Professional communities no longer exist only in offline or face-to-face spaces. Especially in recent years, online communities have helped foster connections and unite people. However, to reach their maximum potential, some tasks must be carried out during the launch process.
What six critical steps are needed to launch your professional online community successfully? Read on to find out!
1. Define your community purpose and goals.
One of the most important parts of creating an online community – especially for a business – is having a clear idea of its purpose, which involves any goals you aim to achieve.
A community can be influenced according to its type of members, similar interests, and goals. However, a community’s purpose binds members to a common idea of what it is about, its aims, and its values. This creates a unique value for members.
A purpose of a community can be related to the goals of your business or venture, but it must be the driving force that keeps your community running. Examples of this include:
- Membership – increasing membership and influence over a particular demographic/audience, keeping them aware of the latest happenings and events within their community.
- Support – people helping each other with a particular shared question or problem.
- Interests – people sharing the same interest or passion.
- Practice – professionals or experts sharing knowledge and skills and learning together.
Action – mobilizing members to take action to achieve a specific goal or goal.
Though an online community must have a purpose, it can have multiple goals. It is best to focus on a small number of goals that will represent the most value for both you and the community. Examples of community goals include:
- increasing member satisfaction
- mobilizing advocates
- better client support & collaboration
- increasing brand loyalty
- increasing product/service demand
Goals like these can and should be tracked, whilst a purpose influences why and how goals are achieved.
2. Create community guidelines and rules.
After you have approved your online community’s purpose and goals, it is imperative to have a set of rules for members to follow, as well as a moderation strategy. This information makes it clear what kind of behavior is appropriate for your community. It also keeps it free from spam, trolls, and abuse.
Community guidelines typically cover the following areas:
- Member behaviour – this includes what is expected of community members, and where the lines should be drawn between engaging in passionate debate and being disrespectful. Unacceptable behaviors, topics, etc. should be stated.
- Moderator behavior – moderators should also be aware of what they can and cannot do in their online community.
- Relevant topic focus – what topics are relevant and irrelevant for the community to discuss?
- Complaint and resolution process – what the community’s disciplinary process is like; how can people flag their complaints, and how do you manage them?
- No tolerance for discrimination and harassment – today, no community guidelines would be complete without including this important rule. Every member should feel welcome and not alienated by the community they form a part of. They should also be made aware of the consequences of disregarding this rule.
Any other applicable rules (according to the group type, industry practices, etc.) –Community rules can differ according to the group’s purpose, and goals. There are also some rules which are only relevant to these specific types. These can include the number of times members can post in a day, solicitation rules, etc.
3. Select a community hosting platform.
However, companies and other corporate organizations may also have their own hosting platforms. This is similarly seen in educational institutions.
Hosting platforms come with several ownership, branding, and other custom benefits that are not available on free social networks. Platform features, like those seen on Alumni Reach Platforms, can include a powerful administration system with complete network control, a gamification engine to boost engagement and other networking tools.
4. Identify community stakeholders.
Successful online communities must consider the influence of their stakeholders.
From a business perspective, this includes industry leaders and previous employees that you may benefit from collaborating with again. Communication with these individuals and other influential players can be made easier with a hosting platform such as Alumni Reach. This is especially relevant for recruiting and brand advocacy efforts.
Alumni platforms provide you with all the required information, all from the same place – removing the need to search for the material online or through other platforms. These benefits can apply to both businesses and individual members.
5. Set up your community.
Depending on whether you are leaning towards basing the community space on a social platform or a hosting platform, the steps you need to take to complete an online community set-up will look different. However, common tasks include:
- Creating initial categories
- Reviewing the sign-up process
- Assigning permission for roles
- Deciding on which features to use
- Setting up gamification
- Configuring spam controls
- Setting up outgoing email
Some hosting platforms, like Alumni Reach, provide an all-in-one approach for businesses and organizations. Hosting platforms can help in the organization of events, finding new team members, and keeping current ones engaged without the need for a third-party platform.
These tasks and more should be implemented with the intent of tracking and achieving your community goals.
6. Grow your online community.
With all the previous steps done and dusted, you can now focus on growing your online community. Businesses nowadays are focusing more on creating their own communities through their own platforms.
However, they use social media platforms and others as part of their marketing strategy to promote the unique value of their online communities.
For an online community to succeed, you need to make sure you dedicate time and resources to its promotion and tracking its growth. However, with Alumni, you can do this easily with sharing and tracking features integrated into the platform.
Build Online Communities With Engagement At Their Core.
Grow your professional community, make lasting connections and partnerships, and lead your business to success with its customizable platform and focus on engagement. Alumni Reach Platforms is easy-to-use and features a variety of engagement tools, such as an extensive mission library, winning mechanisms, and rewards.