Online communities play a vital role in how your customers interact with the world.
They influence their decisions, conversations, purchases and even their internal monologue of who they are.
As a business owner, it’s important to not only understand this but use it to your advantage. Why?
Because growing an online community around your product or service can transform your business, and create legions of die-hard fans who want to share your message with the world.
And, the truth is…
Growing an online community isn’t as hard as you might think.
It just takes a little understanding of human psychology and some knowledge of factors that hold a community together.
And, seeing as we’ve just launched our new community management features here at Uscreen, we feel inspired to share all of that actionable information with you, so you can master the art of community growth and engagement!
In this article we will show you the key elements of how to build an online community, so you have the tools you need to start growing your video business.
What Is An Online Community (And Why Do You Need One)?
An online community is a group of people who share a common attitude, belief or interest and discuss this topic in a dedicated online forum.
In other words…
Online communities are “tribes” of people who care deeply about a particular topic and want a place to express their hopes and dreams and problems and solutions and ideas.
Members of the tribe are not bound by geography or language. Instead, they use the internet to connect with people from different cultures and locations all around the world.
A great place to see these communities is in the music world:
Lady Gaga has her “Little Monsters”. The Grateful Dead have their “Deadheads”, and there are the lesser-known “Jepsies” who pray at the church of Carly Rae Jepsen.
But, these types of online community transcend musicians and their nicknames. There are communities for every possible topic you can think of.
From business to photography and model trains to language learning, online platforms have made it easier for you to form tribes around what you do.
If you’re a video business owner, curating a tribe around your content can come with lots of benefits:
- Increased sales: especially through word-of-mouth marketing
- Increased retention: because your customers feel they belong
- Better engagement: customers want to leave comments and share
- Better content ideas: because you have more interactions with your customers
- Create more (and better) products: based on the real-time feedback you receive
In the rest of this article, we’re going to walk you through what attracts people to an online community, and how you can start to create your own.
What Attracts People To An Online Community?
Community is a primal human instinct. It’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself.
Throughout human evolution, it was a way to survive and ensure your safety. Communities had people who kept watch at night, hunted for food, cared for our babies and kept us alive. They all had the common goal of surviving and depended on each other to reach that goal.
As time has gone on, and we spend considerably less time in the desert with deadly predators, it’s become less about survival and more about belonging.
People want to join communities so they can:
- Connect: with other like-minded people
- Contribute: to help others and discuss pain points
- Confirm: their sense of self and who they are
Seth Godin describes this well in his book, This Is Marketing, through our internal monologue. Humans make many of their decisions based on the subconscious thought, “people like us do things like this”.
The “us” in that statement is the community we belong to. The other people we want to be like. The benchmark we use to define who we are.
Here are some examples from my life. People like me think…
- …Aeropress is the best coffee maker (so I follow them on Instagram)
- …The Smiths are incredible (so I have a picture in my office)
- …long-distance running is the best exercise (so I run half marathons)
- …speaking is the best way to learn a language (so I love Fluent In 3 Months)
Whenever I meet a like-minded person I feel an instant connection towards them. And, I’m also active in groups and communities and social media feeds where I can talk about all of these.
Other people, on the other hand, might think I’m stupid and wrong and disagree with everything I just said, which is a clear sign of the communities they belong to.
If you can define who the “us” is and is not in your community, by figuring out who the people like you are and what it is that they do, you form the foundation of a real online community.
The 4 Components Of An Unshakeable Online Community
Every online community is dependant on four key components.
When you can implement these, and constantly remind your community about them, your bond will grow to be unshakeable.
Here they are…
1. A Clearly Defined Topic (The Big “Why”)
The core component of any online community is a reason for existing. What is the belief, idea, goal or interest which brings all of you together?
The more refined and niche you can make this “why”, the better your community will perform.
Because niche communities are die-hard and more likely to commit to what you’ve created.
This can be scary to do because it feels like you’re closing yourself off from lots of potential customers. But, being non-specific is more dangerous to the health of your business.
Let me explain…
Take a look at the world of dieting. There are few people who wear the term “dieter” as a badge of honor.
Yet there are thousands of people who are fervent supports of their particular type of diet and all the rules and regulations that come with it:
- Weight Watchers
- Intermittent Fasting
They are all “dieters” in their way – they’ve adapted the food they eat to achieve a goal – but none of them consider themselves to be “dieters”. Instead, they prefer the title of their sub-niche.
Each of these sub-niches has a clear “why” for existing and a benefit to their community members’ lives: (People like me eat foods like this, because…)
If you’re not familiar with this concept, we highly recommend you check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk (and book) Start With Why:
2. A Clearly Defined Enemy
This last section looked at what you stand for; this section looks at what you stand against.
Your community needs to have a clearly defined “enemy” which you are trying to distance yourself from or defeat.
The Rebel Alliance fights the Empire. The Starks need to overcome the Lannisters. And, there’s the People’s Front Of Judea…
Your enemy doesn’t need to be a person or group of people. It can be an idea, a trend, a bad habit, a food, a problem or anything else.
Here are some examples which have popped up over the last few years:
- Minimalists are against owning more than you need
- Cord-cutters are against expensive cable subscriptions
- Paleo dieters are against processed food
- Barefoot runners are against the science of running shoes
You’ll often hear members of different communities gladly exclaim how they don’t understand how those people or products or ideas or ways of thinking exist.
To them, they’re just nonsensical. (For the other group, the inverse is also true.)
When you’re growing an online community, it is as important to define what you’re not, as it is to define who you are.
3. The Ability To Actively Contribute
If the first two stages are what creates the spark of a community. Contribution is the oxygen that keeps the flame burning.
Community members need to be able to actively interact with each other and feel that they either receive or offer value to the group at large.
For your online business, you will need a designated place where conversations can take place, such as:
- Video comments
- Blog comments
- Facebook groups
- Slack channels
- Private forums
- Message boards
It’s also important that these interactions are open and visible to other members of the community.
Forums should be a safe place where members can share their two-cents, offer help and advice, or grab their popcorn and enjoy a heated discussion from afar:
4. Positive Reinforcement
The last piece of the online community puzzle is positive reinforcement.
You, as the community leader, need to ensure you are active in discussions, responding to comments, asking questions and providing help and support.
This creates positive reinforcement which rewards their contribution to the group.
If you’re learning how to grow an online community around your personal brand, this is doubly important, because people will have joined the community because of your influence.
One of the biggest mistakes new community leaders make is forgetting to interact with the community they have created. They are so focused on growth they forget to nurture the people who are already taking part.
Don’t let that be you!
And that’s all!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide on how to build an online community.
The principles of community are simple and deeply ingrained in us as human beings. And, using them to your advantage, you can grow an online community around any business or idea you want.
If you’d like to learn more about online communities, I’d recommend you check out these two posts:
They will help you figure out the next steps from this article, and get you started on your journey to community growth!