How to grow an online community: 10 tips

Khoros Staff

Building an online community marks a significant milestone, yet it’s only the beginning. Beyond the initial setup, the real challenge lies in maintaining active engagement while drawing in fresh faces to achieve sustained community growth. Whether you’re just now starting an online community or already have one ready to expand, we’re here to provide 10 actionable tips on how to grow an online community.

1. Set community goals

One of the initial steps in growing a community is gaining clarity on its purpose and defining specific goals for its growth. Establishing clear goals helps avoid wasted time and resources in the future and ensures all efforts are directed toward achieving these objectives.

To begin, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you trying to grow an online community?

  • What are the outcomes you hope to achieve from your online community?

  • What purpose does the community serve for members?

Once your goals are outlined, identify several community key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with these objectives. These KPIs may include metrics such as active members rate or new member acquisition. Tracking the appropriate metrics allows you to measure the progress of your goals as you cultivate and expand your community.

Additionally, it's beneficial to periodically remind your community members of the underlying purpose behind their presence, especially if growth starts to plateau. This could be a shared passion that brought everyone together or a collective objective they're striving to achieve. Such reminders can reignite enthusiasm and foster continued engagement within the community.

2. Conduct a community assessment

If you have already built an online community, a crucial initial step is to assess its performance. You can do this by conducting a community assessment — look at engagement metrics such as active members, post frequency, comments, and likes to understand the current state of your community. This can help you determine what’s practical, the areas needing improvement, and your members' interests in expanding it.

In addition, seeking direct feedback from your members is invaluable. Utilize polls or surveys to gather input on what aspects work well and where changes are needed.

This is also a good time to deepen your understanding of your target audience. If you understand who your community is, you’ll better understand how to reach new members. It will also help with marketing efforts, as you’ll know their needs and interests. You’ll have a strong foundation for effective community growth strategies from here.

3. Create a community engagement strategy

Growing an online community goes beyond acquiring new members; it’s also about increasing your engagement levels to ensure the community thrives. The ultimate goal is to cultivate an environment where members actively contribute content, share knowledge, solve problems collaboratively, and initiate discussions independently with minimal moderation.

Without active members participating, community activity levels will dwindle deterring potential new members from joining. That’s why it’s important to create a community engagement strategy — a step-by-step plan on how to entice members to keep coming back for more.

Some ideas include:

  • Weekly challenges

  • Polls, surveys, quizzes

  • Giveaways or special offers exclusive to the community

  • Reward programs to incentivize participation

Experiment with different strategies to gauge which resonates most with your community members to increase engagement.

4. Utilize a community manager

Behind every successful community stands a dedicated community manager. They play a vital role in monitoring the community, responding to member questions and posts, and curating engaging content such as surveys, polls, or feedback requests for your brand.

While a community manager can significantly contribute to the growth of your online community, they can truly make or break the community’s culture. Therefore, selecting a community manager requires careful consideration. Look for candidates who have a passion for your brand, niche, and community goals but also possess excellent communication skills, a genuine desire to help others, and experience in tracking and reporting community performance, among other essential qualities.

5. Welcome new members

Retaining new members is equally as important as gaining them. Members seek a sense of belonging whether they join the community over a shared interest or for swift customer service. That’s why it’s important to have an effective onboarding process to welcome new members and familiarize them with the community’s dynamics.

The onboarding phase is a critical aspect of the customer journey. Consider incorporating some of the following elements into your onboarding process:

  • Personalized welcome videos

  • Welcome posts introducing them to the group

  • Sharing community guidelines and helpful resources

  • Providing a tutorial on how to use the community

6. Analyze the competition

Studying your competitors is an effective method of getting inspiration. When it comes to growing an online community, examining other successful community growth strategies within your niche is crucial since you’re likely targeting similar target audiences.

For instance, communities in the Hi-tech industry reveal a common theme: platforms where customers can find answers, troubleshoot problems, and discuss emerging trends. These self-service online communities are particularly effective in reducing support staff and increasing customer satisfaction in this niche.

Zoom online community thread showing a customer asking a question about an issue

Cisco online community hub with search functionality

Simply start by researching your competitor's online communities and identify their unique approaches. This process can provide insights into setting your community up for long-term growth, such as features to include and topics to cover.

7. Be authentic

Authenticity is a key driver of community growth. It builds trust, encourages participation, and strengthens connections among members. This also creates a welcoming environment where individuals feel more comfortable sharing thoughts, asking questions, and engaging in discussions.

When community leaders authentically represent the brand, engagement levels increase, — an important factor in community expansion. This attracts new members and resonates with those seeking transparent and genuine connections.

8. Identify top contributors and reward them

It's crucial to ensure that every community member feels valued, but those who consistently contribute and engage should be recognized and rewarded. This could involve inviting them to become community moderators, acknowledging their efforts as early responders to questions, or giving badges to highlight their involvement in the community like Samsung does with their leaderboard.

Samsung Community Leaderboard

By recognizing these natural brand ambassadors, you encourage them to maintain their presence in the community, boosting engagement and drawing in new members. Additionally, when other members witness this appreciation from your brand, they are motivated to emulate top contributors, further enhancing the community's vibrancy and impact.

9. Cultivate engaging content

To ensure current and new members stay engaged and stick around, it’s important to create high-quality content in a variety of formats that are exclusive to the community. Content can range from resources, webinars, live Q&As, industry news, and hosting community events.

Additionally, actively hosting and promoting community user-generated content (UGC) allows brands to capture and amplify the most valuable discussions, driving higher member engagement. Communities that successfully harness UGC often experience heightened member interaction and an uptick in average customer spending. Because real people craft UGC, it helps establish a trust factor that fosters sharing and ultimately fuels community growth.

Content like this demonstrates that being a part of your community can provide members with real value they can’t find elsewhere. If you’re unsure where to start with content, start by crafting customer surveys and analyzing insights from your social channels or other market research to identify relevant and valuable topics for members.

Finally, establish a content calendar for consistency to maintain a steady flow of valuable content. Record which types of content will be shared with the community and how managers will engage with members. A content calendar is a vital component of successful content and engagement strategies, as it helps busy teams maintain a regular posting schedule, keeping the content fresh and relevant to the target audience.

Brand confidence guide

10. Use the right community management software

With various online community platforms available, it’s important to use one with features that are aligned with your growth objectives. Branded platforms (hosted on your brand’s platform and your own URL) provide the necessary tools to grow an online community while offering complete control over the platform. Here are essential features every community management software should include:

  • Discussion forums: A primary component of any online community.

  • Knowledge base: A centralized repository of information and resources for members.

  • Community moderation: Tools to navigate and flag inappropriate content.

  • Gamification: Incorporating game-like elements to enhance engagement.

  • Member management: Tools to help member memberships.

  • Analytics and reporting: Ability to track and share progress metrics.

  • Integrations: For seamless connectivity with other tools and platforms.

Choosing scalable software with robust features and integrations is vital to effectively support and grow your online community. Khoros Communities is a community management software for brands that makes it easy to build and grow an online community, offering all these features and more.

To discover how Khoros Communities can help you build or expand an online community, take a tour of our platform or schedule a demo today.

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