In today’s internet age, it’s never been easier to find communities of people who share similar interests, skills, passions and more. From chess players discussing strategy, musicians sharing tips, to foreign movie fan bases, if you’re into it, chances are there’s a community for it. Brands also have a great use for building an online community, as it allows them to talk directly with their customers in an environment much more controlled than social media platforms like Facebook.

In this blog post, I’ll be explaining the benefits of building an online community for your business, best practices for building one, along with the best tools to be equipped with for an effective community building experience.

Why Should You Consider Building an Online Community?

When done right, online communities can be a very valuable asset to a business. With a dedicated online community, you’ll be able to provide streamlined customer service, help users connect and interact with each other, research your customers wants/needs, and get instant access to a group of your most engaged customers.

When a brand builds a community around its product or service, it becomes another layer of value for the company. An accessible group of your engaged customers can be an extremely valuable tool for market research, product segmentation, product testing and much more. Additionally, if you can maintain engagement as your community grows, it becomes increasingly valuable and a great resource for marketers and customers alike.

Align with Your Goals

Having a dedicated community for your brand can be an excellent tool and resource, however, it should not be taken lightly. Managing large scale communities especially can be quite the undertaking, so it’s important to identify your goals before you hit the ground running.

There are various major business goals that can be directly aligned with starting and scaling a community for your brand:

  • Streamlined Customer Service: having a dedicated space for streamlined customer service can double the efficiency of your process and leave both employees and customers happy.
  • Recurring Customers: People are much more likely to buy from you again if you can deliver value and engage with them on a consistent basis, outside of directly selling them products. Even as a marketer, it’s important to remember to be human with your customers, it goes a long way.
  • Research: As communities are typically dedicated for those most passionate about a topic, it’s no surprise that customers in your communities will be among the most engaged, making it a fantastic environment for product research, Q&A’s and more.
  • Boost Marketing Efforts: When planning an event, webinar, or a piece of content, it can be valuable to simply drop in your community for a marketing boost.
How Building an Online #Community Can Accelerate Your #Marketing Efforts via @lilachbullockClick To Tweet

Tips for Building a Better Online Community

Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge into starting an online community for your brand, here is a list of tips that will help you get the most out of your community marketing efforts.

  • Have an existing group of passionate customers: Unsurprisingly, communities are built on And in the case of a community representing your brand, the people will most likely be existing customers with a deep interest in your product. If your customers aren’t genuinely interested in your products, then starting an online community built around them might be a waste of energy at that point in time.
  • Encourage Open Discussion: While moderation is indeed important to keep a safe, vibrant community, it’s essential to let your customers have generally free reign in the conversations and discussions in your community.
  • Provide A Rich Experience: When building a community, it’s important to keep in mind why your customers would continue to come back and engage. Whether this is in the form of exclusive content + freebies, informative Q&A events with founders or executives, contests, or more are up to you. Generally, customers will be upfront with what they want or need, and it’s ultimately up to you to listen and act upon that.
  • Don’t Hyperfocus on Measurement & ROI: While it can generally be instinct as marketers to focus on only the brand activities that are generating the most revenue or traction when dealing with an online community, it can sometimes be best to take a more hands-off approach.

Jumpstart Your Community Building With Convolio

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Now that we’ve discussed why an online community can be a valuable asset for your brand, and the best practices for doing so, it’s time to jump into the most effective way for actually going about it.

When researching options for community building tools, you’ll be hard pressed to find an affordable solution with all the necessary features needed for your business.

Convolio provides you with an instant online community for your group, fans, customers, influencers, or project. Extremely easy to configure and customize to suit your brand, it provides you with all of the tools you need to manage your community. Convolio has been trusted with its innovative community building platforms for over 20 years, kickstarting many vibrant communities for brands such as Bose, Monster, & many more. So, if Bose and Monster loved it, I had to try it as well.

In this section, I’ll be digging into the main features that Convolio offers, and how to get started creating your own brand community in minutes, instead of hours.

Designing your forum

Convolio offers a great amount of control over the “look and feel” of your community in a simple interface with no coding experience required. However, if you or a team member have more individualized needs in terms of design, and have the appropriate CSS experience, there’s an advanced option for that as well.

