the best community platform to facilitate the specific needs and goals of community members, it’s essential to ensure that you’re providing sustained value and meaning within the community. This will depend entirely on what it is you’ve identified through creating your member persona, but a good place to start is considering how to build and maintain engagement.
Tips to build a best-in-class community: Facilitate private discussion groups, where individuals with specific interests or goals can come together away from the main community to have conversations, set up events or meetings, or share other valuable content. Private discussion groups create more intimate gatherings, which is more like networking than, say, for example, members simply consuming content.
4. Prioritize growth and learning
A community network should never be stagnant or left neglected. As the Community Manager, it’s important to keep track of opportunities for growth and learning, especially for a network of professionals. Regular events, webinars, and content around learning and growing keep the space exciting and relevant and allow for all members to grow and evolve.
Tips to build a best-in-class community: Ensure that all correspondence comes from a human-centric approach. That is, instead of simply sharing content, add why it’s valuable, relatable and what can be learned from it. Similarly with events, add a little information about speakers, outcomes, or resources that will be available, and draw on testimonials from members. The idea here is to create a humanistic approach that shows members that real people are involved, which adds to the sense of the community being a network.
To discover more ways in which you can make the most of your community, and leverage it for successful outcomes, be sure to visit our blog page for more insights, tips, and a host of interviews from experts in the field.