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Use Convolio’s built-in theme editor to control the layout of your community, including link and text colours, fonts and spacing. Additionally, member widgets allow your members to easily customize their appearance on the community, giving admins the ability to showcase customers, employees, or more on different parts of their community.

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Convolio also gives you full control over how members can set up their profiles, with options to include customized profile fields, or establish a default.

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Don’t be afraid to let out your emojis! Convolio’s platform fully supports emojis and gives admins the opportunity to set custom commands to liven up any community announcement or discussion.

Posting

Posting to a community on Convolio is simple and feature packed. Add custom topics, body text, and attach pretty much anything – from images and videos to full PDF’s.

All members can save their posts as drafts, publish to different threads, and like and comment. Easily add tags to your posts, which can be set up to be added either automatically, or manually depending on post type.

Posts can also be easily searched and managed by title, tags, topic, members involved, and more.

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Additionally, Convolio also gives members the ability to post via Email. If this feature is enabled, the community will create a vanity email address for members to use. This feature is perfect for older generations who are used to using email, as well as less tech-savvy members who prefer communicating through email.

How Building an Online #Community Can Accelerate Your #Marketing Efforts via @convolio @lilachbullockClick To Tweet

Management

Convolio gives you the tools to easily manage members, content, community growth, and much more.

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With easy to use member management plugins built in, it’s easy to ban members, add custom titles, or apply customized functions.

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Easily search for members using custom filters associated with their display name, keywords, interests and more. This tool is useful for easily collecting information about a certain person or group of people using your products, and the posts they’re making about them.

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Have control over your community’s content with easy-to-use content management tools that allows you to move, create, edit, feature or close any discussions.

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Another feature in Convolio’s platform is the option to enable spam detection. When enabled, Convolio will automatically detect posts that appear to be spam and take action depending on your preferences. Like mentioned earlier in this article, it’s important to encourage open discussion, but equally important to keep your community spam and hate free.

Track The Health Of Your Community

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One of Convolio’s most powerful features is the ability to check in on the “health” of your community, which factors in comments per member, overall activity levels, as well as access to leaderboards that identify which types of content perform best, and highest engaged members.

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Additionally, Convolio allows you the ability to connect your Google Analytics account to your community page. This will let you track traffic and usage in depth – such as page views, visits, traffic sources, and more.  It’s easy to integrate your Analytics account, you just need to provide your Google ID in the platform.

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Here are some other features that make it stand out:

Recipes/Workflow Automation

The recipe system by Convolio allows you to automate your community in many different ways, saving time and hassle on your end.

The possibilities are limitless, from moderating new registrations, regulating content based on rules you set, setting up content drip campaigns, user notifications and more.

There are preset templates ready to use, or you can create your own customized recipes from scratch.

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Gamification

Encourage engagement by implementing a gamification system that assigns points to your members for taking certain actions like commenting, creating new threads, and more. This can be used to drive incentives like special titles, permissions, and personalized messages for hitting certain milestones.

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How Building an Online #Community Can Accelerate Your #Marketing Efforts via @convolio @lilachbullockClick To Tweet

Social Integration

Convolio easily allows members and admins to share topics and content posted onto the community to other social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) allowing for easy integration for multi-channel marketing strategies. Additionally, you have the option to enable login and link their accounts to various social media platforms.

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Single Sign-On

Another popular feature that Convolio offers, and keeps community members coming back, is the ability to link login information with current customer accounts such as on the brand’s website. This is handled through SAML, which manages multi-account processes. One less password to remember for members, and easier account tracking and management for admins and marketers.

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Powerful Notifications

Convolio offers powerful notification settings that allow you to configure which actions trigger notifications, such as when a new post is created, a comment gets replied to and many more.

Additionally, you can choose how notifications get sent out, whether through the website directly, through Email, or both:

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Premium Memberships

Have even more exclusive content or perks you’d like to offer your community members? Convolio gives you the opportunity to enable premium memberships for your community members.

You determine the features and set the rate, Convolio handles all the billing through FeePod so you don’t have to

Conclusion

Online communities can be an extremely valuable asset to any consumer-facing brand or business, as well as providing loyal customers with exceptional service and exclusive perks.

Gone are the days of spending hours a day managing online forums and communities, Convolio provides you with the tools to easily manage and scale a community of up to 3,000 members with ease.

And best of all, there are so many ways to leverage forums and communities to grow your business – you just need to get started.

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